Saturday, 28 January 2012

Waiter, This Venison is Tough!

Well things aren't getting any easier. The mild weather continues and the deer are playing hard-to-get. Very hard-to-get.

Every year we stalkers get a beast each for ourselves. Needless to say, they're usually the biggest and best beasts of the season, and clean-shot. But getting near enough to them to be sure of a neck shot is no walk in the park just now. More like a walk in the minefield, in fact.

It dawned on me that, with the end of the season fast approaching, I was running out of time to get my beast. As Tuesday was a horrendous day of driving rain, I thought I'd make getting one good hind my sole objective for the day.

The good news was that the foul weather had pushed a herd onto some handier ground. (Relatively speaking.) The bad news was that they were in a spot that turned out to be nigh-on impossible to get near.

I snuck up a wee burn and waaay before I was anywhere near the beasts I was crawling-to avoid disturbing sheep. (The Red Deers answer to NATOs Early Warning System.)

Anyway I crawled into the next postcode and to within 250 yards. The deer were still on their feet and grazing towards me at this point. Then, one by one, they lay down. Nooooooo!!!!

Dismayed, I crawled up and down the same stretch of burn 4 or 5 times trying to find any way of getting closer. With 150 pairs of eyes looking down the hill at me? Not a chance.

My only option was to wait. And wait. And wait.

I was starting to feel decidedly chilly (and not a little frustrated) when the weather took a turn for the even-worse. The freezing rain started coming down in sheets.

"Thanks very much!" I muttered heavenward. .....then the deer started getting to their feet. Perhaps this cloud really did have a silver lining.

The filthy weather was too much even for these tough hombres. They got up,turned their bums to the rain and walked away. When the last pair of lugs disappeared over a nearby rise I could have wept with happiness- I could move!!

I followed them on and as I crept around the corner I found most of them already out of range and still moving into the vast open stretch of a sheltered bowl. Utterly unstalkable. Lifting my head a little higher I found that a handful had stalled- and lain down just after entering the bowl. And looking through my binoculars, I could see that one was an absolute clinker.

I started crawling forward to get a clear shot- all the time aware that I was coming into sight of more and more deer. And as I crawled I noticed the 'stragglers' were, one by one, getting up and following the herd again. It was a case of 'take your time but hurry'.

When I got to my firing point there were only 3 beasts left in range- but the clinker was one of them. As I got the crosshairs on her I saw her looking about as if to say "Hey, where has everybody gone?"

She became the dearly departed just a moment before she deerily departed. Getting her two companions was the icing on the cake. Albeit a very moist cake. I was ecstatic....right up until I contemplated the monster drag that awaited me.

Boy, she had better taste good.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Winter Lite

I would love to say that my latest silence was because I was taking a break on my yacht in San Tropez, or that I was owf skiing at St Moritz. Then again I'd love to say that Jennifer Anniston keeps bugging me to be her Friend on facebook. Dream on...

Nope, the simple truth is that I've been snowed under. I seem to have had so much on my plate just recently that all you can see of the Willow Pattern is a swallows tail.

Recent storms haven't helped either. On 3 seperate occassions in the last month, we've had winds of nearly 100 mph. Thats 180kph in new money. What that means for us on the ground is that it's a battle to move about the hill, a greater battle to shoot straight and- when you eventually get some time to yourself- there's a power of tidying up to do back home.

And in the past month I've had to reglaze half our greenhouse, re-fix some of the corrugated iron sheets on our shed, cut and split some fallen trees... and I've yet to get round to re-felting the kennel roof and raking up the ton of branches littering the garden.

And yet, this could never be classed as a hard winter; anything but. We've hardly had any snow and hardly a frost. This has meant that our deer are keeping an extremely healthy (for them) distance from us. Recently I've been spending a lot of my day hiking out to where the deer are. And then it takes another big chunk of the day getting it horsed home.

The soft weather also means the deer haven't had the edge knocked off their condition. As a result, as soon as a shot is fired the rest are racing for the horizon. Last week, for example, I had 10 beasts for 10 stalks. That's just plain hard work.

All this might be about to change. The weather does seem to be getting a bit more seasonal. You'll see from the pics that we had some heavy snow showers today- and we managed some outdoor curling at the weekend.

They say 'be careful what you wish for.'

I say "Bring it on!!"

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Post of Christmas Past

Happy New Year to you all.

I was shocked to see how much time had passed since my last blog. In my defence, I've managed to cook up a couple of plausible excuses. My first is that the run-up to Christmas became more akin to a desperate scramble for me. The second is that we stopped our culling on the 20th December as there would be no collections from our Game Dealer after that.

I have to say that I was more ready for a break than I ever remember. I like to get 100 hinds in the bag before Christmas if I can. This year I had 95 and it feels like they've come harder than ever. I put this down to a)having lots of guests to take out b)open weather(ie no snow)allowing the deer to stay a long way out on the hill c)a lot of really crappy weather in the way of wind, mist and rain making every task more difficult d)getting older!!!!

And as I write this, the house is being battered by 90mph winds and thick sleet is blowing past the window. You've got to feel sorry for anything 'oot the hill' on a day like this.

Mind you, it wasn't much different yesterday and I took a friend out just to see if we could get a beast for him to buy. They say a picture speaks a thousand words; the one I've posted of yesterday is uttering nothing but expletives!

And there were a few more when we missed!!!!!

Operations will be back to normal on the 9th but before then I'll hopefully be taking my 14 year old niece out for her first hind. If it happens, I'll keep you posted.