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Waste and Dishonour

I had the pleasure of receiving a communication from a forum member today.
He wished to know how he may reduce the waste and fully utilise the parts of the animals he hunted. It was/is a firm belief featuring heavily in the mythology of hunting tribes that to do so is to honour and respect your prey, to neglect to, a sin and a crime.
I may know a smidgeon more than many regarding this field, but I cannot by any means claim to be an expert. I would guess they live in Africa and the Rainforests of South America, but I shall do my best in future posts to share what experience I do have and the knowledge I have gained.

Before I do, I have to say that it was the enquirers mention of having witnessed the people of Afghanistan and “seeing what they do” that really caught my attention and set the little cogs turning. I believe I understand what he is referring to.
When I was fifteen I had the privilege of visiting India. This was a profound experience that I have no doubt has shaped my present and will my future. I, a teenager at the time both blessed and cursed with having been born in an age of rampant technological progress and the economic boom of the 90's, seeing people living in abject financial poverty. These people had few to no possessions of monetary value and yet were seemingly happier and more content with their lot than any single person I had ever come across. From the overcrowded train carriage, a relic of a bygone age, I observed filthy young scamps very much enjoying a game of cricket in the Sun, wickets constructed from gnarled sticks, laughing and evidently happier than any of my fellows in Britain with their Playstations, televisions and mobile phones. An impossible number of houses lined the railway banks, constructed from a myriad of salvaged waste materials. Here was necessity mothering invention on an awesome scale though now the materials were not natural, rather the economic and industrial cast offs in an urban setting.

It is therefore little wonder that whilst my local tip proudly displays a sign claiming to have recycled 73% of the waste handled last year, countries such as India and those in Africa can easily claim over 95%. The common denominator? Money, or rather the lack of it.
Money is a magic bullet that can often bring about a desired outcome or secure an acquisition that outsources the challenge of manifestation to another. I view each pound sterling as a unit of time. Sometimes the exchange is very efficient, for instance an air rifle. How long would it take you to construct and manufacture such a device? If a good quality rifle costs £300 new, and you earn £50 a day, six days of paper shuffling/labouring/bin collecting/filing sees you outfitted with something that it is fair to say would have taken you a damn sight longer than that to make!
Conversely the hundreds of pounds spent heating, running, renting/buying your home each year and the hours spent working a repetitive job you ultimately resent and despise and keeps you from those you hold dear in order to meet those bills is an example of the insanity money perpetuates. I find it more efficient to live close to my family in a caravan with a wood burner and collect and process the wood myself. Gas for heating costs me £35 every five months! Barely a days labour if I do choose to sell my time...

Now it may seem that I have digressed, but the above is intended as a background illustration of why most of us (myself included to an extent) do not fully exploit the resource and opportunity each of our kills presents. We lack need.

I am told that food is the cheapest, for us wealthy countries, than it has ever been before. - We do not need to eat that rabbit.
Clothing is practically disposable, - No need for the fur. 
No need to tan, - no need for the brain.
Needles are mass produced and lets face it, with clothes no longer mended who the heck needs those anyway, so – bones not required.
Glue is readily and cheaply available manufactured from chemicals, - no need to boil the scraps of hide/ eyeballs.

I daresay the list could go on but I think you catch my drift.
To the enquirer and the curious, as a start, I refer you to my 'Make Your Quarry Pay' post.
Regarding pigeons, it did seem somewhat shameful and criminal to use just the breasts, and with this in mind I experimented with skinning it in order to cook it like one would a chicken. Please see this post for further details. Unfortunately I do not believe in this case that the extra effort required is beneficial for anything but the conscience. Amazingly those birds are seemingly 95% breast!

Feathers are the most obvious usable item of avian quarry. Jays for the electric blue wing feathers, prized by fishermen, magpies I believe also. 

For the remainder of my life I will endeavour to experiment, test and research further ways that I may honour that which I kill, but I will say this. In nature, ultimately, there is no such thing as waste. This is by no means a truth upon which we may excuse ourselves, only you can be the judge of the acceptability of your habits, but it is a truth nonetheless. Parts that are presently unusable to me, I 'offer to the woodland gods'. To date, no offering has thus far been rejected and in this knowledge my conscience is soothed.

QB/XS79 .22 Co2 Conversion To PCP/HPA

To provide a challenge as well as an education into the workings of a pcp air rifle, I took the plunge and purchased an XS79 for the princely sum of....£99.

After some polishing, fiddling and faffing. I did it.

Close up of the On/Off valve and HPA bottle on the QB/ XS79

Now this path is very well trodden and recounted by men far more adept than I. To that end I have compiled my research and hereby offer it up to you for all those wish to try this very worthwhile project for themselves.

