The Suburban Bushwacker: From Fat Boy to Elk Hunter
A tubby suburban dad watching hunting and adventure shows
on TV and wondering could I do that?
This is the chronicle of my adventures as I learn to learn to Forage,
Hunt and Fish for food that has lived as I would wish to myself -
Wild and Free.
I wanted you to be the first to know. This morning, just as we were having our morning warm-up argument, the door bell rang the post and I had a confusing conversation with the Postie, my guess is that my pronunciation has improved, as people seem disappointed when my understanding hits the brickwall, in retrospect I think he was complaining that the floor number hadn't been included in the address.
Hostility's ceased for the grand opening, and a box full of new toys were revealed. Woo Hooo!!!
More news and the Unboxing review to follow, my breakfast is getting cold.
Festive wishes from your much happier pal
Happy Crimbo blog people, sorry for the dearth of posts lately I've been - er, waiting for the postman.
Let me explain: After an intensive period of putting a shift in at The Goblin King's place I was all set to spend Crimbo with my kids and fly out to Spain for the NewYear and Kings Day.
Oh the schemes I cooked up, the plans I had! It was all going SO well.
"If you want to make the hunting goddess laugh - post your plans online"
Ancient Spanish Proverb
"What are you doing for Crimbo SBW?"
"I shall be practicing archery by day, and writing my memoirs by night"
"Elfa has borrowed a house in the sierra, its going to be great, might even be some Conejo"
"Is that a euphemism?"
"With a bit of luck"
It was all going so well: Gave up smoking and after a year had saved a small fortune, Made peace with Ex Mrs SBW so spending crimbo with her and the kids. With some of the money saved I ordered a hopefullly badass compound bow, sorted shipping in plenty of time for the bow to be delivered to Elfa in Spain before I even get there. So far so excellent!
Ex Mrs SBW's brother dumps his girlfriend, again, but keeps her and her kids tickets, so Ex Mrs SBW gets a free Christmas skiing holiday for her and our kids.
Christmas Day, all watching Doctor Who together, now cancelled.
I book a much more expensive flight but agree to travel to airport with Ex and Kids-some money recouped. Fail to check temperature in Spain before packing and in doing so inadvertantly provoke the mockery of the gods.
I set off to meet the kids feeling pretty sure all the grief is behind me. On arrival Bushwacker Jnr announces he feels tricked and is very concerned that a 'proper' christmas lunch won't be available. The Littlest Bushwacker hates her mum, but ever the pragmatist, will put that to one side for skiing. The Ex Mrs SBW has gone to bed in a huff. So far so Christmasy.
At the airport I see the amusing sight of my former brother-in-law with his moody sister on one side, his moody now on-again girlfriend on the other side and assorted offspring standing around awkwardly. "Cheerio! Have Fun!!"
It's bloody freezing in Spain, I'm totally inappropriately dressed for it. Elfa's plan to order furniture and have it assembled by her brothers has come to nowt. We must go to Ikea NOW. We have traditional massive row in Ikea's carpark. Much to the amusement of smirking Spanish brother in-law.
I don't know if you know this, it came as a surprise to me, but ikea's furniture is perishable. Exactly who knew! So it has to be assembled, as soon as its through the door. The very second. Still I keep telling myself, my bow will arrive in the morning and I'll be free to play with it.
Get up and check tracking. Finland's rigorously efficient postal service email me to announce my box left their jurisdiction slightly ahead of schedule. Defending silence from the Spanish postal service. Lots more furniture assembly later. More defending silence from the Spanish postal service and no sign of the postie.
Elfa's family home is a converted office block, it was built as a showroom and office space in a hot country. No insulation, no central heating. Acres of tiles, cold hard tiles. Half of the floor is fully decorated, furnished and quite warm. We live in the other bit. We huddle around a propane fire. Me, forlornly checking my email, Elfa keeping up a running commentary of things that may or may not have happened to my bow in the post.
The Spanish posties have stolen your bow, with this Crisis they are so desperate they wanna hunt christmas lunch with it, then when they found out how early you get up, they sold it for a few drinks
Drinks, Food, more Drinks. Spain can often seem like a never ending meal. Even their junk food is delicious. Drinks are about 30% of the prices in London. We stagger from bar to relatives house to bar. Since I gave up Elfa is now smoking for two so we sit outside, patio heaters are apparently illegal in Spain, its freezing. There is no sign of my bow.
