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From Beyond The Blog - 30/10/12

I'm not sure why I chose last night when I was exhausted to record this, but I did, and here it is.Enjoy, and thanks.

The Hunters Chronicles - Tuesday 30th October 2012

Keen and eager to utilise the bodies of the fallen magpies (my research tells me they are edible, though "fishy chicken" is not an appetizing proposition for me) I was up this morning before dawn.

Daybreak is surely the most magical time of day.
The peace, the clarity, the promise.
Saddled up and fuelled by the mandatory caffeine I tramped down the old bridle path to the grounds upon which I would test the wits and cunning of my sky dwelling brothers.

Whilst there is some remaining semblance of natural cover and concealment from the bushes and trees still sporting leaves, I do my utmost to harness it to my advantage. This essentially means finding a gap big enough to squeeze my backside in and doesn't leave my feet poking out.

An old tractor harrow, gripped in a thorny embrace seemed ideal. The support it offered would have been useful too. Things looked most promising when, within minutes, a crow swooped in to investigate and landed on a branch to the right of my position. I took my time, lined up the crosshairs and thud. I succeeded in burying the pellet in the slimmest of branches and promptly away the guardian of Valhalla flew.

Still, it was early, the day had yet to unfold.
But I don't think it ever did.
I tried all magpies.

I tried just the one magpie.

I moved positions.

I went home.

Whilst slurping on a cup of joe I read up on crow decoying and found an entry on how a chap had had good results by plucking some of the feathers from a dead magpies breast to suggest the crow was tucking in. This, upon my hasty return, I did.

This got the attention I craved, and yet so long I sat there with the same routine occurring out of sight above my head, I fancied I learnt the language of the crow.

You'd get the lone one lazily flapping along his way, then he'd exclaim "Oh dear god! What are you doing man!" This would turn to an indignant "Errrr who are you? ANSWER ME!"
Now a bunch would join in the circular flight pattern.
"Yeah" "Yeah" "Answer" "Maniac".
Some would swoop almost threatening to land then pull away. More than once this caused me to toss my phone into the hedge mid text thinking 'this is it!' Only to find they were jerking my chain and at the arrival of a magpie chatter, would melt into the horizon with "He's not with us!""We tried to tell him"...
This set piece twice drew in offended and horrified magpies. First shot I missed and pulled right due to holding the rifle too tight.  The second ducked just at the last minute as he clacked his disapproval at my stoic and silent bird.

A while later, a third mag pie materialised. God only knows what happened with that shot. I fired and watched through the scope. He almost seemed to lean back. I heard the pellet impact, but I guess it was the ground behind.

Its hard to be certain, but I think that magpie may well have 'Matrix'd my pellet!

He flew off seemingly unharmed, I checked the trees and tracked in the direction he flew with no sign of feathers nor dead maggie. Most perplexing.
I'm out of ideas and my backside ran out of blood.
I've ordered an owl. That should do it!

I sloped off to the 'feed room' to collect my bounty,

and now await....The Raptor!

The Avian Insight.

As a courtesy, I inform the owner of my permission via text message that I'll be about and what I intend. The benefit of this works both ways, should anyone report strange unflinching birds who don't mind being slobbered on, the mystery should be quickly solved! The benefit to me is the landowner is reminded of my efforts and their frequency. One dividend of this has just been the invitation for me to take brace of pheasants from the feed store when I next visit!
This generosity illustrates a truth that has often surfaced for me in my life these two years past.

"Perform a service to your fellow, commit it pure of heart, absent charge and expectation of reward, and find blessings bestowed to you far beyond monetary measure".

The Hunters Chronicles - Saturday 27th October 2012

As anticipated, the grey wet that has lingered over the valley and been woven among the trees, passed. With it went the warm it trapped.
In spite of the chill, the sunshine that was cast was most welcome indeed. The light lifts the mood and aids my motivation, though any plans I had made for the day evaporated with the clouds.