Pics, Links, How to's and More for the QB/XS79 HPA/PCP Conversion

The 'Caravan Mans' 'Make it up as you go along' recipe for Pigeon

So you've had a successful hunt, you've got your prizes home and you've whipped off the delicious bits. (I'll presume you know how to do this, if not, get in touch).

As you've been out all day, and its blooming nippy by the time you get back, best get that woodburner stoked. Plus, although you don't know it yet, in a few minutes it'll come in handy...

Get your breasts of pigeon, rummage under the sink/larder to see what the heck she keeps in there and what you have to play with.

You may find;
2 potatoes sprouting happily in the darkness,
3 carrots you rescued from following the rest in decomposing,
1 onion,
and the last egg before a dog massacred three of your chickens the other day.

Chop em all up however you see fit. I started with the carrots and potatoes to get them boiled up as they take the longest.
Whack em in some slightly salted water, and get them going on the last hob ring that works since the other started acting 'dodgy' last winter and your attempt to clean it and fix it has resulted in visions of your home blowing up whenever you ignite gas.

When you get bored/so hungry you swear your stomach is digesting itself, bung the pan on the woodburner to keep warm and continue bubbling away at 150+ celsius

Chop up your onions and halve your pigeon breasts so they look like 'angels'.

Get the spoon you hand carved from a slab of ash ready.

Slap a good amount of butter in the frying pan. Has to be butter, nothing else will do, its the only way to fry...

Flash fry the pigeon breast for two and a half minutes each side.

As the onions start burning, realise that either you do the pigeon breasts or the onions not cut corners to save time.

Chuck the next two in and brown off the potato 'chips'.

Fry that egg, remember that as hungry as you are, low and slow is key.

 Don't keel over when you check the time, you're nearly there!

Eh Voila! Add some chilli sauce, its ace. Tuck in!

A poorly hidden tray of chocolate marsh mallows, probably intended to be 'shared' will do nicely for pudding.

Hit the hay and don't be surprised nor ashamed if you wake up the next morning at 10:14!

The Hunters Chronicles - Tuesday 11th September 2012

I could barely contain my excitement and enthusiasm as I made the short walk to my new hunting grounds. The weather was very agreeable, sunny but not sweltering and the fields looked radiant and most welcoming. I could feel in my bones that today was going to be a very special experience.

The raucous call of the crows beckoned me to enter the fray.
I wrestled with the urge to run, my stride fast and uneven as it quickened and slowed betraying the battle I was waging with my legs. I distracted myself by focusing instead on what may be ripening in the hedgerows.

Rosehips now coming very close to being ripe for the picking.
The Blackberries are rather random. The biggest and best are to be found in the sunny spots.
A break in the hedge brought back a surge of impatience.

 If I was careful, I was able to observe my prey no more than 40 yards away from the hedgeline. No chance of harvesting any from here though, as the public highway runs the length of this side of the field.

After seeing this, any observer could have been forgiven for thinking I had come over rather ill and suddenly very much needed the toilet. I nearly tripped over my feet and sweat broke from my brow as I hastily scurried to the footpath.

Once in the shade of the trees, I deployed and loaded the mighty 95, donned my face veil and gloves to complete my camouflage, and did my best to completely reprogram my legs into stealthy creeping mode. Above and to my front were trees heaving with very full and very relaxed pigeons, magpies and crows.

Up and to my right, 25 yards away, I spied a very content pigeon bobbing with the movement of the branch in the shallow breeze. This shot would require a bit of threading through the leaves, but rifle raised, I drew the crosshairs onto his head, breathed and fired. Miss. The hedgeline erupted and my hopes of bagging an early kill evaporated with the wings. Ahh well.

I continued down the path peering through the tiny gaps into the field hoping to spot any wayward bird that wandered close to the perimeter.
It wasn't until I reached the corner where the hedge finishes that I saw two magpies hopping about. Although they were possibly 35 yards, I knew the shot was optimistic and I rushed it in my excitement. Another miss. Still, undeterred and spirits very high I sauntered down another track with a young woodland that borders the cereal field. Here I was sheltered from view and from my reconnoitre the day before I knew there were some superb ambush points in the breaks of the undergrowth. With senses on high alert and my eyes in the trees overhead I was rather taken aback when by luck, my vision lowered and I saw movement 15 yards ahead. My focus had been so distant that for a fraction of a second I feared it was too late and the squirrel had seen me and would run. He didn't and the lightning fast standing shot took him cleanly with a hearty thud.