Christmas morning dawns; the post won't come today, there is nothing more I can do. I give Elfa her prezzie, she tells me she didn't get me one. A relative has given us Christmas Night in a Luxury 4 Star hotel. Elfa briefly tries to claim its a present to me from her. Happy Christmas.
We set off for the four star resort. The drive takes us a few hundred meters closer to sea level, its a bit warmer. The Crisis means there are lots of abandoned building sites where half finished hotels are crumbling. We see one that looks open or at least recently open, we rock up and its our place. Four Stars mi culo! This is the last resort. It's terrible and even colder than the house/office block, the bed is like a box of rocks and the bed's covers are for a Mediterranean summer's night. There is very little hot water. The promised 'Fine Dining' is available only at the vending machine. In fact 'things' in general are only available at the vending machine. Wifi is sporadic at best. I keep checking the tracking. There is no sign of my bow.
Back at the casa I'm now reduced to plaintive emailing. The fella I bought the bow from in Finland is willing enough but unable to do anything to help. No tracking information is available, its really cold. We walk to the post office - to warm up as much as anything - its shut, not just for the day but forever. There is no sign of my bow. We've still not left for the house in the sierra, I seem to have gained an enormous amount of weight, or so Elfa persists in telling me. Her mockery the only thing punctuating the deafening silence from the Spanish postal service. Did I mention There is no sign of my bow.
Don't worry, I'd be laughing if this were happening to you. I hope you're all warm and well fed and that at least the present you bought yourself was delivered and as you'd want it.
Chad is right its high time I told you another story or at least started writing again. So here's a tale from a little while ago, a few details have been changed, but not enough to disguise the facts from an inquisitive reader.
After myself and the Ex Mrs SBW called it a day I found myself with a whole lot more time on my hands. So I started looking around for something to do in the evenings other than internet dating and drinking with wannabe homesteaders.
I'd tried inner-city foraging; and freeganism, failed to join an archery club, renewed my distaste for the gym, cut down on girlfriends and given up smoking. I'd been able to set up an air rifle range at home and its been a great help, HunterY had given me some very good pointers at HunterX's range in the country where I'd put 'two though one hole' and wanted to do it again, so the lure of the rifle range was wailing its siren call - which in case you're wondering sounds a lot like Kate Bush's 'Running up that hill' played by an orchestra of rifle bolts.
In accordance with that rule of the internet I found a sub broadband site which told the fascinating tale of a small bore rifle club not too far from mi casa. I pinged them an email and was invited to an open evening. The venue turned out to be an industrial site entrance under a bridge.
You know those gated doors under bridges and beside train lines ? A galvanised gate over a concealed stairway, the kind of space where longterm contractors keep a giant collection of road-cones or use as an improvised tea-room. Where those of you with a fertile imagination would have seen a hidden base where Blofeld toys with world domination and bikini'd hoochie-coochies use Sebenza's to spoon caviar into the mouths of captured spooks. Or possibly where feral children gnaw on the bones of commuters unlucky enough to have tried to take a surreptitious doorway-piss on their way betwixt pub and station.
There were a growing number of of other loiterers at the doorway so I figured it must be the right place. I ignored Pretty Girl and struck up an conversation with Sales Newbie. Who predictably had just arrived in old london town fresh from uni, and was in the first few weeks of his first sales job. We do a quick round of the 'sales culture conversation' and move on to 'strange museums you've not heard of yet'. Pretty Girl eavesdrops, clearly dismayed that she's not been invited to be the centre of attention.
A man in an 'I work in IT' tie rocks up to open the gate [I'll leave you to imagine the full horror]; that tablet PC an almost borg-like extension of his being, the comedy tie stretched over the yawning chasm where his personality should have been. He's a helpful sort and welcomes us to the club. During his preamble I keep zoning-out and imaging life at his breakfast table where his wife keeps interrupting his impending announcement of his candidacy as the Lib-Dem candidate for Frinton-West with a further iteration of her long-held concern with the size of chunks in a jar of marmalade sent to her by cousins for whom she holds little affection.