Around 10:37 I received a call. It was the owner of my permission and neighbour. Exasperated by the thievery of magpies, she put out a contract. I accepted it with enthusiasm. My efforts of late have reaped little reward, so the offer appeared akin to shooting fish in a barrel. A sup of coffee, and I was eagerly marching to the location.
Though the camera fails to do them justice, the contrasting mix of colours in the ferns is most pleasing to the eye.
As I neared the house, three of the miscreants were seen fleeing the scene of the crime. I circled the house after identifying the bird table that had been robbed of its offerings. The landowner was not home, so I carried on with my assessment, reconnoitre and setting up.
The bird table was in a poor position for safe shooting. Its proximity to the house narrowed options down considerably, to shoot from the direction of the house made unsafe by the farmyard and stables below and beyond it with no safe backstops.
But, there was a much much much better spot for my 'pest control'.
The raised platform proffered many safer alternatives as well as concealment. I considered siting my position below the platform, behind the tree with the rifle rested in the vee of the two trunks.
Whilst the wall would trap any over-penetrating pellets, and the platform above conceal my presence from the air.
Still scouting and weighing up the pro's and cons, I climbed up to have a quick look.
After slotting myself snugly into the corner, I was joined by my favourite of the avian species.
 As promising as the omen was, I will spare the reader the many and foul obscenities that gushed through my mind. My rifle was still in its bag. Below me.
Of course, I attempted an agonizing super slow motion crawl to try and get behind the cover of the tree trunk, but it was inevitable that I was spotted and my sharp sighted acquaintance hurriedly took his leave. Ahh well.
Very much encouraged, I set out my crow decoy along with the two wood pigeons.
The Crow decoy was later relocated onto the wall.
This time, I had brought the two wooden eggs we use to tempt the hens to go broody, and once the landowner was back, I procured a reject egg that I split and lay at the crows feet.
The railings, I knew would be attractive to any magpie curious to wish to survey the scene.

I settled down to begin the wait. The wind was very unpredictable and icy cold. Thankfully it came from the one direction, directly behind me, though in gusts of varying (and sometimes worrying) force. I was  soon grateful for my numerous layers! The hours soon merge and the concept of time fades, but it did not seem too long before the first 'Curious George' was smacked off the railings with a fatal and precise heart and lung shot.

His addition to the pattern was most welcome, and I had only just started shivering when a second was spied hopping from branch to branch then alighted onto the rail.

In the periods of inactivity I pondered the term 'pest control' with mild amusement. What constitutes a 'Pest' is completely subjective. Any annoyance is within us and therefore not based in fact. We have numerous grounds for justification of course, but nothing is truly, fundamentally, a pest.
'Control' is a myth and completely inaccurate. By shooting and killing I am not controlling numbers, I am reducing them. My activity isn't even an effective, lasting deterent. In conclusion, this was contract killing plain and simple. A more accurate term for it may be 'Bird/Animal Reduction and Depopulation'. So why, I asked myself, was I doing it?
Brownie points. Here was someone who has something I want, land to shoot over. This person wanted me to shoot on it, not only that, but trusted me and my skill enough to allow me into the curtilage of her dwelling. This was a high honour indeed, not to be dismissed out of hand, certainly not when I wish to visit this land for as long as I am welcome. It still chaffed on the morals though that I was killing a being I could not eat.
But, Gods bless him, a pigeon came to assuage and alleviate my conflicting emotions somewhat and perched barely 15 yards away with his back to me.
I gave him a swift, clean, instant dispatch in thanks.
My third 'pest' hove into view and repeated the behaviour of his fellows. Bowled off the railing, he joined my latest victim.

By now I feared for my extremities. I had been here from 11:00 and the Sun was sloping to the horizon, 15:30. The odd crow had passed, but with activity having slackened I packed up. I knew that if I hung on I could potentially bag some more, but in honesty I had done, and had had, enough by now.
A bag that impressed the owner, with supper thanks to the woodpigeon, thrown in as payment.

The walk home got the jellified blood moving again and warmed the limbs I had feared the wind had cooled to beef chunks. Still, a day spent doing what I love, though bear it in mind chaps, you want permission? Sometimes you need to put yourself out to earn it. Oh, and dress warmly eh!

The Hunter's Chronicles - Thursday 25th October 2012

By noting the date of the first frosts, and comparing to my observations, I can say with some degree of certainty that we are approximately two to four weeks ahead of schedule this year.

Every so often, the trees seem to randomly and spontaneously shiver, dropping a shower of leaves that as they fall, make a sound similar to that of rain.

Clouds, heavy and laden with moisture, find themselves snared in the near skeletal forest, trapped until the Sun eventually burns them away or the wind manages to dissipate them.
The same clouds, though they make for a grey day, keep temperatures fairly even. So it was in preparation for their dispersal and the resultant plunge of the thermometer that the procurement of fuel took precedence over meat and food. 
 These activities still provide windows for surveillance, an important part of hunting. An empty garden trolley rattling and bouncing along the woodland path can make for a lonely afternoon however...

The savvy hunter, certainly in this day and age, has a few modern technological aids at his disposal. A recent sell off of surplus rifles has released equity with which I have purchased a 'Trail Camera'. This sentinel may be secured via an adjustable strap to a tree or suitable anchor at likely 'hotspots'. This tool has provided useful intelligence on the intrusions and visitors to my little patch of woods. 

