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The Hunter's Chronicles - Thursday 4th July 2012

Aesop's fable of The Wind and The Sun was a fitting way of describing the weather and I this day.

The Sun smiled just long enough to tempt me out to prowl with visions of hungry quarry eagerly filling their bellies and, like I, making the most of the warmth.

Having changed both my gun and ammunition, a re-zeroing session was in order.

As a rest, I use my rucksack gamebag stuffed with the gunslip and angled on its side (it has a stiff back pad). This allows for some absorption of recoil as well as accuracy ordinarily derived from the use of a bipod. The dark green colour of the bag also breaks up my profile and aids camouflage when I stake out a potentially fruitful spot.

The breeze was gentle but at times grew strong enough for me to need to time my shots with the lulls. I got the scope near where I wanted it, then glanced down the valley to my left.

You could see the rain rolling in. Whilst not the best news, I still enjoy the build up and the visual progress as it hunts me down. A fun game as a kid was to attempt to outrun the cloud and try to dodge its bombs until you collapsed in a sodden giggling heap alongside your chum, or dived under a tree shaking your fist at the sky with a triumphant "Better luck next time!"

I elected the latter course, minus the taunt.

Without fancy scope covers, I improvised.

The shower passed, but now I had a cold patch of mud upon which to lie, dirt invariably smeared the beautiful woodwork of the TX200 despite my best efforts to keep my mitts clean.
The wind had strengthened and was now without the pauses. Rather than achieve my desired groupings, I settled for hitting a milk bottle top consistently at 35 yards.

It was now between 15:30 and 16:00, too early for rabbits I knew, but rabbits weren't what I wished to add to tonights menu. I was after my elusive feathered friend Mr Pujin.

The trees I had in mind were two fields over. In no rush and enjoying my freedom, I took my time to take it all in and savour the experience. With the temperament of the Gods recently, who knows when another opportunity might present itself?

In retrospect; I should've legged it.

The first cloudburst was another shower I weathered under a dense hedge and tree. I couldn't be sure if another was heading my way due to a mist that hung above the village and decided to chance it.
I paid dearly for my mistake.
I got caught without cover. I huddled into a hedge only to have drips down my neck, then arms and as my hat became saturated, the peak. I had to move. I then completed my unwanted bath by wading through knee high grass as I hurried to the shelter of a large beech. This soaked my trousers and the water travelled down my wellingtons and made itself at home in my socks. I stayed put weighing up my options. I could jack it in and go home, I was wet but not quite sodden, which I would be if I walked back in this rain. The rain could pass, or remain.
My answer came as the rain slackened visibly and audibly ten minutes or so later. I pressed on and arrived at my usual hiding place. This bush would not provide the required waterproof shelter should another strong downpour surprise me and it was coming back now with no sign of abating.
I again pressed myself against the broad trunk of a large tree. This time an Ash clothed in Ivy. Aside from the odd drip I was safe and dry.
After what seemed like a damn long time, the rain finally passed. I tentatively emerged and clambered up a hill that brought me almost level to the tree favoured by the pigeons. Range, a perfect 35 yards. The one beyond, 45 yards.

Three buzzards now circled, one landed to bask in the sun as the clouds parted. I used him to test the digital zoom on my new camera.

Pigeons, crows, magpies, ducks and the trio of very vocal buzzards took to the skies.

Three pigeons landed in the target trees. All behind cover. None looked likely to ever move into an exposed position.
It was a good enough chance to tempt me out stalking. I attempted a head shot, but having advanced down the hill, the angle was approx 72 degrees which made it hard to keep the rifle steady on the shoulder as well as contending with the change to the POI. I hit a branch and scared them all off.

I did what I could. Changed positions. No Joy.
Returned to my previous vantage point and after a very long time and one fleeting opportunity, a pigeon presented itself. Back facing me, I put the duplex reticle between his shoulder blades, took my time, and fired. He fluttered, hit a few branches then glided/dived to the floor and hit the deck hard. Hooray!
No. Wait. He picked himself up and flew off.
I was gobsmacked.
Still wet as a fish, here I was 4 hours after I began, with nothing but a skidmark for my efforts.

 I did march towards the tree the pigeon escaped to, but he comfortably flew away, seemingly unharmed.

I waited under that pigeon forsaken tree until 21:00. Sadly and slowly I wandered home.

All appeared to be having far better fortune than I. Ever hopeful, I kept my wits about me. A good thing too as approximately 20 yards to my front, by the woods that border 'zeroing' field, a pair of ears and a rump were feeding!
I levelled my rifle and aimed right at the head without lasering it. DUNCK! Too high. Now here's where I should have suspected something. I did, but incorrectly thinking him to be an inexperienced Kit. The rabbit hunkered down rather than bolt. I reloaded purposefully and aimed again giving it a half inch hold under. He didn't respond to my squeaks, but eventually rose his head just enough and the next shot forced him to leap into the air.

Any elation fled as I inspected my prey.
The Eye did not look right. It appeared then a hollow victory. I flipped him over and my fear was confirmed.

Myxomatosis. Sores on the eyes, below the openings of the ears and the anus. Possibly the one that got away before. Probably that one is now dead and this, another victim of that unsightly and cruel affliction. He was laid to rest in the woodland from whence he came. Something inside me rebels against eating diseased meat, regardless of what scientists may say or the popular opinion of the day. I believe the Fox won't care to make such distinctions. A well fed Fox will also not stray from his territory and happen upon my chickens!

This particular hunt was, if nothing else, an experience. I returned home. Wet and for the first time, Hungry.

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