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In The Footsteps Of Thoreau - 4th January to 27th May 2012

As some will know, I have created a life lost to many, dreamed of by others, lived by a few.

My recent activities have been documented on the thread The Hunter's Chronicles. How I managed to forge this path is recorded in the archives of this blog and in my books 'The Warless Warrior' series.

What I wish to relate to you is another side of my life. A most important part. One explored and written about beautifully by the late, great American literary icon, Henry David Thoreau. I speak specifically of his work "Walden; Or Life In The Woods" and recommend it highly. I also suggest you sample his other essays "Civil Disobedience" and his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance". I believe you will find two astute writers who identified and warned a fledgling society of the hazards ahead that we are encountering and perpetuating over 200 years later.

Relative to Walden, my account will hardly be as eloquent nor as memorable. Try as I might, I simply have not the level of mastery as Thoreau at weaving the words of our language into such a divine tapestry of story, poetry and prose.

What I speak of is the provision of shelter for oneself and/or a family. I do not take this subject lightly. I also do not bow to any false authority no matter how powerful they believe themselves to be.
The seedling seeks not permission before it sprouts into a mighty oak. The rain does not require a license to fall. The wind will not seek our blessing to blow. The birds give no notice of where they wish to site their nest. Whilst these truths remain, and until such evidence is provided that demonstrates that I am not also a creation and being of nature, then I too shall follow her example. As our fore fathers and ancestors did. As I hope, one day, our children shall once again do.

I refute the idea that I must sign up on the banksters contract to a lifetime of servitude, in order that I may outsource the creation of my shelter to another. The result, most often being a box that is most unsatisfactory. One that does not reflect my heart, much less the soul of its creator.
I am able. I am willing. And, more importantly. I have begun.

In early January, I commenced clearing the site of overgrown vegetation with a machete. A stake was driven in at the centre and a 16ft length of ash used as a compass to mark the perimeter.
A trench was dug to define the boundary.

Ash was felled using axe and bowsaw and dragged by hand out of the woodland. The bark, stripped with a machete used in the manner of a drawknife. One end was wedged in a Vee of a hazel tree.

In total, I felled and stripped 24 lengths. Twelve of the thickest to be primary rafters, twelve of the thinner to be secondary rafters in the reciprocal roof.

This pile was left to season.

The perimeter trench completed, the topsoil was next to be removed.

Moving on the digging out to create a level pad.

All this has been undertaken as and when conditions have been favourable, by hand, when the mood has taken me. It has been thus far, a meditative and thoroughly enjoyable endeavour. Each swing of the pick, each shovel load, a lesson in the earth upon which my temple to being shall sit. I have gained an intimate knowledge of its composition and structure, its history, its ingredients and make up of varying amounts of clay, sand, and stone.

The logs are now seasoning well and will continue to do so as I quarry more and more stone ready to build the walls.

As much of the materials that will make this shelter, this home, will be that which is local, natural, and abundant.

I initially thought of using earth bags, but the amount of wonderful stone begs me to adapt.

Ultimately the aim is to create something low impact and functional. Its beauty, incidental and possibly inevitable. There are no drawings, the earth speaks and what will manifest will be through the consciousness of its creator. I imagine that to be something along the lines of what my dear friend Simon Dale built.
Periodically, I will post updates of my progress.

I thank you humbly for reading.

The Hunter's Chronicles - Sunday 27th May 2012

A Hunter must possess versatility and adaptability if he is to survive. This sometimes means providing more than just meat. Water. Fuel. Foraged greens.
For those finer things that his skill set cannot extend to, he may choose to trade or sell his time for units of currency.
The recent heat has meant that, without proper refrigeration, any meat left hanging is soon spoiled by hordes of flies eager to fill every orifice with their eggs. So, I feel it disrespectful to slay any creature only for his body to be cast aside as nature devours it in her numerous peculiar ways. In such weather, it is also more refreshing I feel to enjoy the option to subsist on cool vegetation and foraged leaves
And so it was that this past week, it was not the fields in which the hunter could be found.

Still outdoors in glorious and blessed rays of sunshine, but in contact with stone not soil. Lots of stone.

For the most part, the lime mortar has been raked out. Now, with new sacks of traditional (and thankfully, ready mixed) lime mortar. The re-pointing has commenced.

Alas, the working week must end. It is then one can retire to the shade of the woodlands, resplendent with trees in full bloom. To where sanctuary can be found and tranquility enjoyed with those held most dear.

