Monday, 21 December 2009

I've decided to give up keepering and take up entymology instead. I managed to pick up another bug a few days ago- the Noro Virus this time- and it's been a real healthy specimen. Which is more than can be said for me.

What this means is that I've had fewer adventures on the hill to tell you about. So what has been happening?

Just a few days after my last blog I shot ANOTHER hind with 'carbuncles'. She was a yearling and the reason I'd selected her was that she had a broken foreleg. The growths weren't as extensive as on the first hind but still way more than I've come across previously. I wonder if it's anything to do with the fact that she'll have been lying up a lot with her injury. I did take photos but they make it look like I was out stalking in a London Pea-Souper. With the way that the weather has taken a turn for the colder, I suspect I'm going to have a lot more trouble with lenses misting up.

And talking of which, the TV news has been full of stories of mayhem and carnage as Britain enters it's next ice-age. Maybe we've been missing out up in this neck of the woods (we've 2"-3" snow) but it all appears to be rather exaggerated. Correct me if I'm wrong.

But on the estate now, we're winding down for Christmas. The hill ponies are all back from their outposts on the various beats. The farrier is up today and they are all being reshod. Any hinds shot today will have to be 'handy' ones- and I use that term in it's very loosest sense-that can be dragged to a land-rover or boated across the loch.

Other than that, pheasant feeders will be topped up and land-rovers cleared out prior to tomorrows shoot. This is a little rough shoot we have to ourselves once a year, but it still requires a bit of planning and organising.

And that's about it. I have to say I'm REALLY looking forward to resting up for a few days. It feels like it's been an almighty struggle this season and our cull numbers back this up. Normally 3 of our beats aim to have 100 hinds each by Christmas but it just hasn't happened. We'll just have to hope that this snow sticks around for a while and we get the benefit of it once we're back to the cull in the new year.

Before I go, I'd just like to thank those of you who left comments. Your messages of encouragement were a much-needed tonic.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Over the last few days we've had clear skies. Night-time temperatures have dipped to a cool -7 Celcius and the days have been brilliant and crisp. That description might also have applied to the washing on our line, though a metaphor involving armour-plating would maybe be more appropriate, if I could only think of one.

The photos I've (hopefully) posted with this blog show a beast that I shot last Friday. I had stalked into a group of about 100 animals and was sorting through them when I noticed a large yeld hind with a 'protuberance' on her belly. From that distance, and the fact it was shaded, it looked for all the world like she had some of her guts hanging out. (Although she did seem remarkable calm about it. Certainly more calm than I would have been!) Anyway, it was that that put her top of my 'hit list'.

When the smoke cleared and I walked up to her I was surprised to see that it wasn't her guts hanging out but this large area (for want of a better word.) It has to be said that it's not terribly unusual to see one or two of these things on an animal but never so many or so big.

I had to skin that area of her belly to gralloch her and found nothing unusual under her skin except a slighly enhanced blood supply. Furthermore there was nothing out of the ordinary with any of her lymph nodes or internal organs. In fact, she was in really good shape- apart from being dead.

I'd be interested to know if anyone else has come across this condition, or what causes it. And, yes, I realise that one of my pics makes her look remarkably like a kangaroo!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Looking for signs of life.....

I must confess I'm starting to loose faith a bit here. I've no idea if anybody reads these ramblings other than my parents. Please leave a comment- abuse if you like- but SOMETHING to let me know that I'm not totally wasting my time here.

Oh, and hi Mum.

Monday, 7 December 2009

What a drag!

The sun shone today. So- after phoning Sky News- I took some photos as evidence. You can see there is a fair amount of snow on the far tops. (Earlier this week we had it right down to the bottoms of the glens. 'Orrible wet stuff it was but it did make belly-crawling on grassy slopes a doddle- unless you were trying to crawl uphill.)

I'd already had a good day, managing to bag 3 beasts in the morning. Then the last stalk of the day was right on the top of a hill. The wind had dropped to nothing, the sun was in my face and the snow was crunchy and very difficult to move on quietly. With a lot of care I managed to get to within 100 yards of a herd without them becoming aware of me.

As a result, I managed to shoot a couple of dry hinds before the rest ran off. "That's a horseful" I thought " that'll do nicely." Then the herd stopped and right at the back was another lovely big yeld hind, standing apart from the others.

I can resist everything except temptation. As she was standing bum on to me, my only option was a neck shot. It was a long shot- about 220 yards I estimated- but as she was facing straight away from me the chances of a wounding were extremely small. At that angle you usually drop them in their tracks or dont touch them at all. Sort of "do or DONT die". Wouldn't you know it, she dropped to the shot.

So there I was with 3 big hinds, my horse 1 mile and 1000 vertical ft away, the land-rover 1 mile in the other direction and less than 2 hours of light. Oops!

There was little option. When Eric- my ponyman- eventually arrived with Fergus- the pony- we loaded the 2 largest beasts on the saddle and they headed off. And the last beast? I attached my drag rope to it and hauled it back to the 'rover.

Before I'd even started squeezing the trigger on the third beast, I'd known that this was the only likely solution. (In these parts you ask questions first and shoot later, pardner.) I rationalised that the uphill and flat parts of my drag were in snow and the vast majority of the rest was downhill. So that was all right.

And the theory was good -actually I've dragged deer from here before. Just not quite as big as this one. By the time I was back at the rover, I was lathered. And my reward for all this effort?

I got to skin 2 of them back at the larder while my sweat chilled. (We only skin our best, clean shot yeld hinds. They then get sold privately at a better price than we get from the game dealer.)

When I at last got home I would have liked nothing more than to have settled down in front of the fire. Instead, it was a quick turn-around and off out to a local ceilidh followed by an hours drive to my parents for the night.

No rest for the wicked? Just call me Damien.