Thursday, 29 September 2011

Out OF Stalk

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog will know how much I enjoy my stalking. I enjoy it even more when taking a guest out. Stag season used to be one of my favourite times of year.

But I've still no stags on my ground. Guests- many of them regulars whose company I really enjoy- have come and gone from the lodge. They've been out on the beats where they've had more chance of success. Which is as it should be.

As for me, I've been using this opportunity to catch up with a heap of other stuff. My grit piles have all been switched back to medicated grit. I've dug another 50 or so new ones. I've been round my stoat traps, upped my lamping activities, fenced, collected firewood, disinfected kennels.... hell, I've even brashed rides through a small wood. That one's been on the back-burner since I came to this beat 7 years ago!!

I'm told that there is a lodge-full of guests next week and that I'll be stalking, regardless. I must say it will come as a relief; but only if the rut gets going and those blessed stags put in an appearance.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


It's been a real bonus to have a few days leeway between finishing the grouse season and starting our stag stalking. Not that they've been restful.

We've used the time to patch up our roads once again. (And once again that was the cue for the heavens to open and give us a couple of days of spate and floods). We've also cleaned the larder, bothies, rovers, argocat and kennels. I also made time to saw up a tree that was blown across my drive last week. Thanks Katia. (See Splashdance 12.9.11) On Friday morning the farrier was up and shod the ponies.

The final preparation is for us to switch from grouse driving mode to deerstalking mode....and to remember our guests haven't had the benefit of the 5 week warm-up that we've had.

Saying this, I'm not stalking yet. A fence erected along my Southern march by the neighbouring estate has completely scuppered my chances of early stags so I'm now getting round my grit piles.

The good news about doing it just now is that there is no competition for the argocat. I took it out to the far end of my ground today. Seven hours and 70+ grit piles later I returned with my kidneys rattled from their bonds. Shaken not stirred.

Monday, 12 September 2011


Today we had a visit from Hurricane Katia. Although she has now been downgraded to a 'tropical storm'. She didn't feel very tropical to me.

Despite the high winds and rain, we did manage to hold onto half decent visibility so we were driving grouse as per usual. Which meant we spent most of the day up at about 2000ft.

On the more exposed ground I can only describe the experience as like being at the receiving end of a powerwasher. Unlike most, my waterproofs passed this test with running colours. On the downside, they also seemingly doubled my surface area. This resulted in me dancing about the hill like I was auditioning for 'Strictly'.

It would take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen but, after today, maybe I'll start believing in them.

After all the guns did manage to hit 55 brace of these jetstream-propelled birds.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Wader Horizons

I'm both happy and sad to tell you that Russell the Curlew has flown the coop. You may remember that he was as RUFF as SANDPIPER when I first found him. In fact it was no exaggeration to say that he was looking decidedly down in the mouth. Well after a period of incarceration in our berry garden, his down TERN appeared to be REEVErsed. All this is due, in no small part, to all the mackerel, trootS AND ER LING that he had from our freezer. Plus the tonne of worms I dug for him, of course.

He'd obviously managed to build up the strength to clear both the fence to the fruit garden and the surrounding garden fence so now the world is his OYSTER. CATCHER glimpse of him again, will I? Perhaps KNOT but AVOCET of binoculars so I'll be ever hopeful.

Good luck Russell. It was great to have shared some time with you.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Remaining Changeable

I'm aware of how much I talk about the weather. I wouldn't be a true Scot if I didn't. But to all those of you out there who live in a predictable climate, you can't understand what a rollercoaster ride our weather can be.

Yesterday we were trying to drive grouse in light and variable winds. At times the wind dropped completely. At times like this the birds you put up just please themselves about which direction to head in. Tricky.

But that I can live with. The other problem of the wind dropping off is that the midges come out. And they came out in ravenous hordes in those lulls.

And then there was today. The clear, blustery conditions held just long enough to allow us all out onto the hill. Then it lashed with rain.

Driving grouse is hard enough work as is. When you're wrapped up in flogging waterproofs it's worse. And when the beaters have given up the very will to live it's near impossible to motivate them into keeping a decent beating line. Even if they were willing to listen to our 'guidance', making yourself heard over the wind and through their wooly hats and woolier heads is a challenge that Motorhead would baulk at.

We put in three drives and I have to say that I'm seriously impressed that the guns hit as much as they did- seeing as those birds must have been doing close on 100mph.

We came home with 62 bedraggled brace. But we DID come home.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Russell (so named by my son!)

Isn't technology wonderful.

I searched the internet to try and find information about Curlew and, more importantly, how to look after them.

To my great relief I read that they would eat thin strips of fish. And to my greater relief (and to my wifes' great annoyance) I had filled all the available voids in our freezer with mackerel after my last sea fishing trip.

So voids are appearing there once again as Russell scoffs his way through a couple of fillets a day.

I still dig worms for him and the silver lining to that particular cloud is that the berry garden is going to have it's first 'makeover' for years. It's also very satisfying to spy on him and picking his own food out of the disturbed earth.

But 'spy' is the operative word. Every bit of information I read about curlew described them as "shy". And they're not kidding. When I go to feed him, I quite often don't see him at all. He's given up his bower in the Honeysuckle and has instead chosen to play hide-and-seek among the berry bushes. And he usually wins.

I have managed a few pics of him after a bit of cat-and-mouse. Enjoy. ('Coz that's the best I can do for now!)