The Hunter's Chronicles - Wednesday 23rd May 2012

Air Rifles are playing a seemingly pivotal and synchronistic role in this lifestyle of mine. Not long after purchasing the S200 from a local chap, my eager ego was busy shopping for things I neither needed nor had the money to purchase; Bipods, Quick release studs, etc etc. It even went as far as to belittle the acquisition that it had for so long desired and generated so much suffering over it's deprivation and lack. Now it said "Not as good as a HW100!" What the heck?! I have nothing to sell!
Oh but you do....
No. No. I couldn't. Selling my time was exactly what had started this whole breakaway and shift off.
Could I go back? Not to something that I didn't enjoy, no way.
It had to be local.
It had to be temporary, yet worthwhile.
Pah, the nearest settlement is a sleepy hamlet with a pub. I was not about to pull pints again.

I mulled over my new desire and the predicament of the overdraft my past desires had created.
I had just about managed to convince myself that I was actually happy and complete.
Then I received a text.

"Just picked up a traditional building job down the road from you. You available Monday?" It was the guy I bought the S200 from!

'Absolutely' featured in my reply. Right up my alley having spent a year learning traditional building methods, here was someone requiring me to put them into practice and teach me some more whilst paying me!

The cottage was idyllic.

The job was not.

Nearly all the walls, bar one, need re-pointing. That means 3-5 months work using a miniature pick to tap out the old lime mortar, then replacing it. The chimney needs rebuilding. A window in the roof to be ripped out and replaced by a dormer.... and two days in, my back is sunburnt, wrist is strained and I'm knackered.

I had little recourse therefore to bemoan not being able to hunt. The very time I would normally spend doing it, I was selling. Tough cookies.

But today, tired though I was, I made time.

As I rode shotgun in my employers van (he kindly ran me up the hill to my abode) I spied an invasion of crows marauding one of the fields of my permission. Game on!

A very quick slurp of coffee, shirt off, camo jacket on. Far too hot for layers today.

I grabbed the TX200 as I believed I'd be requiring the lighter, faster calibre.

I approached the target area.

I crept through the trees. Just the other side of this thicket, there was a crow party in full swing.

I emerged to find....

...I wasn't invited.

They buggered off. The lot of them.

Ahh well, rabbits it is. I was philosophical in my disappointment at being denied the opportunity of trying out crow burgers, but philosophy gave way to conniving.

Out along the row of fences pictured above I spotted an unsuspecting prize. Range - guesstimated at 43 yards or thereabouts, appropriate hold over, fire.

Most bizarrely, it was after the pellet impacted, this kit decided he'd audition for the Olympic Gymnastics Team, the media hype evidently infectious to rabbits too. To give him his due, he put in a sterling effort to execute a 360 degree backflip with twist, but failed miserably to land it. I held up my judges card. I gave him 3 for effort but his timing was way off in my opinion, next time I would advise he do so without a lump of lead in his brain.
His buddy was harsher than I, and failed to even acknowledge the incredible talent displayed by his now deceased playmate. As I approached, he scratched his ear in his attempt to appear nonchalant. I was not so accurate with my 'gut' rangefinding and missed not once but twice before I applied slight hold under and got an audition out of him too. Not nearly as impressive however. So he got a '1' for merely showing up.

I slit the kits and hid in the bushes, hoping to lure the crows back with treats.

I waited. And I waited some more.

Then I went for a mooch.

In a favourite spot of mine, a large Doe loped around happily, and lazily disappeared back into the hedgerow. A good time for a well earned lie down to give my backside a chance to regain some blood supply.
She re-emerged at a lazed 32 yards. Rested on my gamebag stuffed with the gunslip it was a straight forward shot. It struck home where expected.
What happened was unexpected. The strike was audible and yet she barely reacted shifting forward as though completely unaffected.
She was mortally affected.
Blood poured from her mouth dribbling in the grass. In an attempted to hasten her demise I fired another shot, another strike. A flinch. Then she keeled over stone dead.

I paunched her immediately, to find her digestive system in full swing. Food was still being pumped along the intestines. From a nick in the lower tract oozed processed food matter. This continued for a short while even after all had been disconnected. Quite fascinating to say the least.