As one hunter sleeps, another prowls...

By analysing the time stamps, and recording the positions the photographs were taken, I am quickly building a picture of the various species and their habits. I am not the only one.
As shown above, a fellow hunter (albeit utilising a far more primitive and specialised 'aid') has been doing the same. I cannot say how his rabbit hunt is faring, but we have lost two chickens in as many days during the night following the pictures captured and a recent dip in temperatures. The raids have been expert. I have not proof a fox is to blame, though I do have my suspicions.
As I followed the trail of feathers of the ill fated cockerel, I experienced how easy it is to take the 'theft' personally. It was as though my ego delighted in there being an adversary. I had purpose, focus, an aim, an objective, a goal. It rapidly constructed plans of how to trap, capture and ultimately exterminate this new foe.
But he is not my enemy. Quite the opposite. We have much in common.
I will continue to offer the remains of my kills that are beyond my use to the 'gods'. Though my gifts may in fact attract carnivores I would wish repelled, I keep the site of the sacrifices on the extremes of our boundaries and trust they will appease and distract those who would take more than I wish to give. For let us not forget, I too take from my environment. I too maraud the countryside, raid and slaughter (of course, only where permitted!)

The information gleaned from my sentry has resulted in the fine tuning of my timings. I know better when to keep the rifle to hand and not long after, my tax was exacted and the toll for entering my domain paid.

As I plucked this errant bird, I marvelled at its plumage. I was fascinated at the multitude of subtle colours, more so by how, collectively, the pattern served to create one of the finest woodland camouflage patterns I have ever seen (or not as the case may be!)
I pondered how it may be put to use. I am certain my ancestors would have sought to put such a gift to good use, to provide that edge and advantage on the hunt. It also led me to question how much of the new is really better than the old. An interesting line of enquiry warranting further investigation, though for another day.

Funds were also put towards decoys. Twice into the grey I ventured out with them. One Crow, two Pigeons. The first thing to be attracted took me most unawares. A buzzard plummeted from above and booted my crow three to five feet across the deck. The hollow sound of talon upon plastic shell took him by surprise causing him to retreat a good metre. As he regained his composure I watched in fascination and awe. Half fearful he would make off with my decoy. I soon had camera in hand, though he took his leave just as I pressed the 'on' button. Typical.
The next species to be fooled, was again, not any of the ones being targeted. In many ways it is one of the potentially most ignorant and stupid of all those that walk the earth despite its capacity for awe inspiring intelligence. I'm not talking about the dog, I mean Humans!
A woman, her son and black lab were heard approaching from my left so I made my rifle safe as they passed. The footpath runs to the rear of my position, yet some choose to not to stick to it.
It wasn't long before the dog and boy bounded past. It looked, for an instant, like the labrador would pass my pattern and leave it unmolested. The boy stopped to catch his breath and bent over, leaning on his knees. The dog, no longer being pursued, had a chance to glance about and quickly investigated the birds that did not flee. He went straight for the crow and nosed it.
Bugger. He's going to make off with that, I though to myself.
The womans voice called out. The boy communicated his confusion. The lad stood not three yards to the front of my position. In the hope he would call off the dog, I shouted "They're DECOYS mate!" He cast his eyes about the hedgerow uncertainly. "I just heard a voice" he intoned, half to himself and evidently forgot the message, even that one had been issued.
For the next ten minutes, a back and forth ensued reminiscent of a farcical pantomime. The boy twice took to hurling stones at the plastic birds, the woman seemed unwilling, even fearful of approaching them. Over and over they would ask each other, why weren't the birds flying away, were they dead? Why would someone leave birds out in a field? What should they do? Should they enquire at the house?
As the dog had been put on the lead I kept quiet, watched and listened incredulously. I was dumbfounded. Eventually and thankfully, they returned from whence they came and I was left in peace. Very much amused, I packed up and counted what I had seen as reward enough. I smiled and chuckled to myself all the way home, not before congratulating myself on what must have been excellent concealment.

If You Went Down To The Woods Last Night - Monday 22/10/2012

After a couple of no shows, and following the recommendation of another trail cam owner to utilise the burst mode, I got Mr Fox on camera!

What intrigues me most is the timing of his incursion. Last time it was 20:18 with the rabbit photographed at 01:02.

The time stamp puts this latest one at 01:40. Very close to the time his prey was about.
My musing is this, was Mr Fox able to determine an approximate time to expect his meal from the rabbit faeces?

Most pleasing were these snaps;


Guess where my 'old faithful' TX200 and I will be lurking approximately 15:11 tomorrow!