Meanwhile back in the room: the chairman saunters in and sets out his stall. A veteran of many a committe meeting, in both professional and recreational settings, he tells us a potted history of the club: it's aims, affiliations, and traditions. Now warmed to his subject he tells us how to get the most from the tuition available and generously offers the observation how women will be especially able to benefit from the wisdom as 'they' are more able to listen and are in the habit of 'doing what they are told'. There is a slight shift in the room's gravity as Pretty Girl adds a mark to some inner scorecard.
The club specialises in a school of small bore (.22LR) shooting where the shot wears what looks like a straight jacket, opticians glasses and strange lopsided orthopaedic shoes. Lying on the floor the shooters squint though pin-hole sights at a page of targets 25m away. One chap seems tormented by some inner angst, huffing and puffing himself further and further from his 'settle'. At the other end of the performance curve a woman who'd arrived at the same time as us, is lying on the floor clacking ten rounds down range with an air of detached precision. As soon as the tenth hits the card she gets up and puts away her kit. I can't help but wonder if the place really is the gateway to some 007 facility.
As you do I get talking to a member who is packing away one of those tacticool Sig Sauer 22's he tells me its a scaled version of the Sig he uses in his anti-piracy work. Its all a bit 'conversations in gun shops', but he doesn't seem as strange as "the Bear'
We take a walking tour of the facility, sadly the little electric train driven by eurasian hotties in air hostess uniforms isn't working that week and the shark tank has been drained for maintenance. The guy who runs the 10m air pistol range is quite a wag, and has us all chortling away with a vivid description of the fiendish physics involved. If he'd been my teacher I'd be a physicist now. He invites us to have a go. Strangely; several people who are there, I can only assume, to join a gun club turn down his offer. The first fella to take up arms is on the paper but a way off the printed bit, I'm within the circle I console myself, Pretty Girl is a finger off the centre. I tell her "It looks like you're the champion". Playfully she hits me and conspiratorially tells me "that's because I'm a woman and we do do what we're told'.
While at Andy's he showed me this sweet little stalking knife by Stuart Mitchell of Shefield.
Mr Mitchell is a legend on this side of the pond, I've coveted his work since I first saw some pix on BCUK years ago. This model, his smallest and most every-day-carry, is named after the smallest deer in the UK, which is also the species you can hunt 365 days a year.
Standing 20in/500mm tall these little deer are pretty cute, at a distance. A bit closer its a different story, they have FANGS, yep fangs! Long enough and sharp enough to pose a significant risk to everything more loveable than a pit bull. They are also extremely territorial and indeed aggressive.
Introduced by the Duke of Bedford around 1900 they've spread a long way in the last 100 years, even 'swimming' the Irish sea. I've hunted them unsuccessfully a couple of times, and eaten them very successfully a few more times.
To mention the price of commisioning an SM in the presence of wives past and present is to elicit shrieks of dismay. I think his prices are very reasonable when you consider his 30+ years of practice, and workshop full of machines, especially when you set them against the prices of some production knives.
So what's it like in the hand? In a word, Ergonomic.
In a few more; fit and finish are so flawless as to be almost other-worldly.
Double want one.
Elfa "Think of the huntings you can do for that money"
SBW "Exactly, you've never eaten Muntjac have you? You're gonna love it"
And people wonder why I put up with her!
Old, unfashionable, weather-beaten like its been left outside in the rain, some would even say fit only for 'the bin'. But to me Andy is an old friend and he got me my favourite hat back! With a little help from Mr Rebus.
Been a while since I've been north of the border: Elfa wanted to go, the kids are on holiday with their mum, we are as usual snagged on freeholder connect at the job site, and sentimentalist that I am, I've had an Andy Richardson shaped hole in my life since the last visit. So this missive comes to you from the rolling fields, and sand dunes of Fife.
As is so often said, holidaying brings out the worst in people. We've served each other with divorce papers several times before we make it on to the train. One drama leads to another but eventually we're off and I fall into a fitful sleep as the train shudders northwards. Somewhere nearer to London than Edinburgh, and nearer to sleep than wakefulness, I was idly daydreaming of the great days of steam when I realised the huffing and puffing was intact the Evil Elfa still expressing her displeasure. Reluctantly, I open my eyes to find that she actually had a valid reason this time, her face is swelling up. She looks like she's saving a gobstopper for later. I am ,by nature, quite a caring person. Annoyingly Elfa, by nature, is the worst feckin' patient ever! Really, you know those stories where the nurse went mental and shoved the hospital trolly, patient and all, into a laundry cupboard and left them there over the weekend? It turns out there is a limit to human endurance, I can now see why nursey would. [But not why nursey would come back after the weekend]. Within the hour the gobstopper is the size of half a golfball.
