deerstalking, today's story, Uncategorized

Today it takes the long drag

I brought the hind off the hill today.
Cuckoo burn offers bad quad access with the old road broken down by sheep and scattered rocks adding to the danger of traversing a rough slope; but with snow obscuring the hazards –
it could be lethal.
So it has to be a drag- all the way from where the hind is lying to the gate on the roadside where I can heave her into the pick-up. It can’t be more than a mile but it is the hardest physical work…
Walking up to where I cleaned the hind yesterday takes about 40 minutes. Legs strapped I hook a rope around the neck with the end wrapped round my body – and set off – or stumble off anyway.
I am not built for dragging.
My boxer buddy Paul is. He has the height and bulk to lean into the rope to haul the dead weight. When I lean forward nothing much happens apart from my nose getting alot closer to the ground: I have to heave and sweat.
The snow helps – where it fills a sheep track or a drain, it provides a chute for the hind to slide along. I attack the task in chunks – a few paces at a time- stop to catch my breath and survey the ground for the best route ahead, scanning for heather tussocks, boulders, depressions that will bring me to a jarring halt. At times I even pull uphill pull, to maintain the high ground on the hill rather than jam myself against the fence on the broken-down path following the burn to the roadside pastures.

I fall over in the snow a few times, grunt and groan continuously, pant horribly after a longer travel and repeatedly stop after only a few yards over the rougher sections. Anyone looking on would think I am mad- or disabled maybe – as I crawl laboriously over the landscape tied to my quarry like the mariner to his albatross.
But it is not a penance – it is a kind of honouring of the beautiful dead creature behind me. If this is what it takes to complete the cycle from the hunt to the table- then this is what I must do.
I stagger onwards – approaching the slope down to the pasture the sheepbitten grass becomes short and smooth: I run downhill, my burden sliding effortlessly behind me.
A solitary figure is skylined on the monument crag. Someone has seen this whole performance.

My today has become part of someone else’s story.

deerstalking, Highland cattle, Uvie Farm

The deerstalker’s dilemma

With the turning of the year, normal patterns begin to resume. Feeding the cattle is the gentle hum of the machinery of life, the everyday mantra – but the frenetic transitional work of shifting the contents of my joinery workshop to the farm, that has come to an end.
So, today I am able to take Paul out stalking- deerstalking that is. This is the third year that he has come and it is flattering that he has returned since we had a disappointing expedition last year, crawling backwards and forwards for hours to approach to some hinds lying out in open ground, and ultimately failing.
Paul is out at first light, I join him after feeding the cattle. All well with them, but I have to be wary of Angus Halfhorn’s enthusiastic response to my arrival. He dances around me as I skoosh the nuts into the trough and it won’t be long before he starts nudging me – not too serious, the odd bruised elbow. However, the mud here on the lowlying Aspens is holding my feet, so if he decides to get too friendly- I will be unable to take evasive action.
Paul is waiting at the hill gate. I park the truck back in the birches where it’s hidden from any beasts lying on the brae, and join him. He has seen hinds heading into the centre of the estate, but wasn’t close enough to shoot. We head round the hill and up to the top – I spy the group and we work round the ridge to come in from the north – the wind is from the southwest.
We have identified three groups: the main group of a dozen or so lying on the hillside facing us, a hind and calf lying with their heads up by a big square boulder east of these, and-our target-another pair working their way up towards the main group. There are many eyes to avoid as we crawl carefully round the sodden hillside: we make first one vantage point and then a second fifty yards further in but we are still 300 yards away.
And now there is a choice. My instinct tells me to continue crawling – in full view- but very slowly: movement alerts these animals primarily- and scent, but we are well placed downwind. Paul introduces the option of using a gulley that starts higher and runs down in the direction of the group. I had considered this and decided against it, since it demanded a fair bit more time, and seems to angle directly towards the animals, therefore offering little cover- but Paul is the client, I am the guide. He commands me, but I direct the day’s events. I have the choice of ignoring what he says, and following what I believe to be our likeliest avenue to success. The chances are maybe fifty=fifty – so I do not have strong grounds for overriding him. In short, we prospect his suggestion, decide against it and return to follow my line. Before long I see the unwelcome sight of the animals bunched in a group necks extended, ears high. By the time Paul joins me, they are running up the gulley and over the ridge.
The lesson is clear.
This way, I mitigated failure but failed nonetheless.
So:-go for it bullheaded – win or lose, hero or prat.
Too late for Paul though- next year perhaps- if he has the patience, poor man.