Looking for deer in Overijssel | Lifestyle

I should have put on boots anyway. In the middle of a seemingly dry stretch of Buurserzand, a vast nature reserve in Overijssel, I suddenly sink up to my ankles in the water. Natuurmonumenten forester Annemieke Ouwehand chuckles and points out a better way: a small path or switch, paved by a group of deer.

Because they are wise not to walk straight into the wet part … A little further on, on a high-lying plain, we find various flat lying areas and we see walking tracks of deer or prints in the moist sand. Annemieke shows two antlers, so-called spitzers with two non-branching vertical rods that she has found in recent years. That is really lucky, because the antlers do not stand out between the leaves.

The sun has just risen. The ideal time to look for deer and also in an ideal area: the Buurserzand near Haaksbergen. The 455 hectares include a varied landscape with heather, small fields, woods and fens. An environment that the deer loves, because there is something to nibble everywhere and there are plenty of places to seek shelter.

“Those who want to see wildlife must not only be patient and quiet, but also accept that sometimes there is nothing to see at all”

At this time of the year, the animals group together in a so-called jump, explains forest ranger Annemieke. Together it is easier to get through the winter while in the spring and summer they mainly live solitary. Bucks and goats can be clearly distinguished from each other because bucks have (modest) antlers, goats do not.

We stop at viewpoint Rietschot and scan the area. A picturesque bocage landscape stretches ahead of us. Isn’t there on the right … No, a fallen tree. Those who want to see wildlife must not only be patient and quiet, but also accept that sometimes there is nothing to see at all. Animals don’t come trotting to order, but that also makes it exciting.


Evidence of their presence can be found everywhere. In addition to those switches, lying areas and prints, also excrement in the form of small black capsules. The Buurserzand itself is also worth the early walk. It is one of the largest continuous wet heathland areas in Western Europe. It is precisely this ample presence of water – I have experienced it firsthand – creates specific flora and fauna. Like the increasingly rare juniper bush; in the Buurserzand there are specimens that are 150 years old.

Still no deer in sight. And that while the animal has successfully spread across the Netherlands over the past century and a half. From zero in 1850 to about a hundred thousand in 2020. In the Buurserzand alone, there are already more than a hundred. Annemieke points up in a tree. A squirrel’s nest. These stand out even more in this time of bare trees. Still spotted a bit!

Delayed calf

The deer is the only ungulate with an extended gestation period. Although the deer goat is fertilized in the fall, the embryo stops developing for two winter months. Only then does it grow again, after which the fawn is neatly born in the warmer spring.

Hiking trails

The beautiful nature reserve Buurserzand is located between Haaksbergen and Buurse. The Natuurmonumenten visitor center is located at Stendermolenweg 9, Haaksbergen. Various short and long walking routes have been set out in the Buurserzand. In the area you can also find a military defense work dating from 1590, the Harrevelder Schans.

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