Listen to the bellowing deer in Saint Hubert

I took advantage of a stay with my family in the Ardennes during the deer rutting season to register for an evening listening to the roaring deer organized by the CRIE Fourneau Saint-Michel. Starting with a super interesting conference on the life of cervids, followed by a listening session in the forest of Saint-Hubert. It was the perfect opportunity to share this experience with my father who had never heard a roaring deer.

Meeting at the Saint-Hubert Airfield

First, we start with a bit of theory… The evening begins with a forty-minute presentation, by Tony Rock, about deer and the reason for their roaring. The presentation is very interesting and necessary to understand the different types of roars before one goes in the forest.

I learnt the differences between a juvenile, an adult deer, an old deer… and how they interact during the breeding period, which only lasts 3 weeks per year.

The young deer roar and gently fight as they train for the coming years. They do not court females yet. Meanwhile, the older deer, recognizable thanks to their antlers which have several ramifications, also roar but they fight hard in order to seize a horde of doe and have the honour to mate first with them. The fights are impressive and sometimes can cause fatal injuries. Deer lose on average of 20% of their mass in this period.

We are now all looking forward to see this in action!

Since there are two groups of 30 people, we have to wait for the return of the bus to get going. The bus will drop us at another place, to avoid having 60 people at the same listening point, because that would be too noisy for us and for the deer.

Did you know that male and female deer only band together during breeding season? The rest of the year, bucks live apart while does and their fawns will stay together.

The gestation period lasts 35 weeks and it is the mother who takes care of the baby at birth, which takes place between mid-May and mid-June. The fawn remains hidden and the mother goes away to bring food. However, she does not stray too far. When the fawn is strong enough it can then join the horde. In case of danger, the fawn will block its odour secretion, which will immediately alert its mother.

This is why it is important not to disturb the rutting rituals. Otherwise, fertilization will be delayed, the fawns will be born too late, and, therefore, they won’t have time to get strong enough before next winter.

Heading to the forest

We take the bus to the forest of Saint-Hubert. It brings us to a private place, which is usually not accessible. No, the bus will not scare the deer away; it drops us far enough in order not to disturb them. Then we walk for a few minutes following the guide. We are all in silence and we can only hear the sound of our footsteps.

The advantage of being in the company of a nature guide is that he takes us to the right place to listen to the bellowing of the deer. Depending on the weather conditions, he knows where to stand in order to hear better without disturbing them. Deer have a very developed sense of smell and can detect our presence from several hundred meters away. If the wind blows in their direction, they will know we are here and might leave.

After 5 minutes of walking in the dark, the guide invites us to stop, we are in the right place.

So here we are on a path in the middle of the forest, just next to several clearings.

Do not stay on the gravel, get on the grass. And do not hesitate to slightly get away from the group, in order to stop hearing the rustle of the jackets and the coughs and handkerchiefs of your companions. These are very small noises, but combined all together, they can interfere with the purpose of this visit: listening to the roaring deer.

Do not expect to see does or a buck, it is dark. But listen and enjoy this extraordinary sound. The first time, you will have the impression to hear a mix between a dinosaur and a cow.

The moonlight is enough to light up the way and our eyes get used to the darkness quickly. The show has already started during this moonlit walk. We see the silhouettes of the trees and relish the opportunity to admire the stars without the light pollution of the cities.

We hear the sounds of the forest, and finally, the sound of deer. They can be heard on the other side of the valley, several are roaring. We hear them distinctly in the distance to the left, and in the distance to the right, approximately every 20 seconds. There are 2 or 3 of them roaring in order to attract females and to compete with other deer. We recognize the examples of short and long roars, which were be compared during the presentation. The short roars indicate proximity between the males, when they challenge each other, before a fight. The fight does not always take place, sometimes roaring is enough to make opponents flee. The long roars are used to show off their strength, attract the females and impress the adversaries. We do not see them but we hear them clearly and we can imagine them.

After a good 30 minutes of listening, the bus comes back for us to bring us to the aerodrome of Saint-Hubert where a nice forest soup awaits us.

Après 30 bonnes minutes d’écoute, le car vient nous rechercher pour nous ramener à l’aérodrome de Saint-Hubert où une bonne soupe forestière nous attend.

On the way back, everyone talks about their impressions, asks questions, shares their knowledge, and we recognize each other’s accents. People come from afar to try this unique experience and to take the opportunity to spend a whole weekend in Saint-Hubert.

A nice soup to warm us up

It is 9:45 pm and we are hungry ? !

A delicious soup of forest mushrooms and some nice gray bread are waiting for us. This gives us the opportunity to warm up and share our impressions of the evening. The atmosphere is friendly and the organizers serve us from a large pot, yum yum.

My impressions

For my part, I am delighted, I learned a lot about the life of deer and the reason for their roars. We went for a moonlight walk and we had a nice breath of fresh air. Moreover, we heard them! The soup to end the evening was the icing on the cake.

For more information about the bellowing of the seer in the Ardennes, do not hesitate to take a look at our other article.


  • Private place
  • The guide knows where to bring you to have the best chance of hearing the roar
  • Explanations before listening
  • Delicious soup at the end


  • Large group (30 people), a little too much noise from the group
  • The time waiting while organizers manage two groups of 30 people

Useful Tips

  • Wear dark clothes that make little friction noise
  • Dress warmly (gloves, hat and scarf)
  • Ask questions before, because on site, you will not have the opportunity to speak
  • While listening silence is key
  • Do not use a flashlight, your eyes will quickly get used to the darkness
  • Wear walking shoes
  • Get on the grass, you will hear less noise from your feet touching stones, and this will help you hear the roars better.
  • Book in advance with the CRIE of the Fourneau-Saint-Michel in Saint-Hubert. Presentation + listening session + soup : 7€.