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Thursday, 28 January 2016

A Treatise on the Word Hunting

The 'Hunter Gatherer Ethics' blog posts have proved quite popular over the last few days and as I have prepared them it has become apparent that my original plan to do three installments will not do the topic justice at all. So rather than rush on I have decided to delay what would have been the final article on 'Bushmeat' and add a few more topics releasing one a week over the next month or so, topics you can look forward to include;
  • Poaching
  • The 'Ownership' of game
  • Non-target species 
  • Suatainability
Some of these topics will cross over to our 'bushcraft and the law' series. 

In the meantime though I will endeavor to give some additional meaning to a word that you will have seen a lot in the last few posts. and that word is; 'hunt' or 'hunting'.

It's not as strait forward a word as you might think and many of you reading this in the USA, for example, may have a different understanding of the word than we do in the UK, In fact that we in the UK seem to use the word hunting differently from most other countries. (It look's like you'll be getting a bit of a language lesson today as well, if that sort of stuff interests you check out this post from back in 2013 which I have recently remastered to include a bit of a language lesson on the names of different fungi; LINK)

So if in the USA you were to say that you were "going hunting" it could mean that you are going our the with a bow, shotgun or rifle to pursue any number of quarry from quail to bear. Likewise in Sweden 'jakt' is the word for hunt and if you were going out 'att jaga' (to hunt) you could be hunting any range of quarry from elk to black grouse with a rifle or shotgun.

Hunting with recurve bow
Bow Hunting
By Mishler, N and MJ, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain]

In the UK the word hunting is normally associated with the use of dogs.

ABC of fox hunting (Plate 22) BHL22810443
By Paul, John Dean [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
whether on horse back or....


The new book of the dog; a comprehensive natural history of British dogs and their foreign relatives, with chapters on law, breeding, kennel management, and veterinary treatment (1907) (20738169235)
...with dogs such as these fell terriers which would have been accompanied by men on foot.
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Foxes and deer were hunted this way up until the Hunting Act of 2004 banned the use of packs of dogs for hunting mammals in England and Wales (Scotland had banned the hunting of deer with dogs in 1959). The new legislation also prohibited a practice called 'coursing' which was traditionally a competition between two dogs (normally fast breeds such as grey hounds or whippets) to chase and 'turn' a hare, these coursing competitions were meant to be non-lethal but these 'long-dogs' were also used to catch hares.

Incident in a Waterloo coursing meet from 1915.JPG
Hare Coursing;
"Incident in a Waterloo coursing meet from 1915" by not specified (except those with signature on image) - W. E. Mason - Dogs of all Nations. Licensed under Public Domain.

Many years prior to the enactment of the Hunting Act the protection of the European Otter in England and Wales in 1978 brought a stop to the hunting of otters with hounds.

Otters and otter-hunting (1908) (14595836520)
Otter hounds at work in 1908
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions]
Many otter packs turned their attention to the invasive American Mink after the ban on hunting otters but again with the Act of 2004 the hunting of any mammal (including mink) with a pack of dogs was prohibited.

Two otterhounds.jpg

"Two otterhounds" Machinecha~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

American Mink
American Mink are still considered an invasive pest in the UK and can still be controlled using legal methods such as shooting and trapping.
By Pdreijnders (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Despite the ban on hunting with packs of dogs for live quarry in the England and Wales dogs can still legally be used for flushing and 'pointing' game and for tracking wounded deer or for bolting foxes from their earths.

If in the UK we are going out with a rifle or shotgun to 'hunt' we are more likely to say we are going "shooting" and may specifically say that we are going "rabbit shooting" or "pigeon shooting" or even "roost shooting" to specifically describe what type of shooting we are doing. Roost shooting for example would be shooting pigeons, crows or jackdaws as they come to 'roost' in the treetops.

We have specific names for other types of shooting too;

"Duck flighting"; shooting ducks as they come to land on the water.
"Wildfowling"; shooting water fowl such as geese, ducks etc..
"Lamping"; shooting foxes or rabbits at night with the aid of a lamp.
"Stalking"; deer hunting with a rifle.  


