Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Waiting On Game

Since my last blog I've been doing a lot of thumb twiddling. Sure, there have been plenty of things needing seen to; I've been round and round my traps; I've walked my cairns and rock faces in the forlorn hope of picking up a fox; I've sorted fences; patched roads; replaced a bridge....but I'm really, REALLY just wanting the stags to come onto my ground so I can start stalking.

Everything else is ready. Fergus (my pony) is shod, his tack is all sorted and oiled and waiting. I've got a heap of feed for him waiting at his winter quarters. My rifle is zeroed. I carry all the parephenalia (telescope, radios, drag rope, stag straps etc etc) every day on the off-chance I'll be sent out.

But still I'm twiddling my thumbs. If this rut doesn't start soon, they'll be completely worn away.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Ace of Spades

I'm all too aware that you haven't heard from me for a while. The sad thing is, it's because I don't have a lot to say.

I've been trailing around my gritting stations. (Large piles of peat/turves with a tray of grit on top. The grouse take grit to help them break down the food in their crop. A medicated coating on the grit we provide kills the parasites in their gut.)To me, it's one of the most important jobs I do. Unfortunately it's one of the most laborious, monotonous ones too.

So I've not been setting the world on fire. (That's on hold until the heather burning season. Eeek! Did I really joke about that!)But at least I've had the time to get on with the task.

Ever since the neighbouring estate put up a fence along my march, my chance of early stags has diminished to...hmmm, let me see...nil! So, instead of taking stalking guests out, I've been doing a really thorough job with the grit piles.

This has meant building up any that I didn't deem big or prominent enough. Which is tough spade work. I've also been replacing every grain of the existing medicated grit.

The manufacturers have been blowing a fanfare and declaring that the new medicated coating on their grit lasts longer than ever. That it wont melt off in the heat of summer and that the active ingredient wont be neutralised by frosts.They claim it will still be good after a year on the hill.

But these claims have never been verified by an impartial body. So, in the meantime, while I know that we are in the middle of a serious grouse crash, I'm putting fresh grit onto every pile on the hill.

Today I got the use of the argocat for the first time (my colleagues have been taking their turns with it.) and it certainly makes things easier. Even better, I was on a area of hill where all the grit piles were dug with a mini-digger. So no problems with diminuitive piles here, then.

But, by the time I'd rattled round the hill for 7 hours, and dived in and out of the argo 70 times, I was knackered.

And I still am. I'd planned to go out lamping for foxes tonight. But it can wait for another night.

Night, night.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Back to Business

We finished our grouse shooting yesterday. I think I speak for all my colleagues when I say it's a bit of a relief.

Yes, the tie can get thrown to the back of a drawer for a while. And the 'Sunday' tweeds can go back in the wardrobe. Gone are the pressures of the military-like operation that is a day of grouse driving.

But we're relieved because we're not killing any more of our grouse. There are patches on the estate where there are reasonable stocks left. But we've also had an unpleasant surprise from a lot of other areas.

So today I made a start to getting around my grit piles. Disease (tristrongyle worm infestation)has decimated our stocks from last year. And the terrible spring weather meant the survivors bred very poorly. My main concern now is to refresh the medicated grit in all 200+ piles to try and limit any more losses to the worm.

It's also the first day I've been back to 'business as usual' without Ed. I caught myself looking around for him often. Thank goodness for Lottie. She's no substitute but she's a welcome distraction.

It was her first day on the hill with me- at just 16 weeks old. And she behaved impeccably. Keep up the good work Lil'lots.