One for the Tackle Tarts
Andy has it that we should investigate the mouth of the Eden, and armed with lures so secret they shall not be photographed and the obligatory over-priced slices of Mackerel we leave the truck in the golfers car park and walk down the dunes to the estuary. For some reason Elfa has elected to follow that rule of fieldsports observers - she has waterproof boots [bought for the trip] but wears trainers. WTF?
Flounder tactics are the same up here; tiny strips of sushi [sorry bait the price confused me], small hooks and barrel-shaped weights that roll along the bottom. Cast into the tide and allowed to bounce their way across the sandy bottom.
The score at half time: we did see some one very impressive Sea Trout jump and several smaller splashes, I landed a couple more Flounder. Next time I fish this mark I'll bring a crab rig as my bait got chewed a few times by little fellas.
PS For Me and Andy's adventure with the TV people click HERE
My old mate Johnny McGee has been has been up to his old tricks, shooting shooting in the UK. Johnny's films and photography are really top notch, with incredible attention to detail and a colour balance that shows the difference between the pro's and video-lummoxes like me. He's just posted Part 1 of A Passion For Deer where he accompanies Shavegreen Shooting Services stalking in the New Forest. This is just what woodland Deer Stalking in the south of the UK looks like. Minus the inane banter and bickering. Still with parts 2 to 6 still to come I'm sure that can be addressed.
Ohh yes! I first saw the Bug-A-Salt on Indigogo, a crowdsourcing site, but they weren't shipping outside the US of A so I didn't order one. Months later the inventor wrote to me and asked if I'd like to review one, Hell yes!!
As regular readers all know I'm a complete retard with a shotgun, really the moment they breed a pigeon the size of a barn door I'm going to be lethal, until then if it wasn't for rifles and the fact that pigeons can't feed and fly at the same time, I'd be vegetarian.
Like all dad's everywhere I am beset by a nagging fear that my children will not surpass me, I've set the bar pretty low but I suspect they're from a pretty lacklustre generation of couch potatoes [evidence here].
Start 'em young and keep it fun. Anyone can learn anything as long as they don't know they're being taught. The London Poacher told me how his dad had set him on the road to the sniper skills he later developed by having him hunt snails in the back garden with a spring air rifle. Could Bug-A-Salt be that teaching aid?
Last weekend Bushwacker Jnr and I tried some patterning with tin-foil [aloominum foil in the US]. The salt is certainly coming out fast enough, but in a cloud. We searched his mum's cupboards but the only salt she had in the armory proved a mis-match between the force of propulsion and the weight of the projectiles. We need coarser salt.
here in the 'burbs spring is springing, buds are budding and your pal SBW is taking the season as the reason to overhaul his camping kit. After my recent round-up of titanium camping gear it seemed like I should do some field testing. Stuck in town all weekend The Littlest Bushwacker and I set ourselves up in her back garden. My childhood bushcrafting began in suburban back gardens, building camps and observing whatever fauna happened to be passing. I'm still enthralled by the wonder of the natural world poking its head up from between the stones people lay to keep it out
Chad from Vargo has been releasing cool titanium ultralight backpacking gear for the last few years, I first became aware of his company when looking for an alcohol stove less crushable than a 'pepsi' and lighter than a Trangia burner. Since then Vargo has grown its offering, and brought out some very cool stuff. like this portable fire-basket and grill. Perfect for nimble bushcrafting, suburban garden popcorn making, and Vagabond-style fishing.
In the past I've always used an old food storage pot with some holes drilled in it as my fire-pot, wonderfully cheap, but bulky to pack. Vargo's grill packs better and opens up a few more cooking options. Just the thing for the traditional hunter's meal of a deer's liver fresh from the Gralloch. Eating them pulled from the fire covered in charcoal had worn a bit thin.