So there you a have it a little insight into some of the language used to describe 'hunting' in the UK which will hopefully provide some clarification to past and future articles on the Bushcraft Education Blog. 

Geoff

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Hunter Gather Ethics pt 2 (the responsibility to teach)

"I have taught the next generation some appreciation for the countryside, some love of wildlife, some respect for firearms and some joy in providing for their own table. I hope to teach at least one more generation yet." MG

It may be true that the readership of the Bushcraft Education blog might increase if we stuck to writing about the soft, cuddly side of bushcraft and the outdoors but I made the decision when I first started it that it's primary purpose would be to educate, or to help others who want to use bushcraft in education. Some of the articles, perhaps especially in the foragers diary and from the highseat series may include a level of detail and/or pictures that some may find distasteful but I strongly feel that these parts of the countryside should not be glossed over and indeed hiding those parts of how the countryside and wider world works can only damage and distort peoples perceptions, especially childrens.

No one would have had to explain to Ötzi his relationship to the animals and plants around him. They were what provided him with his food, clothes, shoes, string, medicine and all the basic essentials of life. He may have held particular species in high regard out of respect for their usefulness, strength or for spiritual reasons but one things for sure he knew his place in nature and knew how he could take advantage of nature to provide him with subsistence.
  
For that reason I have chosen to write this second part of our Hunter Gatherer Ethics series on our responsibility to teach others, and particularly children, about the provenance of food, the sustainability of eating animals as food and how to be self sufficient. 

Bushcraft is an excellent way to broach this subject, people seem quite happy to accept the idea of shooting and eating deer if Ray Mears is doing it on TV and are even impressed by the bug eating antics of Bear Grylls and skinning deer has been a large part of the Woodland Ways displays at the Bushcraft Show for several years running.  So people seem quite happy with the concept of harvesting and eating wild food if we discuss it in the context of bushcraft which for me is great as it gives me a way to introduce a topic that can be a bit tricky. 

My children are used to helping prepare meals from wild animals and other foraged food such as...
Shellfish; like these winkles 
Fungi; like these Michael is preparing in the tent after a day in the woods. 

But why do I think it's an ethical responsibility to teach about hunting and gathering?

Honestly I think it's really sad that there are people out there who really believe things like this;
If you have money to afford a gun, license, and bullets… You can afford some chicken nuggest at Harris Teeter rather than leaving some animal to wonder where it’s parents went after that person trekked through the woods. All Hunters have a twisted mind, and don’t deserve anything. I say just be vegetarian, what’s the problem with that! LINK
Why, why shoot an animal, is it for fur, meat or just pure pleasure. It is pointless to hunt animals for meat and fur, for human needs, when we have clothes to keep us warm, made out of synthetic (Nylon/ Polyester) or natural plant products like cotton. There is just no reason to wear animal skins, in the modern age. Sure if you want to wer something that looks authantic, there is something called faux fur. And if you are going to eat meat, go to the super market and buy an organic free range chicken. There is simply no need to hunt animals for food and fur anymore, we have the services there. LINK
As if meat from a supermarket or fast food restaurant is somehow more ethical, and being reared on a farm and going to a slaughter house is somehow less traumatic and more humane to the animal than living a life in the wild before being hunted. This lack of understanding and apparent double standards from people happy to eat meat but who also vocally oppose hunting does frustrate me. It makes me worry that somehow we are not educating people properly about wildlife, the countryside and where their food comes from, in fact it reminds me of this; which displays a monumental lack of understanding of wildlife and also just an absence of common sense. 



