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The Hunter's Chronicles - Tuesday 1st May 2012

With the changing of the month came change in the weather. 19:00 I saddled up the TX200 and sauntered to my pigeon patch. Of course, there were bunnies a plenty. Kits lined the roadside, diving for cover when their nerve gave out. Each seemed to hold out longer than the last as though daring the next to out-do his bravado.
As I past my usual rabbit field there were four at least way beyond their usual limits, a quick scamper, but when I froze and remained a statue, they quickly resumed feeding. I enjoyed their company for a while smiling wryly to myself. Soon I tired of them and as I resumed my way, all scurried to the hedgerows in an instant.

Meet my closest neighbours, much more discreet than I!

I arrived in my favoured spot. A small woodland, unclaimed and unowned, inhabited at the weekend by two very friendly people and their equally friendly dog, Foxy.

I plunged into my secret garden through the thicket on the left that conceals the path to the treasures within.

A few paces in I like to stop and remain motionless for a minute or two. I fancy I am 'tuning in' to the surrounding life, calibrating my radar, becoming more sensitive to the subtle signs that betray quarry lurking in the depths... In spite of this, when I move again I very often disturb numerous pigeons who in turn scare the rest with the frantic beat of their wings and snapping of twigs. This has been almost unavoidable as the high winds of late have littered the floor with dead twigs, veritable land mines to the stealthy predator. More ominous and deadly than that are the shining and only recently exposed roots that lurk beneath that will take a foot and send it down the steep slope threatening at best to knock the rifle off zero, or worse, break a bone.

I threaded my steps with purpose. So slow and cautious was I that a heavy female squirrel nibbled upon a branch ahead oblivious to my presence. I took a standing shot the impacted below the ear. The crack sent two more pigeons off into the skies as she crumpled sideways and rolled off the branch impacting the leaf litter with a muffled thud. As I approached her shivering body, it was evident the life had vanished from the eyes, and yet the nose and whiskers twitched. I placed another pellet through the back of her skull to end the throes of Death.

Onwards, deeper into the forest I went. Songbirds chirped and twittered their chorus above and around me. Pigeons cooed but far off.
I arrived near to my position, eyes roving the canopy, My attention dropped nearer to the floor and it was then I spied the silhouette of another tree rat. This time a tree was perfectly positioned for a rested standing shot.
Crack, thud, roll.

I came to his remains and inspected the damage. There was no reaction, no struggling, no movement. But there was still light in the eyes. The round seemed to have struck just that bit too low and right of the ear. He was paralysed. A swift mercy shot and I held his chest feeling the strong heartbeat continue as blood pumped from his nose and mouth, then begin to falter, weaken, and stop. I tucked him up above where my gun is pictured resting, an offering to the Gods with the words "Lie with, and become one with the tree you loved, as one day I too will return to the soil".

There on in I played the waiting game.

My first opportunity presented itself three quarters of an hour later. The angle was extreme, almost directly above my head in a tall tree in front of my position. I am fairly certain I scored a direct hit, seemingly evidenced by the feathers that see sawed their way down, but he nonetheless escaped my clutches. Did it strike that impervious breast bone causing only a small flesh wound? Or did he fly on the fuel of adrenaline only to crash land to earth and become food for the Fox? I'll never know.

Around 20:00 another offering was made. This time I made the shot count. I held firm until his head protruded clear from the body and branches through which the pellet required threading and took my chance. He fell straight down and rolled with the slope towards me. A headshot, that was clear, but in a cruel twist reminiscent of the film Final Destination, he managed to thread a length of barbed wire through his throat! Evidently no mercy shot was required this time.

My prize gained, I ended my foray. As I alighted from my lair, quite without my noticing, the valley had become enveloped in mist. I arrived home to find my abode swaddled in the eiderdown of the gods. With the smoke of the woodburner rising gently from the chimney it was clear my night recounting my adventures, would be cosy and warm. A pleasant contrast from the North wind that pervaded every opening, chilling and leeching the life from that exposed to it.

As I butchered the pigeon by the light of my head torch, a stream of thoughts entered my mind in the fashion of an obituary. They went something along these lines;

You who once were one with the air and trees,
Who dwelt amongst the Gods, the object of the earth bound creatures envy,
Who lived as another expression of the consciousness that creates all things.
A life seen by man as the epitome of liberty.

If your life was the mastery of the elements Air and Wood,
Your demise was through my mastery of Earth and Metal.
You feasted upon the fruits of the farmers labour, I now take it back, less the tax your body exacted.
Our two species have dwelt together throughout history,
Long may our relationship continue.

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