Saturday, 28 November 2009

My 'guest' from Wednesday was as good as his word and forwarded the photos of our day. Please dont adjust your set- the pics may look poor but it was really Wednesday itself that was poor quality.

Are you laughing at us??

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Missing a beat

If you're wondering where I've been, I've been laid up for the last week and a half with a chest infection. Not good.

So I have little to report. Even less because the weather has been sodden awful and my colleagues have really struggled to get on with their hind cull in the interim. It may have been exceptionally wet, but it's also been very mild and that has meant that the deer have been more on the outerim.

As for me, it has come as some consolation that I wasn't missing an Indian Summer as I nursed my Cabin Fever. Unfortunately, it looks like Providence has saved some crappy weather for my return. There seems no end to it.

Yesterday saw my first full day back at work. I was lucky to be joined by my very good friend, Gordon. The weather was as bad that we were resigned to doing odd jobs and we were actually topping up pheasant feeds (the keepers and farmers here have a little rough shoot at Christmas) when I spotted a Roe doe on a sheltered face. I fired Gordon off to stalk it while I sat in the land-rover and had my tea and sandwiches and got gently rocked to sleep by the rain-laden gales.

To his credit, Gordon took a lot of time and care and got the animal despite the poor conditions and poorer visibility. Of course, things WOULD cheer up a bit once he'd dragged the roe- and his sorry arse- back to the vehicle.

But this was just a ruse. In the clearer spell we spotted a hind and calf on another, more distant, face and we couldn't resist the temptation. Halfway through our hour-long trek to get to them the skies opened again. When we eventually got to our vantage point, our binoculars were unusable in the driving rain. It was just a case of setting the rifles up, trying to guage the right moment with our naked eye, flipping the scope caps and shooting.

We got the pair of them and, as is often the case when you find them off on their own like this, the hind proved to be ancient. When I inspected her teeth back at the larder, they were worn nigh on down to the gums. A good one to get.

So we returned home to a hot meal, a hot drink and a roaring fire. As Gordon put it, you cant say that being out on a day like this is enjoyable. Rather, there is a grim satisfaction to be had in prevailing against adversity. And, like banging your head on a wall, it's great when it stops.....

If Gordon forwards the pictures he took, I'll share them with you. Watch this space.

Friday, 13 November 2009

A Big Day

I thought I'd use this opportunity to post some photos. I had an ol' regular with me today (I use the term advisedly- oh hi, Ken, how ya doin'?) and we had a good day. We ended up with 7 hinds/calves in the bag and finished the day boating the last 2 across the loch as night fell. Very atmospheric.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Falling behind

There's one thing that strikes me when I read through past blogs and that is just how much rain features in them. This means that either I'm an inveterate whinger OR we've had a barrel-load (!) of the stuff this Autumn. I prefer to think it's the latter.

So, in a bid to break the habit, let me tell you about Saturday, Sunday and Monday. After the total washout that was Friday (DAMN!) we woke to clear skies, zero wind and hard frost. And it stayed like that for 3 days. Bliss. And by the Sunday night we had temperatures down to -5.

I can't tell you how good it was to see the sun again and to have some of the mud and standing water dried up. But there's a definite feeling in the air now and somehow you know that Winter is just around the corner.

It's not just because the trees are mostly bare, nor is it that the colour is leaching out of the heather and grass. The passing of the Red Deer rut and the spawning of the Salmon signal the last breeding of the year. The time for expending energies is ending. Now comes the time for conserving what reserves you have, living quiet, battening down the hatches.

To this end, there is no birdsong to be heard; the rabbits are done with their chasing and jumping; Roe are becoming increasingly apparent as they spend more time on their feet, feeding; and the Red Deer now favour the lee slopes whenever there is a wind.

That's not to say that anything appears to be struggling just yet. Apart from moles, maybe. (The glaring decrease in molehills around here makes me think they've all drowned.) No, our hinds appear to be in good nick and the farmers are saying likewise of their sheep.

In practical terms what this means is that the deer are very quick to show a clean pair of heels (.... should that be 2 pairs of heels?) should danger threaten. In the last 4 stalking days I've had 8 hinds and each one has been the product of a seperate stalk. And that means each has been extracted individually. And that just makes for hard work.

However, just when I was beginning to despair, events took a turn for the better (for me, anyway). I managed to get 6 beasts today, from just 2 stalks. Furthermore, they were all in an area where they could be easily dragged to the land-rover. Like a trip to the 'flicks', it didn't seem right leaving the larder in daylight. But, somehow, I'll live with it.

Monday, 2 November 2009

It never rains....

Our grouse day last week turned out well. Everything ran like a well-oiled machine and when we finished we got well-oiled also. The bag was 'only' 47 brace, but the shooting was challenging- and that's what (most of ) the guests like. Spare a thought for the 3 stand-in beaters, however. They were all experienced pheasant beaters but had never done grouse before. And they thought their lives had ended. Give them their due, they stuck at it but by sundown they were ready to drop.

But there again, so was I. And I struggled to put in a half day of hind stalking next day before going home and going to my bed. I also took the following day as a 'sickie' as, by now, I was fairly convinced that my post-curling aches and pains and post-shoot hangover was, in fact, the 'flu. Whether it's your Common-or-Garden strain or otherwise, it's been a swine.

It's some consolation that the day I missed was thick mist and driving rain and would have been totally unsuited for stalking. However, that Friday was a (water-) bed of roses compared to Sunday. We got about 3" of rain in 12 hours and a mention on the national news. With an unhealthy mix of stupidity and stoicism, I fulfilled a commitment to curl on Sunday afternoon.

Getting there wasn't bad, but the journey home took twice the time and involved several detours. It also involved many breath-held sorties through headlight-deep floodwater. It was a real releif to eventually get home, I can tell you.

And now? Now I'm starting to feel as inundated and overwhelmed as those roads. Between weather, guests, catching up on essential jobs and the 'flu, I've hardly gotten out of the starting blocks with regard to the hind cull. My ponyman has sprung a surprise weeks holiday on me, the rain has wreaked havoc on our roads and washed away my most important footbridge, I'm desperately needing to catch up on my stoat trapping, fox middens and grouse gritting and I struggled to put one foot in front of the other today. Blimey!!