The pellet strike just behind the ear dispelled any doubts in mine or the rifles accuracy.
My stalk along this side of the field was rather cursory as I wanted to be seen to be fulfilling the owners request that I hit a small woodland beyond the house and make an impression on the squirrel population there. I slit the squirrel and spread his insides about abit in an attempt to bait the crows in so they were distracted when I returned. That was the idea anyway...

There were a fair number of cars parked by the farmhouse and a white van was manoeuvring about the car park  so I thought it prudent to keep my profile low and return the 95 back to its slip. As I approached, I was hailed by the owner with "What impeccable timing! Could you help unload my new chicken coop?". I was happy to assist, though I doubt if my efforts were indeed of any value. I think I just got in the delivery mens way. When the lifting and positioning was done I and the owner shared a brief conversation, the result of which was the arrangement for me to take four hens who are due for execution. This is not just lucky for the hens. We have lost three chickens in almost as many days due to dog walkers not controlling their animals. These four will serve to keep the sole survivor company and lift the spirits that the massacre has dampened. Eggs will be a bonus though the decline in them is what has prompted their disposal. Most likely they will become dinners in winter, I hope not for another dog.

I arrived at the nominated woodland carefully traversing the stile.

I entered through the gate on the right, disturbing some pigeons as I did. I often curse farm gates for the difficulty in operating them noiselessly. At the very end (this is only a small copse of predominantly ash trees) I observed two pigeons come and go from a branch of a dead tree. These skeletal remains are a godsend in summer for the lack of growth, and evidently appeal to birds for the same reason.
I missed two opportunities and could not for the life of me ascertain why. The angle was indeed steep so a one mildot holdover, I thought, was sufficient. I plinked at the horizontal twigs up high and no pellets were striking. A quick check on the Strelok app revealed that a shot at nearly 60 degrees at 30 yards required not one, but two mil dots of hold under! Now my pellets were hitting home. But no pigeons returned.
I sat and watched as the sunlight dappled through the branches and leaves and danced on the woodland floor. I was snapped out of my reverie by the 'chuff' of a curious squirrel. Perhaps summoned by the impact of my pellet on the hollow trunk, she appeared to be chastising me for my disturbing her day. I obliging ended her state of annoyance for her.

The Bisley Long Range Gold 7.9 gr .177 pellet struck a touch forward and low for my liking. The instant death however, would indicate the pellet passed up and across the brain.
Squizzer number two was in the bag. I was still hopeful that a pigeon would come so stayed where I was. Behind me I heard voices on the footpath from a young man and woman accompanied by a dog. Knowing the footpath does not run through this wood I noted their presence.
Unbeknownst to me, the wood evidently appealed to them. An opportunity for a lovers tryst perhaps? All I know is first the dog, then the young lady jumped out of their skin when I rose from beside my tree. Shock and surprise passed as the chap apologised for their disturbing me. He commented on my kill and enquired about the culinary potential of grey squirrels, I happily enlightened him. They proceeded past and exited (how and where I do not know) and I left to return to the main field and place my latest victim with the first 35 yards out from my 'hide'.

Time passed and I ventured out, not into the field, but to the young woodland to the rear of my position. Though none had landed for my bait, I heard numerous crows in the branches above. I slowly crossed to the other hedgerow and saw a corvid perched in a vee of the tree. With half a mildot hold under for the 35 degree angle at 31 yards, I'm pretty certain I scored a head shot. I watched through the scope as he crumpled and twitched but in an instant he disappeared. The ivy that hugs this tree is so dense I presume his body got caught and is still cradled in it.
The branches belched black bodies as they scattered noisily. I patrolled south along the trees and back again. Upon my return to my hide I spied these fellows 151 yards out;

It was as I shifted and craned my neck to watch them that I observed a concentration of feeding birds back at the north corner. Cue another hedgeline stalk.;

Just over this bramble, 4 or 5 pigeons munched away on the spilled grain. I chose the closest one at a lased 44 yards. This called for a 1.5 mil dot hold over from a standing unsupported position. Nothing but a headshot would suffice here. I'm very proud to say I got him. His chums took to flight as he slumped to the floor.

The HW95 .177 is lightweight and hold sensitive, yet if mastered, blisteringly accurate. Matched with Bisley Long Range Golds, the results have impressed me no end.
 Here was the break I was looking for and had long anticipated. Forget my agonising wait and craving to bag one of these wonderful (and delicious) birds, I wanted his body!

The stubble proved effective at turning this pigeons body into a plausible decoy.
View from the bait and decoys to the hide

I now hoped that not only would another pigeon take notice of my decoy and land, but primarily the crows would see the bait.

I was in for a long wait.

Every now and then I would patrol, though the day was drawing in and the birds less willing to perch in the trees. Plenty were still in the middle of the field feeding and I got a few opportunistic shots off through the hedgeline if any proved close enough.
As it happened, my luck changed when I revisited the spot where I got the first pigeon.

