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The Black Ghost

September 10, 2020

by Stefaan Rotthier


This story started years ago when I saw a picture of a black roe buck in a German hunting magazine. Little did I know that this magnificent creature also roamed the woods and fields not far away from my home.

It is commonly known that nature has many ways to make us humble and give us surprises with her beauty. Even the animal kingdom sometimes give us unexpected presentations of herself like we never seen before.

In this case melanism is natures phenomenon that makes this roe go black. A mutation that gives a high concentration of black pigment in their coats.

Black roe originate from Germany where first descriptions of the species occur in the early 980’s. According to some records the Bishop of Minden and Milo received a number of black roe deer for his kitchen every single year. The current population was imported by a German Count from the northwest of Spain in the 16th century.

The biggest number of black roe deer can be found around Hannover. In the year of 1933 about 90% of the animals were black as normal coloured roe deer were shot to establish a pure black population.

Now black roe come as far as the norther Netherlands. The population in Belgium is most likely introduced, but no one officially knows when and how.

After the needed research and negotiations I finally succeeded in receiving a permit for this black ghost in a Flemish hunting area.

Of course it is much more important to harvest a good mature buck (5-7 year) as their population is thin and young bucks have to be able to give their black genetics to the next generations.

Game camera’s and multiple visits to the area had to help me find the one black buck, but my guide had a good idea of where to begin.

It was not long before this ghost was discovered by one of my game cameras and because the rut already started we had no time to waste.

The day had come, the sunrays fell as a blanket of white upon the greenery lanes through the forest. The air has the gentle heat during this rut season, not warm, or cold, but tepid. On the ground lies the wetness of a recent rain-shower, soaking into the dark mud.

My shoes get wet from walking on the grass to area where my camera has recorded the Buck.

I was alone until I stopped at the cross point of two lanes to really listen and look. I could see a red roe doe grazing the wet flourishing grass at 50m away. I wait to see what she would do. I didn’t want to scare her of and risk that the buck was somewhere with her still out of my sight.

Minutes fade away as I keep the doe in the corner of my eye looking for the buck to break cover.

Movement! A black spot moves through the thicket towards the doe. He comes out, gasping his lips to take in the heat pheromones of the doe. She starts running with the buck after her. The buck was gone as fast as he had come.

I stepped over to the other side to have a better view on the lane were the pursue had taken place. I was reflecting on my next move. Should I go further to try and detect their presence or wait it out for them to break cover again.

The choice that certainly would determine my success. Suddenly movement again. No choice to be made anymore!! The buck steps out on the lane at 45m Infront of me.

I aim my rifle and see him crisp an clear in my scopes crosshairs. The bullet flies and finds his mark.

Still shaken from his abrupt appearance and the adrenaline awakened by the shot, I walked towards the black form still covered by the tall grass.

I kneel, lay down my rifle and lift his head out of the grass to give a popper look at this majestic mature black roe buck.

Stefaan Rotthier