The pellet seemingly struck the correct area, yet I can only surmise the small .177 round failed to cause the required level of trauma and thus passed just under the brain. She may have drowned on her own blood though unlikely. May have suffered a heart attack?
In my experience, this occurrence is extremely rare. But lessons have been learned. For starters, the S200 will be my primary rabbiting gun. If I use the TX200 for rabbits, it appears the pellet must strike fractionally higher than the mark shown.

I added her to the collection of Kits to which the crows had now flocked, and subsequently scarpered as I drew nearer.

Another wait for the crows.

Another saunter.

At the bottom of the tree on the right there is almost always a rabbit.

This time was no different.

This one decided to perform a very quick cartwheel stunt audition. Similar to the last kill, with more blood from the mouth than I'd like and expect but not quite as disquieting and a much quicker exit. Successful, but with room for refinement.

And so, with my temporary employment, which shall usher in a top pedigree stallion to the airgun stable, I must accept my forays may be less frequent than I am used to. But I am willing to endure the hardships. My boss has promised to show me how to prepare rabbits Cretan style if I tutor him in their skinning and butchery (If it means time off from picking at mortar so be it!).

Til next time friends!

Make Your Quarry Pay! One Way To Derive An Income From Hunting.

Dear Fellow Hunters,

Following some of the posts in my thread The Hunters Chronicles, a fair number of folks have got in touch and asked for some pointers regarding how I process my kills. Here's a little pictorial guide to how I go about it. Some have also professed to being unaware that there is a market for these skins. A quick search of rabbit or squirrel skins on eBay will show you that Dog trainers and Fly Fishermen are willing to pay good money for a well treated pelt. Nearly £10 a pop for squirrels it seems and around £6-£8 for a rabbit.

That'll get you some pellets!

Now for the juicy bit.

1) Crack open the skull. I use my Mora knife and a 'Bam Bam' on my log stump.

2) Extract the pellet! (can be seen at base of skull in the middle of the brain)

3) I find it best to use my finger and really get in there, but one way or the other, scoop out the good stuff and put onto your hide. This hide will have been dryed either through salting, or as I choose, by pinning to a board and placing behind the woodburner for a few days. When nice and 'crackly' it's ready for the meat and membrane to be gently scraped off with my old axe head which exposes a soft layer of the 'endermis'? (Inside part of epidermis). Doing this also aids absorption by the skin of your chosen tanning agent, in this case the lecithins and other chemicals of the brains.
Here's one pre-dried and scraped.

4) I rub the brains in fully until there is only a sticky sheen that remains.

5) As I'm not interested in the painfully thin outer edges of the rabbit skin, I trim these off. This step is optional.

6) The next skin is then stretched and pinned by working from the extremes and round. So I'll start at the top right for instance, the bottom left, then bottom right to top left and the same for the sides until the result looks like the following.

7) And so the cycle continues with the next two ready to be dried.

That method is called 'Brain Tanning'. I do not wish to expose myself or my family to the alum found in proprietary compounds so I chose to use natural methods only. Egg whites can be substituted for brains, which is good as I have chickens and as the weather warms up the flies soon inhabit the heads making for a most unpleasant experience.

I leave the brain tanned pelt hanging for a day or so to allow for absorption then proceed to work the skin over the back of a chair. This also helps work in the brains and also to stretch the hide and break the collagen bonds. If it doesn't or you are happy with the result, the next step is to 'lock in' the tanning agent and preserve your work. I do this by smoking the skins.

The properties of the smoke preserve and slightly waterproof the skin as well react with the brains. If you choose to work it more after this stage you should end up with a 'buckskin' feeling pelt.

I have had the best result with the thicker squirrel skins, but the rabbits have been very good too. To really water proof I then apply a light coating of Dubbin.

Pelts worked to this standard should fetch alot more than £10. Those pelts I've seen on eBay have only been dried. and possibly scraped. I'm upto twenty skins now with the intention of making winter clothing from them but I will soon start selling my surplus to fund my hungry Air Arms 'twins'.

All the best guys!

Man – Ultimate Predator, and Amateur Vegetable.

