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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

There is Always Something

Another regular series that is being resurrected here on the Bushcraft Education Blog is Martins regular 'from the highseat' series where he shares his latest encounters with wildlife as he goes about hes deer management work and other outdoor excursions. We hope you enjoy todays instalment and you can expect regular updates on a monthly basis. 

We start the year with a reminder that there is always something out there worth seeing in the countryside and some of Martins rules for 'doing it right' when it comes to deer stalking. 

My work as a deer manager takes me along hedgerows and ditches, through woods and scrub and I know pretty much what can be found and where at any time of the year. I see the trees blossom and come into fruit, I watch them ripen and I take some home. My quest may be a deer but I am happy to come home with a rucksack full of apples, plums or cherries, a photograph or a memory, hunting is a journey not a destination, the secret is to enjoy the outing, not the outcome and I do.

Until November, hardier crops such as Apples, Crab Apples and Sloes are still on some of the trees and ready to eat or be converted into Jellies and sauces for the meat crops which come during our peak deer season. I love fruit sauces with meat and Bambi and Cranberry is my favourite roast! But sadly the Elder Flower cordial from the summer is long gone and the blackberries are already in jam or been eaten in pies.
a haul of blackberries and rosehips picked opportunistically while out looking for deer.
It saddens me that people think that all a deer manager does is kill deer because it is a whole lot more complicated and involved than that and it starts with many miles of walking, interspersed with picking fruit and watching birds in my case!

First of all we need to know what species we have on the land (we have three, Roe, Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer) then we need to know how many and where they are, how many we need to take out during the season to maintain a healthy and sustainable population but which won’t cause too much damage to crops. A happy farmer is the key to coming back and doing this each year, it is a privilege not a right and it has to be done right!

Doing it right means:

· Doing it safely! Safety will always be the top priority, we have to share the countryside with everyone and our presence cannot impact on their safety or enjoyment of the environment.

· Safety is closely followed by humanity, if we have identified a poorly looking animal, taking this one will be our top priority, one with a limp is the most obvious and common sign of something being amiss and only a close inspection will reveal the cause. The most common cause is old age and/or bad feet, arthritic joints, and overgrown feet are common place, encounters with agricultural equipment can be a factor although many of those are fatalities during the harvest, where young animals just sit tight until it’s too late to flee. Fighting and road traffic collisions are other causes and just occasionally, a deer peppered with bird shot, where someone has exercised poor judgement.

· With all of these other factors in place, marksmanship, stealth and an understanding of the weather (wind in particular will betray your presence) all add up to a unique experience. 

practising regularly is important if you plan to humanely and safely harvest deer or other wildlife from the countryside. 

· I believe that one of the greatest obligations on me and anyone who engages in any form of ‘meat harvest’, is to ensure that there is no waste, or at least the very least possible.

· Finally, leave the countryside devoid of evidence that a deer or I was ever there.

For someone who knows and loves the countryside, there is always something to eat, something to watch and a myriad of things to appreciate, from a sunrise to a sunset, from a fruit bush to a mushroom patch, a pigeon pie or a venison steak.

Wrap up warm and get out there soon, you will never regret it!


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