If You Went Down To The Woods Last Night - Friday 19/10/12

To catch the layer of the rabbit dung I spied, I employed my latest acquisition. A Trail Camera. (Write up to follow in due course)

The culprit was captured;

But the other results were somewhat worrisome;

A Fox.
A Comparison;

A rather bushy, ghostly behind...(right hand side)

Tonight I will re-site the camera so that subjects are caught approaching rather than across the field of view. I will also switch to video and, in future, reduce photographing intervals from five seconds to two.

T'would appear my urine is powerful stuff, because the chickens fencing isn't! My habit of relieving myself upon their perimeter appears to be deterrent enough. For now. I am concerned that come winter, the hungry fox will overcome any foreboding my scent currently instills, and the chickens intended for my stomach will be 'diverted'.

The Fungal Insights - Thursday 18/10/12

There was once a young boy who, in his quest to leave childhood and become a man, embarked on a journey to foreign lands. During his travels he came upon a wise man. Seeking his wisdom the boy asked him many questions, the answers to which he thought would aid him in his endeavour. Instead, the wise man handed him a teaspoon filled to the lip with water.
The wise man passed the spoon to the boy and tasked him with walking the walls of the castle and returning the spoon to him with not a drop of water spilled.
With great care the boy did as he was charged and, after a great length of time, returned to the wise man. He dutifully returned the spoon to him and with pride announced that it was still full, not a drop had he spilled.
The wise man asked of him: "And what did you see on your travels?"
The boy was most confused and struggled to find an answer.
"Did you not witness, atop the walls, the vast horizon stretching beyond the sea? What of the Royal Breast Plate held in the Gatehouse inlaid with precious stones?
The inscription carved above the door to the armoury, what did it say?"
The boy admitted he had not seen any of these things. So the wise man sent him off again.
The boy returned, though this time it was with humility he returned the spoon, empty of water.
The wise man, seeing the boys dejection, imparted the lesson the boy desired.
"Though life may, at times, demand of you your highest level of attention, do not forget to pause, to reflect, to take in your surroundings and experience the wonders that lie all around you".

Today I was reminded of this story. Of late, life has not only demanded my attention, it has provided numerous distractions. Meanwhile, the season is rapidly changing. This little patch of woodland in which I dwell, has a fresh carpet of leaves as the canopy above melts away, and sunlight dapples through the branches.

This morning I ventured off the frequented path and crouched to take in the sights and sounds. As I glanced down, I was happily surprised to see a fresh pile of rabbit dung.

 Absent since early spring, it would appear the falling fruits have tempted my woodland companions back to my 'garden'. And closer to the pot!

My focus turned to tracking and I followed the trail, but my focus was soon diverted. For all about me, springing up from the detritus strewn upon the woodland floor, was a myriad and multitude of fungi. Another resounding truth was here, echoing through the trees. From death, comes life.

I am no authority on mushrooms, and until my other sources of nutrition expire, they will remain unharmed by my hand. But I will enjoy them and admire their forms, brief as they are.

So disturbed are we by our mortality, so far in denial of our temporary existence, we shy from this truth as much as we are able. Of course, the degree of affliction is not universal. Though I believe it fair to say that we 'westerners' are some of the worlds most sensitive. 'Anti-wrinkle' creams, the numerous pharmaceutical and medical projects, the vast industry built upon this common, deeply entrenched, and perpetuated fear. To even look old, to show signs of decay, is an embarrassment when once it was a badge of pride and honour, of wisdom and experience. So severe it has gotten, that we in the 'civilised' world lock away our elderly, hide our dead and do our best to avert our eyes from, to even acknowledge that, we too will pass.
In some individuals, just a picture, a passage of writing depicting or containing death, evokes a powerful and dark response.

It takes a sharp eye, but they are certainly there.
And so it is to my reasoning, that be a human a carnivore, omnivore or vegetarian, to shy from death, to denounce and condemn killing of prey is one of the greatest hypocrisies. It matters not what quarry upon which you prey, animal or vegetable, for it is an undeniable truth that if our existence is to continue, we rely upon the ending, the death, of another form of life. For it is from that 'form', that bundle of minerals and elements, that we derive our nutrition.
To mourn its passing is natural. On some level I believe all hunters do. Life is to be experienced, savoured and honoured. It is wanton destruction, what some would term 'needless' death that violates our morals and codes, that appalls our being.

Whilst I cannot vouch for every footfall, great care was taken where I placed them and to my knowledge, no mushroom was harmed in the making of this piece.

"I am the light that shines over all things. I am everything. From me all came forth, and to me all return. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me." - The Gospel Of Thomas