The Scotsman

Pheasants, pigeons and woodcock

One of the sons reappeared after New Year lusting after a couple of day’s pigeon shooting. This would have been all very well last year but in the summer they felled our favourite and well-understood pigeon wood on the Dogstone Hill. The wood had covered the whole of the top of the hill and birds could come in from every direction depending on the wind. In a north-westerly, which usually means snow and extreme cold, the shooting could be spectacular. But no more. super protective iphone 8 case So rather short of ideas, and having failed to establish any other flight lines — the routes pigeons take when going to roost–we rang a friend and asked about his Sitka covered hill which is not yet felled. He became hugely enthusiastic and said he couldn’t make it but carry on regardless and have a go at anything we came across. “Pheasants, pigeons, woodcock and definitely the neighbour’s partridges if you see any”. I know this wood of old. And what appeared to be a generous invitation was as much an invitation to get seriously lost. iphone 7 case silver To stray far from any ride or clearing is to quickly understand the true meaning of being unable to see the wood for the trees. iphone 8 case charge But we forged off, three of us — we had taken Alf, co-conspirator on these occasions – down a broad tussocky ride and immediately put up a cock pheasant. iphone 7 case crystal Cautiously surrounding what had been a scrape of a duck pond, now over grown and enclosed by trees, we flushed two more cocks through fallen willows. We divided our forces to cover what we thought might be a good pigeon area given the wind direction and I walked straight into one of those bogs on a slope under trees and filled one boot. I then shot the most spectacular pigeon of the day which had its wings tucked in like a stooping peregrine as it dived for home with the high wind behind it.  Seven hen pheasants got up under my, or rather Crumpet’s feet. dried flower phone case iphone 7 I shot one although it turned out I had actually shot two with one shot. The second must have been just behind, but not quite in line with, the first and in the trees. It had gone down unseen by me and was retrieved by Alf’s black lab Sasha after Crumpet had picked the first. We wandered along the broad grass and gorse edge of the main wood and turned up two woodcock both of which we picked in pretty dense wood. Then the pigeons came on, as they do, just before or as the light dims; clouds of them, heading for their roost. Needless to say we were only half in the right place, but it wasn’t a bad guess and we’ll know for next time. Nine pheasants, a rabbit, ten pigeons and three woodcock. Yum yum.

Canna and rabbits

You rather have to wonder what is up with Canna, the Small Isle that isn’t Eigg, Muck or Rum, which belongs to the National Trust for Scotland. First of all it had a plague of rats and latterly it has had a plague of rabbits. Stand by for locusts. No doubt someone has already blamed NTS for getting rid of the rats which kept the rabbit population down in the first place. iphone 6 plus cases plastic Poor old NTS has a rather grisly record with islands, but no more so than its cousin south of the Border. Small islands are tricky and if you believe everything you read in the papers the residents are in a state of permanent foment. Teachers, gardeners, nurses and small-holders—practical folk all —  arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed from Billericay and Potters Bar  declaring it is their  lifetime’s dream to live on an island in the Atlantic. iphone 6 audi case The next minute they are gone amid dire mutterings and imprecations by or against their fellow islanders. Anyhow, on Canna, if it’s not the residents it’s the wildlife and this time it’s the rabbits.  Such has been the plague of rabbits that not even marauding sea eagles can keep up with the population explosion. At last count, which must take some doing, there were said to be an estimated 16,000 rabbits eating their way through the islanders’ home grown veg, vandalising graves, burrowing under walls and undermining a road. How anyone arrived at a number of 16,000 beats me. But in the same way police have a special rule of thumb for estimating crowd size, Scottish Natural Heritage probably has a rabbit ready reckoner based on the average number of bunnies per sq. metre at sundown. So now NTS has had to send in what we used to call trappers to get rid of them. The good news is that the rabbits are being sold to a mainland game dealer for restaurants. iphone 7 tech 21 phone cases On the whole dealers only want nice clean rabbits not ones full of shot or bullets for understandable reasons so they will be taking mainly trapped rabbits as opposed to shot rabbits. But I think it is a pity that NTS didn’t just rent out the rabbit shooting. Instead of having to pay someone to deal with the pests they could have let the shooting. And what about the ferreting opportunities? There is nothing as sporting as a bolting bunny. liquid glitter phone case iphone 8 plus But alas. For NTS to even suggest someone might actually derive sport and amusement from pest control would be to call down the wrath of the blogging illiterati. And anyway NTS isn’t that keen on shooting. You have to look hard on its website for any reference to the grouse shooting its lets on  Marr Lodge Estate. iphone 6 case high school musical Never mind.

