The Festival is celebrated by the Efutu of Winneba Traditional area along the Coast of Ghana. The is one of the commonest and important festivals celebrated in the Central Region of Ghana.
Deer hunting is organised in honour of the tribal god of the people of Winneba called "Penkye Otu". The god receives an annual sacrifice of a deer from the people. It is usually celebrated in the month of May.
The festival is believed to have originated about three hundred years ago when Efutu people occupied their present home along the Coast.
It is again believed that the people were able to establish their present settlement through the instrumentality of their god, Penkye Otu. The Tribal god still helps and protects the people of Winneba, hence the people hold the festival to express their gratitude to him. Initially, human beings from the royal family were used for the sacrifice for Penkye Otu. Looking that the royal family is dying out, they pleaded with Penkye Otu to accept a live leopard instead of human beings. The god agreed and for some time, live leopard was caught and offered to the god.
However, the live leopard still claims the life of human beings and many people were heavily wounded. In view of this, the people had to appeal to the god to accept a deer as a substitute for the leopard. It is explained that Penkye Otu accepted the deer because its stripped skin looks like that of a Leopard skin.
Others believed that, the deer was accepted as a substitute for the Leopard because its blood and that of leopard, is similar to that of a man. The festival involves the two Asafo companies, Dentsifo and Tuafo in Winneba who compete among themselves to catch their deer first.
Mode of Celebration
The festival begins mostly in the evening around 7pm with a march through the major streets of Winneba accompanied by a brass band. It is followed by an entertainment in the night like singing and dancing.
On the next day, rituals are performed. Libation is poured, prayers said and guns fired. The officials and men of the two Asafo companies go to the beach to purify themselves by bathing in the sea. Penkye Otu is smeared with special oil and covered with new piece of Calico. The priests shave their hair and also smear themselves with some of the oil used in smearing Penkye Otu.
During the beginning of the deer hunt, members of each Asafo company offer sacrifices to the ancestral sprits to help them in their deer hunt the next day. In the morning the following day, all the members of the Asafo Companies march to Penkye Otu’s residence for a mixture of roots and herbs to be sprinkled on them. This is to ensure their safe return from the hunt. Members in the group smear themselves with clay, wear charms and amulets. After seeing the Omanhene, they set off to hunt for the deer.
The first group to go is the Tuafo Company since their field of operation is far away than the other group. No weapons are used except clubs. The company that makes the first catch rushes back home with war songs and shout of victory the deer is presented to the Omanhene who places his bare right foot three times on it. He bids the group well done and retires to his seat to await for the others. Distinguished guest sit at Humphery’s Park to witness the return of the companies with their deers .
Besides, the deer is lifted up and carried through the principal streets of the town with singing and dancing to the shrine of Penkye Otu. Custom however forces the Omanhene and his elders to remain seated at Humphrey’s Park till the last person has safely returned. The Omanhene joins the procession after all the people involve had return.
The members of the two Asafo Companies dressed up (put on their best cloths) with the winners infront march through the main "streets of the town, singing and dancing, whilst the omanhene site in the Palanquin and follows at the rear. They are usually join by| their women in such a joyous mood.
On the last day, the two Asafo Companies come together before Penkye Otu and the deer is sacrifice to the god. Divination is also performed to know what lies in store for the town in the year ahead. Finally, the people of the Efutu believe that, if Number one (No. 1) Company that is; Tuafo group wins the context, then there will be peace and prosperity in the coming year but if Number two (No. 2) wins, that is Dantsifo then the coming year will be a year of famine| and war. It is of interest to note that, the priest of Penkye Otu stays in the| shrine till it rains. For that ensures the successful end of the festival.