Tuesday 30 September 2008

Stalking near Pitlochry

We earned this one - two days stalking and finally got it at 3pm.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Eccentric game cooking advice

"There are a number of absurd theories on hanging game and my favourite is the suggestion that you hang game by the feet over a silver tray. When the process of hanging (i.e. rotting) has gone far enough, the leg bones separate from the meat and the carcass falls on the silver tray. The noise alerts the butler who sends the under footman to pluck and draw the bird immediately, as it is then perfect."
Some years ago I worked on a different type of magazine that, among other things, advised soldiers how they might survive if they ever found themselves behind enemy lines armed only with a pocket knife and a couple of gold sovereigns. As you do.
"You can do many things on top of a barbecue, it just happens that cooking meat well isn't one of them."
We ran a wonderfully eccentric cookery series by the wonderfully eccentric Simon Mulholland - among his many achievements he lists cooking peacocks for a gathering of Hells Angels, inventing an exciting horsedrawn vehicle, the Saddlechariot (pictured below), and singlehandedly falling out with the entire British horse establishment (those last two are related, and connected with his almost pathological urge to clash head on with any establishment he comes into contact with). Britain used to follow people like Simon into battle; now we treat them like a toxic spill to be contained and rendered harmless by the authorities.

His views on cooking are unusual to say the least - hilariously un-PC reading and an antidote to the self-obsessed fussy foodies who rule nowadays. The series rambles off on various side-tracks, but includes a large section on meat and game.
"Grown women swoon when I tell them I can cook soufflés. This of course demonstrates what a pretentious load of garbage most cooking is."
I thought that the pieces had been lost for ever - but it turns out Simon had kept them, and has now posted them on his blog.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Strong words on knife crime

I enjoyed this post from Bill O' Rites, a blogger who doesn't mince his words:
Every time there is a shooting, some dull witted politician will pontificate upon there being no place for guns in today's society, thus tarring legitimate firearms owners with the same brush as murderers & armed criminals. It's ALL bollocks.
His post came in response to the news that 1,000 people marched in London at the weekend, calling for "an end to knife crime." At the same time as that march was going on, some 80,000+ responsible people were attending the Midland Game Fair - many of them carrying knives, guns and what-have-you. No-one was stabbed or shot, and everyone had a good time.

Doesn't that just prove that guns and knives don't cause trouble all by themselves?

That point was lost on the jobsworth copper who strode officiously onto our stand to announce that we were breaking the law by offering bottles of scotch to people taking out a subscription. He could be right - although he didn't seem very sure on the finer points of the law - but it was a textbook example of how to annoy well meaning, law-abiding folk with an aggressively condescending tone.

Having bullied and intimidated the youngest girl on the stand, writing down her birthdate and home address in his notebook, he stomped off with a parting shot about guns and alcohol not going together.

The cops would get a lot more help from folks like us if they'd just stop treating us all as criminals. According to the Telegraph we are all criminals now - but that's hardly surprising when they keep moving the goalposts. When did it become illegal to take a swig of water in a traffic jam - and did I vote for that??

The old hob has died

SANY0291, originally uploaded by james.marchington.

Here he is a month ago, out after rabbits. The past couple of days he had been a bit off his food, then I went down the garden this morning and he was lying dead in the run. He was getting on a bit, but it's sad that he's gone.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Come and see us at the Midland

We're all set up and the sun is shining. Here's to a good one!

Someone shot our banner!

Putting up our stand at the Midland Game Fair, we discovered this shot pattern in the banner that goes across the front of the stand. Presumably it took a stray shot at one of the clay shoots we lent it to this season. Anyone want to fess up?

Friday 19 September 2008

Otis Ferry in a spot of bother

This hasn't been a good week for Otis Ferry, son of rock star Bryan Ferry and joint master of the South Shropshire Hunt, who famously stormed the House of Commons in 2004 to protest at the Hunting Act.

First he was up in court charged with robbery and assault, over an incident which may or may not have involved hunt "monitors" (ie protesters) Susan Grima and Helen Ghalmi and a video camera at a meet of the Heythrop in Gloucestershire on 21 November.

Now he has been accused of trying to nobble a witness in that trial. The allegation is that he phoned David Hodgkiss, one of the hunt staff, on 8 September and "instructed him not to provide the police with certain evidence in relation to an allegation of robbery".

Otis recently wrote to Sporting Shooter to complain about the levels to which fox shooting is taken nowadays. "Let's face it," he wrote, "trickery and technology can hardly be passed as sport."

Ironically, "trickery and technology" may well have played a large part in the problems Otis now faces.

Non-lead rifle bullets

Earlier this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger (of all people) banned the use of lead rifle bullets in California, to protect condors and other scavengers.

I've been following how the ban has been working out for hunters there, because mark my words this one will reach Britain sooner or later.

It seems they've adopted all-copper bullets, which give "a very high-quality, humane kill". And life - and hunting - goes on.

I found this comment by California hunter Anthony Prieto interesting. It reveals a very grown-up attitude to the whole issue - in stark contrast to some of the mouth-frothing rants we've seen in the UK from those who think all talk of non-lead shot is the work of subversives and antis.

Shooters can take the moral high ground in any debate on conservation. We do more for the environment than just about any other group. But we shoot ourselves in both feet if we stubbornly refuse even to consider that lead might be a problem. American hunters have taken this on board. Sooner or later, we will have to.

Thursday 18 September 2008

National anti-shooting week (yawn)

The whingers at Animal Aid have decided to declare next week (22-28 Sept) "National Anti-Shooting Week", and have posted a load of misleading drivel on their website, moaning that the Labour government supports shooting, waaa, it's not fair, etc, etc.

