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Sika The Wild Deer

Sika The Wild Deer is the story of one wild sika stag as he roams the wild expanse of the Wicklow mountains.

The author Liam Nolan, a barrister by profession, has spent his lifetime observing sika deer and is actively involved in wild deer management. It is Nolan’s decades of knowledge and insight that is attributed to the deerstalker, the narrator. Nolan is the author of The Stalker Training Manual, which was produced by the Deer Alliance HCAP Assessment Committee as the core text for candidates for assessment under the Hunter Competence Assessment Programme.

He writes powerfully and honestly and has a knack of leading the reader side by side with the deerstalker into the mountain, the forest or through the high grass.

The deerstalker follows this particular stag from the moment of his birth: “Sika The Wild Deer (for it was he who had arrived into the world) thus spent his first day alone except for the buzz of the summer bees as they gathered nectar for their heather-honey”, right through to middle age: “Sika is now past his prime. His head is going back and next year’s antlers will show a weakening in their strength”

The deerstalker has spent a lifetime observing how the stag deals with the challenges he faces from man and nature while ensuring his own survival and that of his race. The interesting juxtaposition of animal and hunter is not ignored in this important book, as the joy the deerstalker gains from his observance of the deer is clear, as is his respect not only for the animal but for man. In the book the author does not attempt to defend the position of the hunter, who must manage and control the numbers of deer, but instead he hopes to help the reader better understand the balance that must prevail between man and nature. “He knew that the rifle shot, when it came, brought life as well as death…By nightfall only a stain on the heather would attest the act. But new life had begun.”

The backdrop to the story is a landscape that the author knows like the back of his hand, a landscape that is both harsh and beautiful. Nolan writes in a way that invites us to feel the wind and hear the “kroak, kroak” of the raven, who is witness to the happenings on the hill. A host of other characters reside in this natural, wild landscape, otters, peregrines, foxes, grouse, magpies to name but a few.

Nolan using words carefully and sparsely and it is this simplicity of touch that the author achieves such moving prose. Having trailed and trekked about the Wicklow mountains with the deerstalker and Sika we are finally brought to the final pages of the book. The stag has now grown old and worn by life, and the “Stalker’s beard was now grey and the black dog at this heel was a grandson of the dog which had accompanied him on those early outings. Now he once again faced the decision to end the life of an animal seen by him as a friend”. It is a poignant moment for the deerstalker, is today the day that Sika will depart from the hill? Perhaps the deerstalker will decide that “Orion [Greek God of hunting] can wait”?

Throughout the book are stunning pen-and-line drawings by artist Lorraine Brett. The book would be worth it alone for these drawings, but coupled with the articulate words of the author it is a book that any reader would find delightfully pleasing.

This ascetically attractive hardback book comes with a striking dustjacket of a stag looking the reader in the eye, is exquisitely produced with tactile endpapers featuring rutting stags, gold head and tail bands and affixed with a gold ribbon. There is a limited edition available, consisting of a numbered book edition encased in a dark-green wibalin covered slip cover.

Sika The Wild Deer is, to quote from Michael Viney’s review in The Irish Times, a “handsome hardback” “eloquently” written with “many fine drawings by Lorraine Brett”.

The book is self-published by the author, a wonderful example of how self-publishing can allow the indie authors to maintain creative and financial control of their books while publishing to the highest of publishing industry standards. This book was designed by Dennison Design, printed by Walsh Colour Print and professional publishing services were provided by Dingle Publishing Services.

The book is available online from www.deeralliance.ie or in selected bookshops.

Siobhán Prendergast