A dog fox appeared weaving fast and low

Boxing Day and what promised to be a fairly pared down operation for 2013 walking the outer reaches of my cousin’s diminishing acres. In the past there have been rather a lot of us which in theory should help the bag and spread a little happiness about the place. In practice, especially if I have been in charge, people get lost. They usually emerge, but it all takes time which is in short supply when the days are short and lunch is involved. There is much to be said for a smallish raiding party although it is fair to say that Boxing Day shoots should be for all comers- uncomprehending girlfriends, stick wielding children and mad dogs.  It was thus in anticipation of a fairly fast armed walk on a fine day that we arrived in the usual collection of silly hats with Crumpet wearing her red Father Christmas doggy coat (NOT amused) only to find an entire squad of beaters who had turned up voluntarily. Fed up with life among the detritus of Christmas Day they had turned out en masse, the young ones  nursing appalling hangovers and threatening to be sick in the back of the beaters’ Landie. What was going to be a casual stroll had become a fully blown shoot with mainly standing guns, but a few walking ones as well. speck iphone 6 case On the first drive my second brother, a stranger to exercise in any form, became horribly breathless during the 500 yard walk back from his peg and all but collapsed. Had it been a walking day as intended he would have had to be sent home. Instead the keeper made sure he was dropped in spots where no walking was required and he banged away really quite effectively. He had once been an excellent shot. At the second drive through what is imaginatively known as the Big Wood for which the keeper had high hopes in terms of game, absolutely nothing emerged except a rather lame pigeon and a jay. Right at the end it became clear why. A vast pale dog fox appeared weaving fast and low along the middle of the shelter on my right. I couldn’t take the obvious shot because he was in line with a hidden gun beyond. I let him past and swivelled; made the classic mistake of not moving my feet which were anyway stuck in mud— fired, missed and fell over. Foxes, or rather the shooting of them, is always a matter for great rejoicing in the beating line. “Did you get the fox?” 15 beaters gleefully repeated at the end of the drive knowing dammed well I hadn’t. phone case glitter iphone 7 plus Even worse my son got one later. case boss iphone 8 Much humiliation and endless ribbing.  Which was funny. purple case for iphone 8 plus Up to a point. The bag included pheasants, woodcock, mallard, pigeons, a surprised rabbit, a jay, a hoodie crow and one fox – which should have been two.