There's a feeble (aka "hard-hitting"!) video showing a lot of poults, with bits fitted, crammed into wire cages - ie nothing like the way birds are reared and released in this country. Plus a heap of lies and misinformation dressed up as "facts". They push this drivel at well-meaning members of the public via street stalls, and at kids in schools via "education packs". You'd think that teachers had a duty to present a balanced argument, but apparently not.

The good news is that the campaign will fall flat on its face, i) because Labour have rather bigger problems on their mind at the moment, and ii) because Animal Aid have totally missed the boat - the British public are bored with their class hatred and whining, and are discovering that game is actually rather tasty!

In fact, it's now de rigeur for any up-and-coming TV celeb foody to go out and catch/shoot some wildlife to put in the pot - the latest example of which was Valentine Warner ("the Russell Brand of the kitchen") potting rabbits with an air rifle in his new BBC series 'What to Eat Now' - excellent stuff.

Ferret eats slug

Are all ferrets stupid, or is it just mine?! They seem to enjoy chewing slugs - and not surprisingly get a load of sticky slime all round their mouths, then mope around looking miserable and trying to wipe it off.

Last weekend I spent some time ferret-proofing the area around their hutch. The problem was that I'd open the hutch in the morning to feed them, and they'd all pile out and run around the place. Trying to keep an eye on all 5 ferrets was impossible. Before long, one or two of them would have found their way under the fence. I'd round up the others, then spend 15 mins or more standing on a box trying to coax the wanderer(s) back from the neighbours' garden (they're not exactly ferret fans) - which then meant I was late setting off for work, got stuck in traffic, became even more late, etc.

So I decided to block up the exits. It took a while, screwing up bits of chicken wire and ramming them into the holes with a fencepost. And tacking more wire to the trellis fence. And blocking the hole under the garden shed. But it worked. Apart from the hole I missed - back to the drawing board, but that one's filled too now.

They still run about when I open the hutch in the morning, but now they can't get far, so it's easy enough to round them up and put them back in the hutch after I've filled the food bowl.

Anyway, during all of this faffing about, I noticed that the ferrets pounced on any slugs they found, and started chewing them - even though they don't seem to like the inevitable consequences. Are they too silly to work out it's a bad idea, or are slugs just irresistible to ferrets?

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Pike attack

11092008010, originally uploaded by james.marchington.

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I'd been fishing the River Anton in Hampshire the other day. That post was made from my mobile phone by the riverbank (is there a word for a techno-showoff, or is that just 'saddo'?)

What I wasn't able to post at the time was this pic of a small grayling, which Emma hooked. As she reeled it in, a large pike came out of the reeds - spotting what looked like an easy meal - and grabbed it!

The pike soon realised its mistake and let go - leaving the grayling with these nasty gashes down its side. It was virtually dead by the time Emma got it to the bank, and it quickly died. Another almost identical fish I caught later was returned unharmed to the water and swam off strongly.

Don't they know they're supposed to be wild?

Wildlife has an unfortunate habit of failing to live up to the do-gooders' expectations. They release a bunch of sea eagles "into the wild" spouting a pile of romantic tosh and shedding a tear as the birds soar majestically into the sunset...

And what do the ungrateful birds do? They act like feral dogs, hanging around supermarket car parks and bothering the local farmers, snatching their lambs and even the minister's hens! See story here »

I was on the Isle of Skye at the end of August and laughed at how the locals have turned the birds into a tourist attraction. They take out regular boat trips full of keen birdwatchers – and tip buckets of dead fish into the sea to bring the eagles close!

I love to watch the sea eagles, and personally I'm happy to see them back. But let's be honest, it's hardly the picture of a noble bird returned to its natural wild environment that the do-gooders would have us believe.

Friday 12 September 2008

RSPCA church service for animal welfare

As someone who only visits church for weddings and funerals, I'm probably not qualified to comment - but I sense something cynical in the RSPCA's attempts to invent a new Christian festival, Animal Welfare Sunday. They've even written their own service for the occasion, which comes with this ludicrous cover from the school of Disney-meets-medieval-hunting-art.

During the service, the congregation are supposed to chant stuff like: "Let us marvel at the little creatures who are innocent in God's sight... the world of foxes playing around their dens..." For some reason, they omit to mention that said foxes are playing with the bones of the ickle cweatures that they ripped the heads off earlier.

Here's one Bible passage that doesn't make an appearance in the RSPCA's service; there are plenty more in similar vein:
"Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things" ( Genesis 9:3)

Thursday 11 September 2008

Nice trout caught on a dry fly

Yes, I'm skiving today, fishing the Anton near Stockbridge!

Tuesday 9 September 2008

RSPB may be getting the message

Oh good grief! Another moron has shot a red kite, this time in Co Down, Northern Ireland. Story from The Independent here...

How stupid would you have to be? "Duh, there's one of them kites... er... I know, I'll shoot it." How would that ever seem like a good idea?

It's all very well saying that shooters should stick together. But just because I'm a shooter, it doesn't mean I agree with everything that every shooter does. I'm a driver too - and I wouldn't want to be associated with some of the stupid things some drivers do.

There's one bright spot in this sorry saga. For once the RSPB haven't jumped up to slag off shooters and keepers. Their press release scores a mere 4 out of 5 on the mawkishness scale, and there's absolutely no hint that shooting interests were involved.

Dr Mark Avery is quoted as saying "these birds should be a treasured addition to our countryside and not a target for illegal shooting." And that's it. No digs about local game shoots, no suggestion that keepers are persecuting anything. Now that's progress.

Dr Mark Avery of the RSPB,
pictured at a CLA Game Fair