When Mankind first walked this Earth, we are told that it was, and in those rare remaining pockets still is, an inhospitable and dangerous jungle shared with a myriad of other beasts. Some of these beasts also possessing a predatory instinct.
As evidenced by our species present and perceived dominance of nature and it's creations, no other beast possessed nor embraced this instinct to quite the same degree as Man. So powerfully was it adopted and so diligently was it honed, the it pervaded not only Man's body and his actions, but his mind also.
I call it the ego. It is no surprise therefore, that the ego is most conspicuously present in the male. It is, of course, also present in the female, but I believe that it is most firmly embedded in the masculine mind due, in part, to his Hunter role.
The ego, with it's insatiable appetite for more, compelled Man to vanquish all those who would dare threaten him. Their predatory prowess, perceived as a challenge and an affront to his own. The conquering of them, to this day, held as a symbol of achievement and source of great pride. The trophy will be preserved and displayed high for all to see, in service of the ego of its slayer.
It has now gotten to the point where the number of worthy prizes has become so few as to be negligible, the animals who once commanded our fear and respect, now require man's assistance to survive, threatened not only directly, but indirectly also by the march of human 'progress'.
It is not just our fellow beasts that are subjected to the suffering inflicted by the endless desires of man's ego, but his fellow men too.

If I can surmount and tame all of natures other creations, then what else left is there but to annihilate and conquer her greatest predatory creation?” The Ego says.
Regardless that it is my own kind, I shall instead brand and label him as different from I and justify my actions through his past perceived/alleged infractions or even his potential future actions. Call him 'Barbarian' not 'Citizen', assign I and him a flag or symbol to which each will identify and thus enable the senseless slaughter without the limitation of morals nor conscience, and let the 'hunt' begin.

In a seemingly past life now, I willingly signed up to and subscribed to this madness with the blessing of society, my family and peers. I was indoctrinated, taught and trained in the many different ways to track, stalk, observe, conceal myself from, and ultimately hunt and kill my fellow human being.
It was thrilling. It was awful. On the one hand a beautiful display of individual yet united beings acting and moving in an aligned and co-ordinated machine to achieve the common objective. Improvising, adapting, overcoming as the mantra said. But to step back was to witness sheer insanity at its most sickening levels. Such consumption of resources, so much destruction and loss.

At the end of it came trophies. Prizes. We called them medals.

These words are not condemnation nor of judgement, rather, they are the facts as I perceive them.
I believe it is fair, in light of the very few living creatures that prey on mankind this day, to say Man is one of the ultimate predators.

When he chooses to be.

To my belief, it is the very stalking, seeking, challenge and even the numerous failures, that endows the hunters prize with value and merit. Yet as good as man became at this, he also sought quicker, more efficient means, and ultimately negated his valued role and status completely.
Where, I ask, is the worth, the value, the achievement, the prize in the cling film wrapped chicken you picked from the supermarket shelf? In an almost complete U turn of values and morals, our young hunters of today, if not practising and training to kill their fellow man, face condemnation even incarceration for daring to venture out into the wilderness and practice that which runs in their blood, the instinct of the ancestors. Frustrated by this urge I sympathise why many choose instead to drown out the ego, its mental monologue and torturous judgements with booze and other substances. This is effectively encouraged and condoned by the same society that proclaims to possess high moral standards and says it dislikes such behaviour! Is it really a wonder as to why the poor wretch can find no solace?!

In the rollercoaster that was my early teens I quickly identified that the mainstream society in which I dwelt has lost almost all of the old rights of passage for the male. Females still had the trauma and challenge of menstruation with the acceptance, acknowledgement and identity at the end of it that yes, they were now a woman. But what was there for the boy who so desperately wanted society to agree and tell him that finally yes, he was a man? I believe my ego found it in the Army. But I believe it needn't be so for everyone.

On TheHuntingLife forum I read countless requests from youngsters to be taken out by an 'old timer' and shown the ways and means of hunting. Why?! Because he is invariably lacking the father/grand father who did so for generations before. Who educated the son in the ways and means of being a hunter and providing for a family. A true man. This is perpetuated down the line by the current trends. These trends need bucking.

With young men being mentored and tutored properly by seasoned hunting veterans. If children can be brought up to understand and appreciate the fragility and sanctity of life through the education and application of hunting tools. Incidents of disrespectful behaviour, mutilated animals and all the other manifestations and backlashes of the frustrated youth and fledgling ego will, I firmly believe, decrease as the energy is channelled, perspective gained, and respect is inevitably earned and learned.

The alternative is dire. Continue to sit back, read the propaganda in the papers and let the GP's 'diagnose' and pump the youth full of chemical cocktails to suppress the life within, breeding the next generation of vegetables ready to clock on/off, and slump miserably in front of the TV to drink themselves into a stupor until finally they kill either themselves or somebody else.
That scenario is perhaps a bit over simplified but for the most part, not far from the truth.