Hopefully I've made it clear by now that I think we have a responsibility to educate people, particularly children, about hunting and foraging and would go so far as to suggest that we should teach them how as well as just why and these are my reasons;

  1.  We need to combat misunderstanding and ignorance about;
    • The reality of hunting for meat, management and sport.
    • The laws, rules and ethics that responsible hunters abide by, far too many people believe that anyone who hunts is a mindless, bloodthirsty killing machine when in actual fact they are not. The laws of most countries prohibit really inhumane methods of hunting, in the UK we saw leg hold traps banned as far back as the 1950's and hunting with dogs in 2004. Close seasons prevent the orphaning of dependent deer fawns (despite what Bambi portrays) as long as they are observed. Minimum caliber restrictions exist to ensure that animals are shot with weapons that are capable of humanely killing them (see my article on archery for a bit more detail about this). 
    • The 'innocence' of wildlife, there is plenty of wildlife that damages it's own ecosystem (granted that's normally because we have put it there without considering the consequences) for example sika deer are compromising the genetics of our native red deer in the UK or hugely invasive Himalayan balsam taking over river banks to the cost of everything else. Should we just leave this introduced, invasive wildlife to the detriment of native species or do we have a responsibility to put right the environmental malpractice of our predecessors? if we do have that responsibility that might mean we need to kill something, whether with a gun, poison or pesticide. 
    • The 'nature was fine without us' myth. Myth isn't really the right word here because actually without humans messing around with things nature would be fine on it's own but we are beyond that point of no return now, our species has had so much influence on our environment that if we were to stop things wouldn't just go back to 'they way they were'.    
  2. The potential for wild; foraged and hunted food as a sustainable alternative to intensive agriculture. (I've just decided that this is going to become a four part series to include an installment on sustainability)
  3. The historical and cultural dimension to hunting and foraging; this doesn't mean we have to endorse outdated, illegal or inhumane hunting practices in the name of tradition but the history of these things is often a large part of a nations culture and in a modern society which does not rely on hunting and gathering this knowledge is in danger of being lost or forgotten. (Check out my brief essay on Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom for a bit of information on the importance of these traditional skills).
  4. Children need to build a realistic relationship with their environment and unfortunately a cute, cuddly 'Bambi' relationship is not realistic. Who is going to be more traumatized, my children who have known where their food comes from and have helped pick, pluck, skin and cook it ever since they were old enough or the child who suddenly realizes that his/her chicken nuggets were once a living breathing bird with blood, bones, feathers, eyes etc... that is quite a difficult concept to swallow if it's suddenly thrust upon you. 
  5. Children should learn to be self sufficient and confident, I'm not endorsing any kind of zombie apocalypse training programme for children but the practice of bushcraft, and I think particularly the skills hunting and gathering are empowering like almost nothing else. How 'grownup' would a child feel if they were able to produce meal for themselves with nothing but what they can find around them.
  6. Safety; I'm not talking about the 'survival' type safety; plane crashes, desert islands etc... what I mean is that every day safety that children out doors need to consider. My children know not to eat berries, fungi or plants without checking with me first, although I am starting to trust the older two (my youngest is only five months) with easily identified things such as dead nettle flowers, daisy's, blackberries and puff balls and as they get older they will be trusted to forage increasingly challenging foods by themselves. What about a child who has never seen a fly agaric toadstool before or who just loves the colour of those yew berries with no comprehension of the consequences of eating them an no family member or carer with the knowledge or interest to determine what is and isn't OK to eat.

So in my mind it really is that simple children should be taught about hunting and gathering so that they can grow up into adults that know enough to choose whether they hunt/gather/forage or not, and so they can make that choice based on facts and experience rather than propaganda from one side of the fence or the other.

Geoff
I will add a small post script to this article just to clarify one point, although I clearly place myself in the 'pro-hunting' group I can also be fairly critical of hunters as a group. They sometimes don't do themselves any favors so those of you reading this who hunt listen up; First - Distasteful hunting pictures, blood, guts and brain matter have no place in a picture of you recent hunting trip it's fine to be proud of your success but keep it tasteful. Second - stop whining about banned methods of hunting, there are reasons for it leg hold traps, killing with dogs etc.. are inhumane and rightly unlawful, that's not to say our ancestors were not justified in using those methods when they had no other recourse or that they should not be allowed in an emergency. Third - admit that not everyone abides by the rules, there are hunters out there who flout close season, caliber restrictions and other laws. Don't defend them, they are ruining your freedom to enjoy hunting as part of a healthy lifestyle. Finally - NEVER NEVER treat hunting as your right, you are privileged to be able to share your countryside with birds, animals and plants and privileged to be able to harvest from nature what you need, do not take that privilege for granted or one day you will loose it.





