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Listen: Stag bellowing season underway in French forests

Did you know that now is stag bellowing season in France, and that every year, nature-lovers gather to listen out for the sound and even compete to imitate it best? We explain.

A stag in a forest. Listen: ‘Stag bellowing’ season continues in French forests

Stag bellowing season is an annual event in France and honoured via forest walks and an imitation competition Pic: Matt Gibson

The stag mating season is now well underway in France and is expected to last until around October 15 this year.

Several regions in France honour the event, known as the brame du cerf, including the department of Oise.

Nighttime forest walks led by forestry guides are one event often held to mark the season, and there is even a competitions where contestants imitate the noises of the animals.

Yves Normand, of the national forestry office (l’Office national des forêts or ONF) told news service FranceInfo: “[Stags] have a very developed sense of smell so if there is one nearby then it probably already knows that [humans are close by].”

Mr Normand said that hearing the sound for the first time was unforgettable but that it was important for people to keep their distance.

“When you hear it for the first time, it’s very memorable! But we shouldn’t get too close for safety reasons. There have been accidents - it’s rare but it has happened," he said. 

“At the point of the call, the stag is full of testosterone. This rise in hormones makes the males aggressive. They fight and can even kill each other," he added.

In the video below, taken in the Grésigne forest (in the Tarn department), you can a stag bellowing: 

Imitation competitions

Every year there is a stag bellowing imitation contest, with people competing to perform the most authentic sound. The winner of the national competition then goes on to compete at European level.

Participants are judged on the depth, length and tone of the imitation. 

This September, the competition took place in the Donom forest in Moselle, with seven participants competing to become the champion of France. 

It was the ninth edition of the competition, with reigning champion Virgile Parpinelli coming out victorious and qualifying for the European champions. 

You can hear a clip of the competition here, on media channel France3's article about this year's competition.

While imitation can be a fun activity, it can also come in useful for other reasons, such as attracting stags to track or photograph them.

In 2015, The Connexion spoke to the then champion stag bellower Alfred Bour, from Réding in Moselle, who won the competition that year.

He explained: “I tried everything – shells, horns... but it’s a bakelite tube that works best for me. It’s all done in the way you vibrate your vocal chords and manage your breath, a bit like an operatic tenor.

“There are different sounds for a young stag, an old stag, a stag with does etc. I can do them all, though some people find the young one harder because it’s higher and more melodious and goes from high to low up and down the scales. I learned [how to do it] from a friend of my father who was a hunting guide – we went into the forest and he taught us what to do.”

Related stories

European best stag bellower championship in Moselle

Hear France's champion stag bellower

Call of the wild: le brame du cerf

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