While we were breaking a few twigs off the dead apple tree we discovered some Turkey-Tail fungus in bloom. Boiled for an age it makes a strong liquor, rumoured to have various health benefits, but the flesh is proper chewy. Chewy like boiled boot leather. Not really a 'starter' foraged food. So I didn't brew any up for my daughter. She's had fun picking Blackberries, tried Nettles and said they're OK, so I'm thinking Mussels, which I already know she likes, gathered from rock pools to break the monotony [to her and peace to me] of a fishing trip.
The percussive delights of the lightweight popcorn rig!
Low fat, Nope. Pre-Packaged. Nope. Free Range and Full Flavour. Hell yes.
We never met but I'm going to miss you. The world just got a little crappier.
Grace Dent's Obituary in The Independent
It’s with sadness I note the passing away - the final flan, the last lattice pork pie - of formidable culinary figure Clarissa Dickson Wright. Clarissa was a peculiar entity on British television, a woman resolutely untamed and non-preened and the opposite of winsome. A tremendous, often fierce yet terribly funny, mud-spattered, gun-toting movable mass of womanhood. Clarissa loved the Countryside Alliance and was one of the only two women in Britain to be part of the Guild of Butchers. One might not have agreed with her views, but Clarissa's flagrant disregard for other people’s offence - in a world full of demanded apologies - I found frankly appealing.
She achieved fame as one of the The Two Fat Ladies, a jokey, albeit slightly cruel title which painted the likes of her and her companion Jennifer Paterson - women without a thigh-gap or a spin-off aerobics DVD between them - as wobbly outsiders. But the stalwart, indomitable likes of Clarissa could be seen - and still can - at country fairs and farm shows the length and breadth of Britain. She was more the typically British rose than the likes of Liz Hurley or Lady Di. Lumpen, often livid, the sort of woman who could whip up a running buffet for 17 plus dogs in the time it would take Cara Delevinge to choose lip-gloss. Yes, perhaps slightly “fat” but wow, what a lady.
I've just read this piece at The Atlantic and thought some of you might find it of interest. Friend of the blog, coiner of the expression Adult Onset Hunting, and probably the most interesting and articulate 'hunting' writer of the last few years, Tovar Cerulli contrasts the public perceptions of 'Hunter' and 'Conservationist'.
"Fourteen years ago, I stood in the snow, struggling to digest what I had heard. A group of us, gathered to learn about monitoring and protecting wildlife habitat, had just discovered that our instructor—Sue Morse, founder of Keeping Track—was a deer hunter. I found the news disturbing. How could she work to safeguard the homes of animals she described as “neighbors” and then turn around and shoot one of them? I found it inconceivable that someone could be both an environmentalist and a hunter, a caretaker and a killer. Today, I, too, am both."READ MORE HERE
If this piques your interest I cannot recommend his book The Mindful Carnivore strongly enough. The journey from vegan to hunter is, like so many great change-of-heart stories, an informative one.
Big shout going out the the lovely people at realbullet.com who sent me some of their Lucky Shot range of bullets recycled into; a .50 cal pen, a pair of 9mm cufflinks, and a .308 bottle opener. The pen is MASSIVE! Bushwacker Jnr. is currently doing his homework with it, anything that feeds a young chap's enthusiasm for his studies has to be a good thing.
Lots of pageviews, but not so many entries later we have a winner!
The correct answer was of course Henry the VIII
Congratulations to Kiwi Gus!
The chaps will be sending your blind to you sometime in the next week.
With the season rapidly approaching, its time to visit with mother nature and stay the night. Obs this is an anti-materialist impulse that can be accomplished with little or no expense, or the enterprise can be conducted as a test lab for the latest in space-age materials.
When hunting, fishing or bushcrafting we seek to reinvent ourselves as we were; full of wonder at the natural world, eyes bright with the first sights of its unknown details. From our desks somehow the ingenuity that once tied a pin to a strand of bootlace, or saw the whole world in a jam jar full of muddy water, is now spent looking for 30 bucks off a $100 cooking pot that saves half an ounce on the one we already have.
That having been said here's a round-up for those of you who, on revisiting their gear-pile, find themselves feeling a little under titanium-ised.
The absolute classic of titanium pots is the MSR kettle: very popular - so easier to find second hand, at one time the only option.
EverNew from Japan have the biggest selection of any titanium pot maker with a massive range of sizes; from espresso cup right up to 5.8l (12.25 US Pints) presumably for cooking shellfish while coastal foraging. They make a 'me too' of the MSR kettle and their own rather sweet design of 'tea kettle' in two sizes, which being wider at the base is more stable - so good for in-tents cooking.
