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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.


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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