Call of the Deer
In this reserve near Bački Monoštor, full of forests, ponds and canals, bulrush and wet meadows, lives the largest population of European deer in Serbia. Beautiful, lonesome in its secluded freedom, in the late summer and early fall, it pervades everything here with its roar. During the mating period. Everyone here is weighed and checked, only the best can come to the fore. Not only the does know this, but also the entire nature, which never ceases to teach us with its secrets

By: Violeta Milutinović
Photo: Zoran and Violeta Milutinović

The settlement of Dondo is located near a Danube armlet, within the special nature reserve ”Upper Danube Basin”. The reserve is inhabited by the largest population of European deer in Serbia. The entire area is rich in forests, shrubs, ponds, canals, wet meadows. As such, it is friendly to a variety of insects, amphibians, birds and mammals. The flora and fauna are rich, conditioned by surface and groundwater. The settlement of Dondo itself is also suitable for fish spawning.
The old pontoon bridge over the Danube-Tisa-Danube canal, built in the 1980s, has been completely destroyed and out of service. That is why we continued our journey from Bački Monoštor to the village of Dondo on the wooden raft ”Bezdanka”. This raft is also used to transport tractors with trailers, trucks, lumber, as well as a number of tourists, but fortunately we have avoided large crowds.
After a successful landing, we entered the forest, which gave us cool shadows and refreshed us with a quiet breeze. The pungent scent of wildlife followed us all the way to the embankment that leads to a charming pile dwelling, located right by the river. We were welcomed by birds chirping, squirrels running around and wild boar walking freely. The pile dwelling itself seems to have brought us back to the edge of another time. There was no running water or electricity. We drank cold well water from a pot, and the aggregate would be turned on occasionally. A place as if beyond civilization, wonderful for all those who have nothing against Robinson's living conditions. The local fishermen here sat on wooden benches, drinking their drinks and chatting. Although they did not know us, they warmly welcomed us and soon offered a fish lunch. With this, it was much easier to get a ranger to take us on a tour around the marsh in the next few days. It was deer mating time, which meant restricted movement through hunting grounds, so we really needed his assistance.
Deer are secluded, solitary in their freedom and their hiding places. On the other hand, they are filled with loyalty, affection and love. The peak of love is experienced in late summer and early fall. He expresses his sexual fervor with a deafening roar, indicating his presence and preserving the territory. That love call is understood by the does, and rivals steer clear of it. The whole ritual is complemented by proud strutting and showing off horns. The does are cautious all the time, and they find security in the thick of the forest, patiently awaiting the outcome of the rivalry and their chosen mate. The does choose a male with a ”deeper voice” as a sign of his dominance. With him they get a deer cub, and after that they never have to meet again.


The first morning, before sunrise, we were summoned by a forest filled with deer roars. The roar spilled all around us, along paths, meadows, clearings, among flowers and trees. The birds sang, the insects jumped, the wild boars ran, the does woke up and sighed. The sun was rising, the meadows turning red, the reeds were yellowing, and the grass was rising. The area around us grew, filling itself and breathing with a golden symphony. And we became an integral part of everything around us. The roar of the deer grew more and more expressive. His inner, hormonal voice carried a passionate love offering, almost palpable. When he had lifted up all of nature, he suddenly fell silent and walked away. Then everything fell into an empty silence. The fog softened, the dawn seeped out, and the greenery was filled with silence.
Soon, another deer brought us new beauty. As he walked, he was accompanied by strength, pride, and strange purity. As an observer from a nearby mound, he paused for a moment, looked back at us, then gently touched the woods with his horns and secretly merged with it.
We got up from the embankment, shook the dust off and clapped our hands. That is how we greeted our first morning here and welcomed a new day. We went back to the pile dwelling to sort out impressions. We did not want to use up too quickly the happiness that followed and guarded us.
Next scene, at dusk. The fight between the two deer and the smell of their lust seemed to encompass everything, including us. As they crossed their horns, pushed and shoved, a strange sound was carried through the air. It spread through the forest like an echo, bouncing and entering everyone's ears. At the crucial moment, masks fell on stage and revealed a weaker deer. Exhausted and with his morale shattered, he reluctantly stepped toward the forest and got lost in its space. The nameless meadow was again covered by the twilight peace and chastity. We quietly left our post, to which the old raven then perched and crouched.


One by one, days went by. Through the freshness of the Monoštor wind, a rustling was suddenly heard. Only a sparrow flew out. Then we saw a shadow. It was a deer that jumped out of the woods and spilled the scents of autumn with all its might. Filled with the sweetness of that scent, the does obediently hurried after him. They followed the best, followed his every step. Nobody can level with him, this magnificent harem leader, even a knight. The instinctive joy of the deer carried all the glory that no pen could draw. After that performance, dominated by leadership and loyalty, the curtain fell and they disappeared into the safety of the forest. The deer left behind long shadows of defeated lovers and dead loves. We once again felt the infallible rules of nature and our admiration for it. Full of joy and empty stomachs, we headed back.
Every evening we were welcomed by smiles of the fishermen and weekend travelers. Then there were no guides, no time limits, we didn't need maps or signposts. We played cards, ate fresh fish, nibbled seeds, teased each other and laughed. We were all wanderers in the freedom of nature, and the pile dwelling was our final home. When the moon covered us and the Danube lit up, our voices would be replaced by the laughing of jackals, the relentless roar of lustful deer, the sound of wild boars hitting buckets, scared barking of a dog. In fact, we realized the deepest silence and experienced true nights, nights that preserved their darkness.


Readiness for Combat
Deer are truly and invariably fighting for the survival of their species. They also defend their territory. We knew this when we headed to the settlement of Dondo, looking for these beauties, just in time for their mating.


The world of nature and its inhabitants amaze and surprise us with their secrecy, forever and ever. They offer us all their beauty and light, they move us to explore. We have created our own special relationship with animals, hills, pines, clouds, rivers... And we got firmly attached to this world.


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