Vargo have some new ideas - the BOT is both bottle and pot, which is both way-cool and annoyingly handle-less. But looks just the thing to eat nuts out of at your desk to remind yourself you really are an adventure dude rather than a slave in a cube farm as the evidence suggests. Proper want one!
They've recently brought out the Fire Box Grill - halfway between a stove and a grill. It's never going to be as fuel efficient as those little stoves that recapture woodgas, but they are not much fun to sit around, I can see it being pretty handy.
This 750ml pot from Dave Canterbury's Pathfinder School, with its hanging handle, is probably the most versatile choice if you want to heat more than water. The hanging handle could be replaced with a length of brake cable making the pot slightly more packable. Lets hope he brings out some more sizes. This would be my choice.
When as mother nature's ambassador/marketing director you need to entice people outside, it may serve you well to be able to offer refreshments to the requisite standard. With this in mind Snow-Peak have added a Cafetiere and milk frother to their titanium kitchenware line-up. I know Glamping is the devils work, but just think of the Brownie-Points these puppys'll get you.
Alpkit's cookware is worth a mention as their gear is very good value, in a way they are the UK's equivalent of an online-only REI. Their eating utensils are literally half the price of most brands. When its in stock buy one, or face a long wait for the next batch. Cheapest on this list.
For true Vagabond-ness this canteen, lid and cup set from Heavy Cover has to be the main contender. They even do a titanium screwcap for an extra $10.
There are a couple of companies that make little fire-box stands for this size of canteen, and dozens who make pouches that would fit the whole kit and kaboodle, which would then be colour-matched to the rest of your kit. ;-)
For the super inventive [or even pious], you could always make your own stove and pot rig with the stainless steel storage pots from IKEA for a fraction of the cost. But that's a different kind of fun for another day.
Be good to yourselves out there, take your rubbish home with you, and please grab and bag a couple of bits of other people's crap while you're passing.
Occasionally, just occasionally I visit the countryside in search of dinner and/or accuracy. Where for the most part I shoot unloved action figures and empty larger cans in an event we like to call Airgun Frenzy. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry in a good way. I'm not complaining. Here's how it happened.
As we've had a brief respite from the rain, Elfa had gone away for the weekend, and the freezer has been a rabbit-free zone for weeks, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put the pellet-to-the-metal and have an afternoons air rifle shooting. With two permissions between us I was hopeful that we'd be able to bring home a few bunnies, and if we didn't, any day out of town is a good one.
Did I mention HunterX was involved? Multiply that by HunterY being there as well, and regular readers will know that we may as well have set Airgun Frenzy in the twilight zone, do do der der do do der der......
BY TEXT HunterX: Air rifles, small game and target shooting Saturday. SBW: You had me from Air rifles. SBW: Is Airgun Frenzy still on? HunterX: Mine 8am Sat. HunterX: Scrub that. We have to collect HunterY, as near to 7 as you can SBW: Bell you on route.
We make our arrangements - as ever TBC at the last moment, I prepare a picnic/tapas and hit the road in excellent time. Rather than go to his house where escape velocity may well be impeded by, pretty much anything, we agree to meet in the street at a halfway point. I almost have time for a second round of coffee and danish, after the wait for the cafe to open. HunterX rocks up and we make our way across town. HunterX has a plan. "Y will still be in bed, we'll call him, he'll say we're early and should come in for coffee, we'll refuse and wait for him in the truck, otherwise it'll be lunchtime and we'll still be there."
SBW: "No worries I've laid on a lunch"
HunterX "What does that even mean? 'I've laid on a lunch'?"
SBW: "It means a selection of cold meats, from Spain. a selection of cheeses, from Portugal, an excellent pate, French, some pickles to go with the pate, and plates instead of eating off the wrappers"
HunterY appears carrying a machete, which makes for an unexpected sight on a sleepy west london street on Saturday morning, friday night in south london normal, saturday morning in west london, unusual.
SBW: Where's your air rifle dude?
HunterY: "As St Paul said 'when I became a man I put away childish things'"
HunterX: _________ [Y's famous friend] said that about five years ago at a game fair, and Y has repeated it every time air rifles are mentioned since. Yawn
The cussing, bragging and bickering continue as we drive out of town.
