I heard the roar of fast engines across the broad valley at dawn, then the voices, jocular and male, then the crunch of their boots on the frozen ground. I flipped up my white tail to warn my brothers, and leapt into the woods. The others followed me, away.
We stopped in an open field where a few sweet grasses poked through the dried autumn stubble. As light rimmed the horizon, I picked up human scent, nearby. I lifted my head and twitched my nose to get a better sense of the direction from which it came: to the left, up, and very close. The hunter must have been there all along. I had heard no approaching footsteps. My brothers, noses down into the grasses, seemed oblivious. I flipped my tail, but they did not see, and so I snorted. They looked up, and in the same moment leapt away with me. We heard the high, whistling sound of bullets through the air, and just in time we disappeared into the woods.
I peered from behind a cluster of trees and saw him: a large man dressed in mottled brown and green, sitting on a chair high up in a tree. He lowered his gun to his knee, took a swig from a silvery flask, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He lifted his gun again, squinted through the view finder, and moved the gun methodically from left to right, right to left. Not seeing us, he lowered the gun. As he took another swig from his flask, he spotted a groundhog cautiously exiting his home. The groundhog squinted in the light and took a few cautious steps into the open. The hunter pointed the gun. I snorted a warning. The groundhog jerked his head up, squealed, and dashed down the hole. Bullets scattered dirt and grasses up into a plume of dust that sifted down through the light.
Hunting season began today: men who are not hungry killing creatures for pleasure. I do not understand.
• Lord of the forest by Evgeni Dinev, wild female deer by Criminalatt; running male deer by Arstsamui, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net