To the eternal gratitude of my wife, I returned to work today. I've been feeling well enough for a few looong days now but have-for once-been following advice and not rushed things.
At home my boots are all dried and dubbined; my guns are cleaned and oiled; you could perform surgery in the antiseptic cleanliness that is my workshop; and I have enough bullet cases prepped that, had I the powder to reload them, I could have backed a medium-sized coup d'etat.
Hell, I even tracked down a camera on ebay with more than the few dozen pixels I've been treating you to up 'til now. Yup, things were getting pretty desperate.
So I returned to work just raring to go. I haven't rared since early September and, boy, it felt good.
It felt good right up until the first hill whereupon I found that my legs had been replaced with two strands of boiled spaghetti. Holy Cow! but I've lost some fitness. It didn't help that I was with all my colleagues and they were blithley marching off over the skyline. What could I do? (I stopped and took a pic with my new camera, that's what.)
And the reason for us all taking to the hills en masse? Well, basically, we're so far behind with our hind cull, and we're seeing so many deer (especially on my beat, wouldn't you know it) that we're resorting to doing some deer drives.
A deer drive involves trying to encircle a herd of deer with shooters then keeping them within the circle until you've culled a reasonable number.
Before you throw up your hands in horror let me say that, although it sounds like slaughter, a drive only very, very rarely produces a big number. In practice, the shooters are hundreds of yards apart, with hollows and bits of dead ground that the deer always seem to find. We never shoot moving deer and never shoot if an animal has another standing behind it (the bullets go right through y'see). What this means is that, for a frustratingly large percentage of the time, a herd of 100+ (+!) animals can get past without you being able to get a single shot. And when we do get a shot, we're still trying to be as selective as we can.
Today, for example, we had a team of 6 rifles and 4 ghillies mobilised and ended up shooting 18 beasts. Out of around 250 that were in our 'net'. It's probably no more than we would have culled had we all gone out on our different beats but at least they were taken from an area where the numbers are in danger of becoming problematic.
I confess I thought long and hard before mentioning driving deer on this blog, but at the end of the day, I see it as a necessary evil. When a neighbouring estate put a fence up and 'excluded' deer from its ground, we inherited them. And if we don't get the numbers down to sustainable levels they'll end up dying anyway, but not before they've decimated their habitat. I've seen this happen to a lesser degree, and- I promise you- it ain't pretty.
Thus endeth the sermon for today. Now I'm off to soak in a hot bath; if I can make it up the stairs.