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The Hunter's Chronicles - Saturday 2nd June 2012

"The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry"

Steinbeck wrote a book on that theme. I think we all could. If I did, today would certainly feature as one of the illustrations.

With the intention of bagging some rabbits, I opted for the S200 with it's beefier .22 calibre. A text to the landowner, and I was off to the fields where life has surged forth in the sunny days I have been absent. I was death. A balance was to be exacted.

I entered the area in which I was to harvest. My first soul to be ushered to that place we are all journeying was waiting. He munched on the dewy wet fodder that surrounded him 56 yards down the slope. I approached with the trees and hedges behind me to compliment my camouflage. As I closed to a distance of what I guessed was 45 yards, he sensed my presence. It was time. I carefully raised the 'despatcher'. It was further than I had hoped and a standing shot, but I was confident. I lifted the crosshairs the required 1.5 mildots and sent the lead of destiny on its path. My aim was true and over the rabbit rolled.

It was after this that the plan went awry.

I traversed the landscape slowly, taking my time to drink in the environment that had so quickly galloped on without me. Grass much taller than I remembered. New faces in the undergrowth. Full grown poppies bobbed and waved lazily from their sea of green.
But no more rabbits wished to pay the ferryman.

Down from my position, in the field at the bottom of the valley, a fractious gathering of crows were strutting about, taking off, landing, all to a chorus of squawking and calling. I scanned them through the scope. Hmmm not just crows. Intermingled with the yobs of the sky were pigeons and ducks! A veritable target gallery.
There was no obvious approach that would conceal my presence. Whilst I perhaps couldn't prey on them feeding, I could pick off newcomers from a tree that was an obvious vantage and rest point for them. Conveniently, a hedgerow, elevated by the slope and gradient of the terrain lay 45 yards away. It was here I sat, shielded in front by grass now waist high and above by the hedge itself.  In minutes a jackdaw alighted on a branch. My despatcher was ready. 1.5 mildots hold over. The AA Diabolo was sent on its way. The slower flight time gifting the jackdaw a moment to twitch before an audible smack returned to my ears. He plummeted through the leaves and branches. His brothers and cousins soon lamented his passing with a renewed clamour of calls. As none were willing to venture to the tree from which he was downed, I crept closer.

Before I came to the foot of the tree, a deer startled me as much as I her. A magnificent beast that pranced effortlessly through the grass that I waded. She stopped to assess me, her fear abated, she melted away into the flora and fauna of a young patch of woodland.

I could find no trace of the jackdaw. I paced up and down the area he should have fallen, but vast swaths had now been swallowed in a mass of man high nettles and thorns. He could rest safely there...

I stopped to reflect on my next course of action. I waited just long enough for it to come to me.
A pigeon landed in the tree directly above and kindly presented a plump breast. It was a risk and challenge to thread the pellet, but I took my chance. He made to take off, but only his spirit flew skywards as his body failed him. A puff of soft downy feathers floated on the wind from the fortress of brambles into which he disappeared.

Honour bound, I resolved to rescue the downed airman.

I found him and successfully retrieved his remains.

The redeeming aspect of those thorns was that he had partly plucked himself.

The gain of that painful endeavour was an excellent hide.

I inspected the killer blow, expecting it to be a heart and lung shot. I was most surprised to only be able to find trauma to the cranium. His face, a mask, not unlike 'The Phantom of The Opera'. One side untouched, the other a mess replete with a red blood filled eye.

I was very pleased that despite the difficulties presented by the dancing limbs and tendrils of his perch as well as the angle, I had again managed to send him off with a clean, instant kill.

I laid him as a decoy 30 yards from my new found cubby hole. And awaited the next soul I knew to be expecting me.

A crow, then a jackdaw swooped low, around then away as they inspected the pigeon. The two too nervous to land.

I had almost given up hope when three figures waddled over the brow of the hillock to my left.

Water Chicken. A breed similar to the fabled Wild Chicken, but its pond loving cousin. Around here it is common knowledge that this quarry makes fine eating all year round if you can find them. Though abundant, they are most careful, retiring creatures. Reputedly they are best cooked 'crispy' and are complimented well by a variety of fruit sauces. As the one that wished to pass held its head up above the grass at a lazed 30 yards, I took my opportunity to put the reputation to the test. A head shot behind the eye, though my knife through the throat ensured it's demise as I wasn't satisfied by the pellets work.

I hung around for a time afterwards, but knew my work here was done. A most productive hunt. Almost a relief and a release. I wonder if I was not a bit trigger happy in light of my absence and this, my return. That may be, but what a pie I can make! Food for a week I'm sure.

I thank you souls, for your 'welcome back' parade, it was most unexpected.

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