This time he was 54 yards. That is further than I would have liked, 2.5 mildots hold over again, from a standing unsupported position, but the clarity of my new scope and the time and effort put into its calibration had me confident I could pull the shot off cleanly. I did too.

Another decoy to begin a pattern.
Though my decoy 'pattern' was growing, the number of feeders had diminished considerably. Into the game bag went my prizes and I returned to the squirrel wood to try and catch some roosting birds.

I scared them off and none came in.
Alone I sat, happy and contented with my day out. I was struck by how vivid the silence of the dusk was. Vivid is perhaps a word more associated with vision, but it seems the most apt on this occasion. I pondered what I had done and what I had seen this day. I had been hunting, gathering food primarily in the form of pigeon. The species I had seen were likewise hunting and feeding. I simply cannot come up with a more natural way to spend a day. There simply isn't. Food is number one on the priority list for all things that live. Okay, we humans have developed a very imperfect system for the provision of this need and it frees us up to have time to do a myriad of other things. With a wry smile I thought how ironic it is that I and numerous others find deep, meaningful reward in going 'back' and gathering food/hunting. I am certainly very grateful that should my hunting not bear fruit I am not condemned to death by starvation, though in this instance we do have bugger all food at home so I would have gone hungry for a short while...

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I packed the mighty 95 away and was about to rise, when silhouetted against the fading light, a female squirrel leaped from twig to branch on her journey home. What followed was the very quickest unzipping, deployment, reload, parallax and zoom adjustment ever seen before. Just as I thought she'd disappeared and she believed she was safe, I spotted her outline and I took another standing unsupported shot. Down she crashed. Another trophy in the dying seconds of the game.

With weary legs, but a smile on my face, I trudged home with my prizes. The church bells pealed from across the valley, I like to think in celebration of, and congratulating me on, my efforts this day.

The Hunters Chronicles - Saturday 8th September 2012

It is said that as a door closes, a window opens.

The temporary suspension of my permission, barren as it appears to be now, has weighed heavy on the heart and mind. I was resigned to being philosophical about it and hoped to remain content at punching paper, despite my 'bloodlust' being rather suppressed of late, I was deluding myself.
In truth, for me, hunting is the call of nature. We seem to require excuses in order to venture out and experience it in this era of our species. To aimlessly wander has its merits, and yet does not always appeal. Rather it can feel a waste of energy regardless of the fact you may be suffering from a frustrating abundance of it and are struggling to channel it.
A mental state we commonly call boredom.
I infrequently experience it despite my best efforts and irrespective of a long list of tasks worthy of my attentions.
Before despair set in, I resolved to remedy my condition. I grabbed the Eden XP 10x56 Binoculars with an idea of observing the crows and pigeons that can be heard in a cereal field nearby. Now the crop has been cut and harvested, I was afforded a superb view.

The evening was warm and visually spectacular. A setting sun cast its orange hue on the golden stubble. The smoke of a bonfire hung in suspended animation, cloaking and obscuring the feeding birds before melting and fading away. The smell, a  synonymous aroma and essence of the countryside I so dearly treasure.

Through the binoculars I was able to see a sharp, crisp image of the crowd in the field. To the naked eye they were merely a rabble of corvids. With the aid of these optics I quickly saw that peppered amongst them, were pigeons!

I knew what I had to do. I will secure a supply of that delicious rich tasting meat I crave. It may not be organic, but this is about as local as they come. I'm sure the farmer could be swayed with a promise to sling some of my trophies his way so his teeth can exact sweet revenge for the incessant pillaging and robbery.

Soon enough I was at the door. A dog that looked rather like a 'labradoodle' barked without pause, yet would not approach to be introduced. It was this, rather than my knocking, that brought his master to the door.
My reputation had preceded me, evidently I am known locally as 'The Squirrel Man'!

After apologising for the disturbance, my introduction was concise and direct. I explained my predicament, my observations of the pests and made my request. It transpired that this landowner was a relation of my previous one, so I believe I was already at an advantage. I make a point of always referring to, and addressing people who grant me permission, by their titles and surname, the respect this denotes may have aided my plea. Regardless, I strongly urge others to extend the same courtesy as I believe it keeps clear your relationship and standing.
I will skip the details, but suffice to say my offer to target the crows and pigeons was gratefully accepted without hesitation. Unsurprisingly I was encouraged to do what I do very well to the squirrels in a small woodland on the land.

I am very grateful indeed and look forward to capitalising on what seems an excellent opportunity for year round pigeon and squirrel meat. Here's to a new setting for many future stories and meals!