Monday, 25 January 2016

Hunter Gatherer Ethics Pt 1 (ethical hunting and gathering)

I have been promising an article on the ethics of hunting and gathering ever since my article on "why I don't have time for archery" where I shared my thoughts on why the use of bows and arrows might be banned for use on deer in the UK. This generated some interesting comments and some disagreement over the efficiency of rifles compared to bows and even handguns for use on deer.

This article will be the first in a three part series on the ethics of hunting and gathering and as the person who has had the single biggest influence on my attitude towards hunting and gathering I have asked Martin to share some of his thoughts on the topic which you will see throughout this series. 

What I wont discuss here is whether or not hunting and gathering, particularly hunting, is ethical in the first place. While I respect the decision of vegetarians and vegans to not eat meat it is a fact that eating meat and fish has always been an essential survival mechanism of the human species, and if a lion is allowed to eat meat as far as I'm concerned so am I. However if you are happy to eat meat but still criticise the practice of hunting and shooting I would have to question your logic and point out some inconsistencies in your belief system and ask why it is OK for animals to die to feed you but not OK for me to kill a wild animal to achieve that same outcome?

Male Lion and Cub Chitwa South Africa Luca Galuzzi 2004 edit1.jpg

Humans fit into the animal kingdom just as lions, tigers and bears do; we may have the technology to make our hunting more efficient using tools and the development of agriculture to sustain our consumption of meat and while many people nowadays consider humans and our society and technology to be separate from 'nature' ultimately we are still part of it. We may be omnivorous and have the choice to not eat meat whereas a lion does not have that choice but if we do choose to harvest meat ourselves we should be ethical about it's collection, and do it for the right reasons.
"Never shoot something just to see it fall. If a bird or animal falls to your shot, it's falling needs to have served a purpose, to have reached a table, to have saved a crop and never, never to have been wasted." MG
In pursuit of my aim to never waste my quarry I have eaten every single species of wildlife that I have ever shot or trapped with the exception of rat, magpie and crow.

Yes that means I have tried fox, I regularly run snare lines for foxes and while I always keep the skins I don't normally eat them but on one occasion about ten years ago I thought it was about time I tried so when I retrieved a fox cub from one of my snares one morning it's haunches went into a curry that night. That one occasion was plenty though and I can't really recommend it unless you fancy a meat with the consistency of spam but with a distinct bitter taste. To make the most of those foxes I have shot or trapped since then I always take the skins but in all honesty I haven't eaten one since and don't plan to again unless I'm really desperate.




A fox skin stretched out and ready for curing
Even animals and birds that I kill as pests regularly make it into my cook pot, I ran a trap line for possums in New Zealand and while the primary reason was to reduce the impact of an invasive species the skins of the possums proved very useful and the meat was very tasty.

A younger and rather shabby looking me with the first possum I ever caught, over the following weeks this one became over sixty.
Timms trap 01
I primarily used Timms Traps for my possum trapping in New Zealand, at the time they, along with poisons, were the main tool for possum control although they have since been superseded by more effective traps, Hedgehogs are also an invasive species in New Zealand and can cause damage to ground nesting bird populations.
 By Tony Wills [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons




The stages of preparation that go into curing a possum skin, the drugs dog in LA airport on the way home was rather suspicious of them. 

I suppose after making the point that ethics demand we make the best use of anything we kill, whether that be meat for food, skins for clothing, sinew for cordage and bones for tools (check out Dr. Peter Grooms guest post a few months ago on experimental archaeology which includes some examples of fish hooks made from bone) we should address the very controversial topic of hunting for sport.

