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The Hunters Chronicles - Wednesday 1st August 2012

Since the 21st May 2012, I have been employed on the renovation of a cottage in the local village. This has not only removed me from my woodland habitat and tending to a very mini 'smallholding' but has also greatly reduced the time available for me to procure meat by hunting. 

I have missed this time greatly.

I have not, however, failed to notice some disconcerting warnings in nature. As I pruned an overgrown Hazel tree in the grounds of the cottage in the middle of July, I was surprised to find rather developed though not yet ripe hazelnuts. Nuts, in general are an autumn harvest. The hazelnut, according to Richard Mabey's "Food For Free" should not start to be seen until early August and not be ripe until the husks have dried in mid-September-October.
Elderberries, out since the beginning of July and already many being stolen by the song birds. I say 'stolen' because I and my partner specifically went easy on the flowers so we could make some elderberry cordial to stave off the coughs and colds of Winter. A month early in fruition.
Hawthorn berries, from which I like to make very nutritious fruit leathers, again, a month at least ahead of schedule.
Black berries, some ripening in the middle of July when according to Mabey they are supposed to just begin to develop now in August.

Squirrel activity has risen noticeably in the past month and I know that they are after my long awaited crop of hazelnuts. I purposely skipped coppicing them last winter as they take 3-5 years to recover.

In the mornings and evenings there are at least two nut raiders leaping from branch to branch. The one that fell to the BSA Scorpion T10 clearly forgotten and the warning unheeded.
Now I'm sure it is not unheard of for squirrels to be making preparations for winter in July/August but combined with my other observations I must admit I am ever so slightly fearful of what Boreas and Pan may have planned for this year.

I pondered my misgivings, unable to yet divine what the warnings message may be. A dry yet very cold winter?
An extreme, prolonged winter possibly even early, in contrast to the last?
Or perhaps just another dry warm one that never seems to properly arrive before it leaves?

As I sought for answers to the clues the Gods were giving, the two nut nickers returned. This time the SMK TH208 was quickly unwrapped and awake. They played a double act that kept me guessing and made full use of the thick foliage and cover.
I half ran, half crept from trunk to trunk. They paused once each and allowed a shot however, with range and and often acute angles hard to judge then compute into hold under/over, I missed both. I did not miss the third. Just as this male thought he had evaded me, he dithered too long in a Hazel and Zeus struck him down. A dull thud with not even a flicker. He simply fell to Earth like a leaf should in Autumn.
As you can see in the picture, some of those have fallen earlier than expected too!

The SMK TH208 has been very impressive and I can see it earning a permanent place in my stable for this very purpose. Watch this space for an in-depth review.

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