Tour guides and condoms

Many years ago I was sent on a bus tour to write an article about, well, bus tours, which I can’t remember anything about other than our guide was the hugely impressive wife of a colonel in a Highland regiment in a headscarf, twin set, Black Watch tartan skirt and sensible shoes. I think she was working to pay the school fees. She was marvellously no-nonsense and even the French and Italians on the bus did what they were told. The rest of us cowered respectfully. Anyway. I was asked last month to go and talk to the Scottish Tourist Guide Association (Edimborg branch) which is interestingly composed largely of women (not in headscarves) speaking several languages and with at least one degree apiece and eager for knowledge. white and black marble iphone 6 case Put it this way; they don’t wait for question time at the end. iphone 6 moving glitter case They wade straight in, which is unconventional but really rather a relief. It breaks up the agony of wondering what on earth you are going to say next. This all took place in the old Police Club in York Place. As I was late, the other speaker had been let loose first. I caught the tail end of his talk in which he explained how to get into a dry diving suit by putting a condom over your head. Even the STGA were slightly nonplussed. Imagine being found suffocated with a condom over your head? Not easy to explain. Anyway the day before I was due to speak on field sports it suddenly occurred to me that I should probably have power point presentations, films, videos, charts and graphs and all manner of distractions. So I asked if I could bring along Crumpet, our working cocker, as a substitute. She is after all quite fetching and intelligent and regularly appears in this column. Bit of a celeb really.  My wife put the boot in saying she would almost certainly be lost or stolen (I have form with cars and children)  and she’d be much happier at home with Waffle, her puppy. holographic phone case iphone 7 The STGA let out a very endearing : “Ahhhhhh” when I announced Miss Crumpet’s regrets. The reason I was there was because Sally Duncanson, one of the Edinburgh guides, had put me onto the idea of writing Robertson’s Guide to Field Sports in Scotland. Apparently guides know exactly what BPC had for breakfast before Culloden but they are embarrassingly short on chat about grouse and the like, subjects ideally suited to the A9 section of a tour. apple iphone 6 case black After all what can you say about a million acres of passing rock and heather ?  Hence the book. Anyway they were all most appreciative and took copious notes as I burbled on, to the extent I eventually had to be dragged off still talking. Pity about Crumpet though. She’s never been to Edinburgh.

Jackdaw Ambush

After my mother complained she was being smoked out of the spare bedroom when she came to stay I reluctantly decided to get the chimneys lined. This involved hiring an ex-soldier who considered a cherry picker or scaffolding was “for pansies” which made the whole operation remarkably cheap so long as he didn’t fall off and break his neck. While he was up on the roof I got him to cover all the cans with chicken wire as half our problems with smoke in the past had arisen from the jackdaw nests which generations of previous incumbents (impecunious   kirk ministers) had allowed to build up.  So we have been all wired up  for about 10 years and jackdaw free until the other morning when  I was woken by herself complaining there was a rat in the wainscoting (again). I couldn’t hear a thing. But two days later, reaching for the saucepan of soaking pinhead oatmeal from the back of the AGA I distinctly heard the sound of squabbling birds coming down the chimney. Not rats. Jackdaws. iphone 6 case shockproof case silver We’ve been here before. It goes like this. Wait till you hear the squabbling; go and find the key to the gun cupboard which is not in its usual place. cute disney iphone 7 plus case Ring likely culprit of a son who says it is. He turns out to be right.  Take out 12-bore. Wonder whether jackdaws on chimneys are a rifle or shotgun job. Find the rifle cabinet key and select Brno .22. Decide against, for no clear reason, and select BSA 1908 single shot .22 instead.  Assemble arsenal behind backdoor. Wait for sound of squabbling. Nothing happens. Put guns back in cabinet. Squabbling starts.  Reassemble arsenal and disguise it as an overcoat in case local cadre of al-Qaeda or firearms officer come calling. Saunter into kitchen. Distinct squabbling. Reach for .22. Open back door very quietly. It squeaks and grates. Crumpet the cocker spaniel roars out turning cartwheels at the sight of a gun. iphone 8 french bulldog case Puppy Waffle joins in but doesn’t know why. Two jackdaws flap off out of range into an elm. And cackle. They are far too smart. And it’s hard to tell whether they have actually got under the wire or, as they sometimes do, are simply poking sticks through it in a conversational manner. pink iphone 8 plus case silicone I lay an ambush. I have things to do in the garage but can peer round the corner through a yew and probably get a bead on a bird before I’m spotted. I come out of the garage half an hour later, forgetting I am meant to be in ambush mode. The birds flap off.  I stupidly take it into my head that if I warn them they are in danger they will go away. “**** off or you’ll get shot” I shout at the chimneys. Nothing.