When once we believed the cities held promise and hope, I believe now it is to be found in the countryside. I hold firm the belief that if the next generation can be tempted out from the urban jungle and into the true wilderness, our society and species may yet stand a small chance of averting the many reported crises that supposedly await us.

I hope to that spirit in the sky that before long, with great joy and relief;

I'll see you in the fields.

The Hunter's Chronicles - Friday 18th May 2012

It was time. And for this outing, there were two. We left with the words of my beloved ringing in our ears "bring us back a nice big rabbit!". Yes M'aam!.

My buddy, Mawders, being without his Superten, had brought with him a borrowed S410 carbine. It was woefully off zero (stubbornly shooting to the left despite numerous turns of the turret) and I was left underwhelmed by not only its performance but, strangely, the depth of the carving allowed for the palm in the stock. So shallow did it feel that for an instant I thought it to be a lefty stock. Forgivable after being used to the deep moulded feel of the TX200's woodwork.
Here was an occasion for a true PCP hunting carbine to step up to the mark. The deservedly renowned and much lauded S200. I left Mawders to get himself familiarised as I returned to camp to pick up the TX200 and return the disgraced S410. Upon my return,he told me of his positive first impression and awe at it's consistency and accuracy at 30 yards.

As we embarked on our 'mooch' pattern, a duvet of cloud rolled over the sky and soon a haze of 'dusty' rain was falling. Thankfully this did not persist, though at times it did sporadically return, keeping the ground moist enough to soak through the clothes should you crawl or lie prone upon it.

This outing kicked off much earlier than our two previous trips and was the better for it I feel. We settled on a spot where rabbits had been consistently seen and lay in wait.

Our position lay in a thistle ridden and shallow dip. Despite the odd 'tickle' in the nether regions which promoted alertness, the site afforded us good cover and soon the Mawders/S200 combination was presented with a challenge.

Both rose admirably to the occasion. As the large doe hopped from her hiding place in the hedge row, I barely had time to mutter "30 yards, dead on" before a 'phut - SMACK' was heard. She pulled off a flip of which any gymnast would be proud, only to land it, legs stiff and twitching towards the sky. There was no doubt in my mind that she was dead upon the pellets impact. We left her undisturbed for a time, keen not to dissuade any other candidates from exiting the safety of their hedgebank. Eventually, I handed Mawders the knife and he collected his prize.

The .22 had not been kind. It had ploughed through skin, bone, brain, then further on to bone and skin as it exited the other side, leaving a very bloody kill in its wake and irony to the expression 'a clean kill'
She lay in a surprisingly large pool of her own blood.
When Mawders opened her up, there were four large developed fetus, bonus! Or as Mawders rightly put it: "One pellet, five rabbits!"

Disemboweled, she was offered as a teaser to the Crows, but there were no takers from the corvid kingdom and as the temperature dropped and the limbs started to seize we moved on to see what other opportunities were aboard.

The usual suspects were in the usual places, and once again evaded execution. We repeated the mooching pattern and returned to our favoured position as the light was fading.

Having got soaked through crawling with admirable dedication towards a group of rabbits earlier, neither Mawders nor myself fancied lying once more upon the soaking earth. We elected instead to park our bums in the hedgebank on gunslips.

50-60 yards away a large rabbit leapt out and loped along towards our position. He was front on and presented a narrow target, but I was confident where I placed the crosshairs. I fired. Miss. The pellet slapped into the ground, I think in front of him leading me to question whether the scope was still zeroed. He must've moved to within 40 yards! Poor shooting then.

A short while later other rabbits appeared but were either too nervous to allow stalking and/or far out of range to not bother to attempt.

Light was dwindling along with my hopes. I strained my eyes to make out shapes through the Simmons 50mm lens...Ahaha! The unmistakable shape of a rabbit manifested in my sight picture, it seemed ready to pounce into the nettle patch, but I took my time. Guesstimating the range to be in the high 40's low 50's (yards) I adjusted the scope to 9x mag and lifted the crosshairs to the top of his cranium. I held my position, took up first pressure, fired and followed through.

The shot struck just in and below the eye. Instant death. Range turned out to be 47 yards. The TX200 proved itself to be equal to its PCP stable mate despite the smaller calibre.

The Brothers in Air Arms...

The trips bounty.