The quality of a Chinese Water Deer trophy is largely determined by the size and perfection of it's larger, canine tusks.  

I suppose the popular image of the typical bloodthirsty hunter is of the heads of animals, stuffed to the neck eerily looking at you from the walls of their study. Well if you came to my house you wouldn't see any of that, most of the skulls, antlers and teeth from the deer I have shot have become teaching aids for the courses I teach on deer management and game keeping. Those of you coming on our deer field to fork course will have a chance to look at them and learn to tell the approximate age of a deer based on it's teeth. 

So is it ethical to hunt a deer, or any other animal, for sport? Well I'm not really sure myself, while I don't personally hunt for sport, and by that I mean I don't pay to go hunting/shooting recreationaly, take trophy's or shoot 600 bird days on intensive driven pheasant shoots I certainly do condone shooting for sport. After all I trained as a game keeper, I now train game keepers myself and I take paying clients out to shoot deer. So how do I justify that to myself? 

Well ultimately as long as the animals being killed are treated humanely and there is a good case for the death of that animal, either it is a pest/causing damage and/or is going to be used as food I don't have a problem with it as long as the conditions the animal is reared in (if relevant) are humane and it is killed in the most humane, not the most 'sporting', way available to you. In most cases the question of rearing is irrelevant as the word hunting is synonymous with wild rather than domestic animals but pheasants and partridges, for example, are often reared and released into the wild specifically for shooting. 

Captive bred pheasants soon after release into the wild for a few more months of growing before the start of the shooting season. 
What I can't agree with is the killing of animals specifically for sport with no other use for the animal in mind than as a trophy and an ego trip for the 'sportsman'. With pests it's different I have no problem with rats being left uneaten and I'm certainly not volunteering to skin any, but they still need to be controlled. On the other hand I honestly can't understand the appeal of taking 'trophy' animals out of an otherwise fully functioning ecosystem unless it's for food. In the UK we have a broken ecosystem, one that does not function without our input, yes it's because of our heavy handed input that it needs our help in the first place but just stopping wouldn't do any good. Deer are the easiest example to use to illustrate this point, all the top predators in the British Isles have been extinct for years leaving nothing big enough to predate deer, additionally we have introduced four non native deer species leading to a booming deer population and the only control being starvation, unless we cull. 

No starvation isn't humane, yes it is a fact of nature that there will be lean years and animals will starve but when the only thing limiting a deer's lifespan is starvation we need to do something. This is when I'm sure cries of 're-widling' will go up but I'm afraid I have an opinion on that too, check out my past article from this blog in response to George Monbiot's TED talk here, and my more recent article on the NAEE UK's blog here.   

An example of a fully functioning ecosystem would be one where prey and predators still coexist together in some sort of balance, there are few if any of those places left on our planet but in those places I would consider it unethical to attempt to 'manage' wildlife through culling but I still wound't have a problem with hunting for food. 

Just as I can't agree with attempts to 'manage' ecosystems that are intact and do not need our input I also would warn against over harvesting. Whether a managed deer population, a grouse moor or a patch of edible fungi over harvesting can be devastating. If I over harvest on my deer cull one year that equals less venison next year, An overshot grouse moor might, when the losses due to shooting are combined with winter losses and predation not produce enough birds for any shooting to take place the next year, and a mushroom patch harvested before the fruiting bodies have spored may dwindle and diminish over time.   

Never harvest everything you see, one of these puff balls was more than enough. 
So in summary my rules for ethical hunting, gathering and foraging;