We drive through the flooded fields of the English countryside, that as you may have seen are slowly draining, while its been a tough time for the deer all that sodden ground is about to burst into verdant life, the rains stop for the day and the sun lights up the fields. HunterX casually mentions a few little jobs, all of which could be done with tools and tubes of gloop which I have in abundance. Just not with me. HunterY announces he needs to buy a pair of boots. This is all par for the course. No trip to X's permission is complete without a visit to a hardware store [or two].
Our new friend Kentish Hunter joins us for the afternoon. A true travelling sportsman, he's hunted some very far-flung destinations, and preferring to shoot his own rifle has bought himself a box full of take-down goodness. A Blaser R8 in .243 and what a sweet thing it is too.
Maybe its because I'm an AOH, [adult onset hunter] that the Blaser design appeals to me. Mauser's design is true genius, using the options he had at the time. Blaser's doing away with the bolt and replacing it with a collet that locks the case into the barrel is the next step.
It took me ages to tire of reading the hilarious Blaser knockers online, like all people who know in their heart of hearts that they've lost the argument [they started], the grounds for their dissatisfaction change before the wind. Very few of them are intellectually honest enough to sight either of the two good reasons for not buying a Blaser ; 'I'm not spending THAT on a rifle' and 'If I spent THAT on a rifle I'd want it to be historic or made by one 'smith '. If I lived a life even approaching the life of my dreams I'd have one, but sadly I can't even begin to justify a used R93 let alone the super trick R8.
Like every Kit-Tart I've always thought having tip-top gear that you totally believe in, gives you the confidence to take on the job. Be that Bahco's for wrestling with seized nuts on ancient plumbing or Kifaru/ThermArest for sleeping out in inclement weather. This doesn't seem to be working for the deflated Kentish Hunter who I'd have expected to be full of new-toy-joy but is a font of negativity, even going as far as uttering that most defeatist of phrases "Maybe my wife is right, maybe I'm just not cut out to be a hunter". Que gasps of horror from hunter's X, Y and yours truly.
It happens. I've seen it happen at work, I've seen it happen in love, I've seen it happen to salesmen and to sportsman. It's happened to me.
In Spain, a few months ago, in the campo. The Evil Elfa and I had a shooting competition with her open sighted Cometa .177.
The first to shoot is to put a hole in the pressed steel lid of an old food tin, after that it's how close to the hole for scoring. The sun is going down and the holes are illuminated from behind. Elfa's pellets make the 'phutunk' sound as they cluster around the hole in a tight group, mine are 'pa-ting' sounding different and no holes are appearing. Elfa is beside herself with glee 'don't be too hard on yourself I was trained for this with my dad when I was a kid' she crows, smirking in mock sympathy.
I review my memories of each shot; it all felt so right, the hold, the breath, the settle. I'm falling into my confusion; the gap between practice and feedback seem out of sync. Confusion becomes despondency. Whupped by mi chica.
In my minds eye I can imagine what she'll say as I leave the house for future hunting trips. I'm actually future-pacing my self-doubt. My despondency reaches a new low.
Where it would have remained if the coyote god hadn't made the the wind blow.
For the second time a gust brings the lid down from the fence, this time I go to re-hang it. As I bend to pick it up I see the Zen of this thing, beaten into the metal.
While Elfa's pellets have clustered around the hole, mine are all in a tighter group where they struck but didn't puncture, the tin's embossed rim. About 20mm to the right and 15mm low there are deep dimples, deep deep dimples, where pellets have landed in the craters of previous pellets. One on top of another.
Oh the power of negative thinking.
I can see how Kentish Hunter must feel. Twelve long months have passed between his last deer on the ground, and they were punctuated with a lost deer. The guilt and uncertainty have drained the poor chap of his confidence. I've stalked a lot more than I've shot deer, you've got to be a sport about it, 'it's called hunting not shopping' and all that. But I haven't bought myself a brand new Blaser R8. If I had I'm not sure I'd be so sanguine about it either, the rings on that thing cost more than a perfectly good preloved deer rifle.
There is something in the sportsman's code. Scrub that. There is something in the hobbyist's code, even if he'd said 'maybe I'm just not cut out to make my own mayonnaise" the very fact that he prefaced it with the words 'maybe my wife is right' means that, in the style of fellow freemasons seeing the summoning of aid symbol, Hunters X and Y were now honor-bound to re-inflate his sense of 'Hunter-ness'.
