Friday, 2 December 2011
The Old Dear
Yesterday was the first clear day we've had for ages. It was so useful to be able to spy my ground from a vantage point and see where all my deer had been hiding.
While I was doing this I spotted a single beast lying in a tiny hollow on a face a mile distant. Unusual.
However I made a mental note of it and carried on with Plan A. Eventually, after Plan A had mutated into Plan F, I returned to the land-rover with a couple of beasts. When I spied back across the glen, the single beast was exactly where she had been. Highly suspicious.
Although there was only about an hour of light left, I decided to go and see if I could get this beast. I was pretty sure that if I did, I would find that there was something wrong with her.
Three-quarters of an hour later and I was crawling around on that hillside, trying desperately to find a place from where I could see into the little hollow. Fortunately for me she stood up and presented me with a shot.
When I went up to her, I could see she was a big hind in seemingly good condition. I checked her legs, body and head for damage- nothing. As I gralloched her I found nothing untoward apart from the wall of her rumen was so thin that my fingers went through it as I tried to remove it.
Puzzled, I looked at her again. She looked rangy- big framed but a bit thin. I could see from her coat that she wasn't old but I decided to have a look at her teeth anyway....and all became obvious.
Her teeth were worn down to the gums. It turned out she was one of the oldest beasts I've shot in a long time.
I have to say, I felt a huge admiration for this old dame. She had been a huge hind in her day and was still in incredibly good strip for her age. But, more, she'd managed to give me, my predecessor, and probably the stalkers on two or three of the neighbouring beats the slip for about 14 years. The only reason I'd eventually caught up with her was that she was so done in that she could no longer keep with the herd.
There is a real sadness to shooting an exceptional beast like her but it would have been far worse- in my eyes- to have left her to a lingering death in the depths of a winter storm.