  1. Do not kill or pick anything you're not going to;
    • eat
    • wear
    • use for tools
    • use for medicine
    • use for material 
      • UNLESS it's destroying what you need to eat, wear, use for tools, use for medicine, or material.
  2. Do not kill anything just to see it fall. 
  3. By all means take the trophy, whether it's antlers, teeth, tail or tusks as long as you are still applying RULE 1.
  4. Never assume "there is more just around the corner" never deplete an entire berry patch, flock, herd or fairy ring, leave some for others, wildlife and the continuation of the species.
  5. Always use the most humane method to kill or catch live quarry that is available to you and ensure to the best of your ability that an animals suffering is ended quickly.
  6. Never take marginal shots, if your not sure you can kill it don't pull the trigger.
  7. Abide by the appropriate open/close seasons, they are there for a reason; to protect fawns and other newborn animals from being orphaned and to give the animals respite.
  8. Abide by other wildlife laws to ensure you do not pick protected species or engage in illegal hunting, fishing or foraging practices.  
With those rules in mind I'll leave the parting words to Martin;
Treat the countryside with reverence and respect, also, treat those with whom we share the countryside with the same respect, irrespective of our differing views on how it is to be enjoyed. MG

More tomorrow on the responsibility to teach the next generation(s) about hunting, gathering and foraging.

Geoff



Friday, 15 January 2016

Student Visit to Riddy Wood

Students from Reaseheath College’s Game Management course have been in Riddy Wood this week carrying out a range of jobs and tasks which have not only been a great help to the project but have helped them gather the data they need for their next deer management assignment.

One of the things the students do as part of their ‘Introduction to Deer Management’ studies is to assess the population of deer in a given area and write a management plan accordingly. While they were in Riddy Wood they were able to observe the damage done by deer to coppice woodland;

A hazel stool coppiced one year ago which has not been protected from browsing by deer and other pests. 






These observations gave them a very rough idea of the density of the deer population in the area and helps them set suitable objectives in their deer management plan. They were also able to take part in some of the coppicing and learn how to protect coppiced hazel and ash stools from browsing by deer, hares and rabbits by ‘brashing’ over with hawthorn and blackthorn branches.

A hazel stool coppiced at the same time as the one in the picture above but which has been protected by a screen of hawthorn brash, this one has produced stems of over seven feet in height in one year. 

They also managed to erect a high seat and clear a vantage point to help with the culling of deer around Riddy Wood.



One of the banes of the woodland manager is the introduced grey squirrel which will strip bark from twigs and branches to line their dreys and even ring bark trees. Not only that buy grey squirrels also aggressively predate birds nests and are responsible for the theft of eggs and chicks from nesting birds. The students were able to do some ‘drey poking’ whereby the dreys of the hibernating squirrels are poked or shaken to bring down the squirrels and the squirrels are then shot.

Grey Squirrel Drey
A Squirrel Drey
By Rosser1954 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Students after a successful squirrel hunt, can you see the Chinese Water deer hanging in the background ready for dinner?

As a group they were able to answer for five squirrels over the course of their two days in the woods.
While they were staying in Riddy Wood they were able to see Chinese Water Deer and Reeves Muntjac and we also managed to record footage of a range of wildlife moving around within feet of their camp site on a trail camera. Among them this stoat which gradually moved his rabbit pray from one woodpile to another over the course of a day and which may well be the same stoat who’s half-finished meal of woodpecker Richard found the other week.



Richard will be sharing more videos of the deer and other wildlife that he has filmed in Riddy Wood recently before too long. Check out his youtube channel for some excellent wildlife videos. 

The student also found a deer skull and despite the fact that it had obviously been laying in the woods for a long time they were able to identify it's species approximate age and sex, see if you can too;









One of the very first posts on the Bushcraft Education blog was about ageing deer from their teeth and if you want some clues check out that post here.

First correct answer giving species, sex and age (juvenile, young adult or old) in the comments wins a bow drill set.



Friday, 8 January 2016

Happy New Year

The Bushcraft Education team would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and share a few things that we have been up to over the Christmas and New Year and let you know what we have for you to look forward to from us in 2016.

On New Years Day we had a rare opportunity to go out stalking as a team; 


The day dawned clear and cold, very cold by recent standards, with a white frost and what we would have expected in most other winters but this one has been uncharacteristically mild, wet and windy. Today though, it was a near perfect morning, cold, light breeze, two sons with me and a tight schedule but not much else to worry about.