Baser R8 Pro with the standard stock: Petite, Point-able, Durable, with Innovative design features, and taking up Minimal luggage space. Not to everyone's taste. Hmm. A bit like the evil Elfa herself.
HunterY sets Kentish Hunter up on the range with targets at 100, and 200 meters. Y is an excellent range captain, there is something very avuncular about him as he calmly breaks the procedure down into steps. Kentish Hunter puts round after round within the deer killing zone. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch it. There is a discernible flicker, a long unused neural pathway illuminates as his synapses reconfigure towards 'can do'. Clouds both climatic and metaphorical are blown away from the range and we're in clear sunlight.
Kentish Hunter: "even if I don't get a deer I'm happy". "I think we can do a bit better than that" HunterY
Kentish Hunter offers us the chance to shoot his rifle, HunterY likes to pretend he disdains the Blaser brand [range captain and lead controversialist], HunterX knows I want to have a go and taps his watch like a station master concerned for the smooth running of a timetable in mussolini's Italy.
The 'Settle' or preparation to take a shot, it turns out is something fairly easily practiced, and as its gun-less can be practiced anywhere. That feeling of narrowing my focus of attention can be recreated, and by practicing with the hands of a clock the feedback on how fast you're moving between states, helps you to get faster at moving between generalised alertness and the narrowed focus required. The zen of shooting never stops fascinating me.
Four shots fired, two less than a square from where they were pointed, and two blown off course by the coyote god.
Or so I had convinced myself until I downloaded the pictures from my phone.
With our thoughts we make the world.
As the sun was now falling towards the trees, HunterX sets out his plan for the remaining shooting light, Kentish Hunter in a highseat for Fallow, with me and him to take on the curse of the were-rabbits with our .177's. Before the air rifles can leave their slips HunterY suggests another likely highseat for me to sit in.
Climbing into it I wasn't to wait long before I was able to invite a Roe doe to dinner with HunterX's .243 'cull gun'. A Tikka with its bolt knob replaced with a plastic sphere. It doesn't look as trick as those 'tactical' milled aluminium knobs, but seems loads more ergonomic than the OME or the tactical knob [there's a joke in here somewhere] and was only $10.
As I'm making the rifle safe to climb out of the seat, there's the muffled ping of another .243. Did he? Has the jinx been broken?
HunterY and I are working our way through the gralloch when Kentish Hunter appears dragging a Fallow yearling. I say dragging, but his feet weren't really touching the ground, he's flying. Usually a firm handshake is the order of the day, but this time we all hug him. Kentish Hunter wears a grin that would shame a Cheshire Cat for the rest of the day. Later I casually ask him if he's still thinking of selling his R8. Apparently not. But he does have plans to buy a new scope, a .308 barrel and install a deer hoist in his garage.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to readers new and readers regular for having shop-bought mayonnaise in the fridge. There is no excuse. None.
Just arrived at the Lone Star branch office, this handy pistol safe was sent in by the lovely people at authoritysafes.com. Just the thing to prevent unauthorised fiddling.
I asked that well-armed man of the cloth the LSP for his first impressions
'tough, but discreet, and even a touch James Bond-ish.'
SBW: Not how do you see your job, how did you find the safe?
"These guys are fine, but according to Uncle Cy, camouflage and orange, worn casually are the signs of the recreational hunter—and Californians"
Not a regular GQ reader myself, I saw this piece mentioned on the F&S Field Notes blog. The F&S commenters seem surprisingly supportive of the content once they got past the sensationalist title.
Well worth a read, both as the writer is a good storyteller and, as the unfiltered impressions of the cityboy afield make for a refreshing take on hunting writing.
Learn to Kill in Seven Days or Less By Rosecrans Baldwin Maybe you're a natural-born killer. I am not. I've long been city-dwelling, animal-positive. But all of a sudden, I felt the urge to reconnect with the great outdoors from my childhood, to commune with nature, to, ya know, maybe shoot guns at some animals. As fortune would have it, I'd had a long-standing offer, from a certain Montana uncle with a propensity for “hunting the shit out of things,” to host me for a weeklong crash course. I might learn to shoot, but could I kill? READ MORE HERE