I was first out of the car and off on my way, walking no more than two miles today in the time available but as always, seeing lots of memorable sights and things to enjoy, even if no deer showed up and that really is how it was looking just ten minutes before pick up time. 

Even if the deer were scarce on this occasion there is always wildlife to be seen. 
I had missed an earlier text reporting Geoff's success and was just about to text him back when he called to report that Richard had one too, I had to report no sightings at all and looked like being the odd man out this morning. However, I continued on my way, glassing the hedges and boundaries with my binoculars every few yards, when I spotted a CWD buck behind me and meandering in to a hedge about 150 yards away. I know this hedge to be thick with a ditch running down its centre, so the deer could do five things, follow the ditch to the right, follow it to the left, go straight through, come back out this side, or lay in there for hours just chewing the cud. I played the hunch that it would go straight through, so back tracked promptly and put myself on what I hoped would be the exit side of the hedge. I turned out to be right and the deer did indeed exit on the far side but right on the skyline so he was completely safe! He knew I was there, motionless and well camouflaged but he knew, he wandered slowly along or close to the sky line so remained safe from me.

These obviously aren't the Chinese Water Deer we were stalking on New Years Day but this illustrates why a skyline shot is unsafe the trees you can see in background are about three hundred yards away and has a footpath running through it not a safe place for a bullet to land at all. 

When he did eventually descend below the skyline, he didn't stop for more than a second or two and having to move the shooting sticks constantly, never gave me a good shot, although it was at least now safe. He got to a point where I could take up a prone position so I did and was immediately soaked to the skin from the sodden ground but as he had opened the range from about 50 to 120 yards, I needed to be prone, I tracked him in the scope and as he paused, I squeezed off the shot and he dropped on the spot amid a shower of hair.

Chinese Water Deer have very thick coats and this is quite a typical sight after you have shot one, a huge pile of hair on the ground, at least it makes them easy to track if they run but it is a bit of pain when your are skinning and butchering them as all the hair falls out and quite easily gets all over the meat. 

Job done and I made safe and closed in on my prize, I had only seen him from his left side and knew he had a pretty good tusk that side but as I arrived at the scene of his demise, I could see that he had no tusk the other side, it had been broken off at the gum line, almost certainly fighting and would have had us humans running off for the most powerful painkillers we could find. His coat was a bit scruffy too, again a regular consequence of fighting. In every other respect it was a fine animal, healthy and definitely good for the food chain, I feel a transition coming on from Turkey to Venison in the coming days, three happy hunters and a New Year's Day outing that was as good as they come.




As well as some stalking we have been doing a lot of cooking with wild food;

Shortly before Christmas I made a massive steak and kidney pie using some of the offal from a few of the deer we shot earlier in the season,

3 Chinese Water Deer Hearts, 4 Fallow Deer Kidney and about two pounds of offcuts from various bits of venison steak all went in a massive pie which was a great success even if I did accidentally use puff pastry for the crust. That'll teach me I should make my own next time.

 
 I'll be dedicating a whole post as part of our Foragers Diary series to a venison and pheasant pate recipe that we tried over Christmas, so keep you eyes peeled for that in the coming weeks.

Geoff 

Richard has also been particularly busy in Riddy Wood recently;

You can read in full on the Riddy Wood Project Blog about some of his recent experiences in the woods including the strange find he made in a stoats 'nest'


And the unseasonably warm weather that has been bringing out the blossom as early as December; 



For regular updates direct from Riddy Wood check out the projects blog here


In the next few weeks look out for a post from Geoff on game keepers as part of the Applied Bushcraft series, a post from Martin on the kind of basic survival equipment he used to keep sown into his combat jacket as part of the adapt and improvise series and regular updates from Riddy Wood on the woodland work and educational activities that are taking place there, hopefully we'll see you on one of our courses soon. 

So from Geoff, Martin and Richard a Happy New Year to you all and we look forward to sharing some more bushcraft, outdoor learning, foraging, woodland management and general 'outdoorsness' with you in 2016.  

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