One of things I have been involved in for the last 18 months is working with Public Health England on a deer serosurveillance study for tick-borne viruses. Essentially I collect deer serum and tick samples from each deer shot and then send those off along with some general information about deer species, general condition / location etc to the team at Porton Down. Whilst the study has thrown up some interesting results the tested deer serum samples that I have submitted, all have tested negative on the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and louping ill virus (LIV) antibody test (ELISA); detecting no presence of antibodies against TBEV or LIV, this indicates no evidence of infection of either of these viruses
Again my Apex predator roe sack has been invaluable in carrying amongst all of my normal stalking gear the test kits and associated tubes and paperwork. This roe was actually shot on a hill estate in Perthshire that I manage and had somehow managed to get the wrong side of a 300 hectare fenced and planted woodland creation scheme and so had to be removed.
Sparsholt College’s 450-acre countryside campus has officially added a state-of-the-art new 100 metre Outdoor Rifle Range to its comprehensive list of student facilities.
This is a fantastic new addition to the college and Sparsholt is the only land-based college in the UK to have a resource of this size on their campus, approved for use by the National Rifle Association. The new Range complements Sparsholt’s 25m Indoor .22 Range and provides another great resource for students to build confidence, discipline and accuracy.
Ten years in the planning, Sparsholt College has been fortunate to be able to complete the range with its imposing 11.5m high stop butt created from 30,000 tonnes of clean white chalk, moved by TJ Transport from a recent local housing development in Winchester.
Guest of honour at the event was Great Britain’s Olympic medallist, Steve Scott, winner of the Bronze Medal in the men’s Olympic double trap shooting event in Rio where he notched up a perfect score of 30. Steve spoke at the opening event and unveiled the commemorative plaque. Steve then joined a shooting demonstration by Sparsholt’s Land and Wildlife Management students to celebrate the official opening of the range.
Steve Scott commented: “It’s been fantastic to officially declare the Fullbore Outdoor Rifle Range open for Sparsholt students to use as part of their extensive training. It was great to try the range out for myself and it’s brilliant to see this new facility in place to support students in developing their skills and confidence for their future careers.”
Guests attended the event from the many organisations and businesses that support the work of the college including BASC, Natural England, National Trust, Napier of London and Zeiss Optics. The College Vice President, the Earl of Malmesbury and Chair of Governors, Neil Hopkins OBE were also in attendance, joined by other members of the Board of Governors to welcome Steve Scott.
Tim Jackson, Sparsholt College Principal said: “I’m delighted to have welcomed Olympic Champion, Steve Scott to the official commissioning ceremony of our new Outdoor Rifle Range. We are so appreciative to have the support of our partner organisations and employers within the Game and Wildlife Management industry that have been involved with this exciting student facility and are looking forward to seeing our students’ skills excel with its use.”
Rod Greenwood, Land and Wildlife Management Senior Lecturer added: ‘The new Fullbore Range is a great resource that has been in the planning for some years. We put a huge amount of emphasis on safety, and our students are all very skilful. It’s a learning resource that can be used by students on a wide range of courses offered here at Sparsholt and will be a key tool in increasing learners’ confidence, discipline, attention to detail as well as their accuracy.’
Sparsholt College’s next open day will be held on Saturday 16 November between 10am-2pm. Register online at www.sparsholt.ac.uk/opendays or simply turn up on the day.
As we are thinking about a few days off in front of the log burner and eating too many mince pies, I find myself working up an appetite on the hills above Aberfeldy in the second week of December chasing hinds about as we work on the cull and at the same time filming for The Shooting Show. One of my most valued bits of kit here is the Napier Apex predator. Now I accept that its quite tricky fitting a Hind with larder weight of around 65 kilo into the opened out predator ! However, neatly contained inside is all the kit that I need – conveniently wrapped around my waist . I do not have to think, have I got this or the other, it’s just there . In and amongst the drag rope, bone saw, tracking harness disposal gloves etc is another essential item in the hill, the apex air glow wind checker. With a red hind able to smell me at around 2 miles in certain conditions, even more with the old spice or brut ! ( I will likely be getting re supplied on the 25 th) and now I am really showing my age; it’s fairly important I know which way I am blowing or else I am wasting my time up here. Zosia is clearly not impressed either with my chosen perfume !
Distance is always a problem for our pursuits here in Western Australia. Isolation an inconvenience. To help with the control of camels on Cattle Stations on the fringe of the Never Never (arid uninhabited dessert regions) you need to be prepared. Prepared in the sense that you will need to carry all essentials required for the trip, fuel, water, food, communications and emergency supplies. Planning is essential. So after packing extra water and food, first aid kit, satellite phone and 120 litres of extra fuel, off we go. 14 hours later and we arrive at the cattle station and get the run down and good old chat.
Over the next 7 days we will travel around the Cattle Station and adjoining properties to locate and cull all the camels encountered. Camels are very nomadic beasts and travel huge distance to find feed and water water water. Conditions have been very bad in these semi-arid areas with no significant rain events for the previous two years. Things were dry and feed was sparse. The camels have to search far and wide for their survival. All the camels encountered were in a very poor state. Hence needing to come into the Stations from their usual desert habitat to find water. All the Stations have bores and or windmills to water their cattle and the camels invade these watering points in huge numbers. Water is a rare commodity in this environment so the Cattle men can ill afford to be sharing it with these brutes. A large bull camel can consume up to 200 litres of water in one drink. Camels because of their size also do damage to these watering points by breaking pipes, floats and infrastructure causing expensive repairs and putting the cattle at risk of dying from thirst.
Camel meat is a very good to the palate, being similar in texture and flavour to beef. So any of the young culled animals in reasonable conditions had their backstraps removed. The skin on a camel is not that tough, but it is fully impregnated with sand and vegetable matter tangle and entwined in the thick woolly hair so is dynamite on knives. The Apex 46 knife came to the fore. This knife surprised me. Camels are large animals with bulls standing 2 metres tall and weighing 1000 kilograms. The Apex 46 is a weighty sturdy knife but still a size that can be used articulately. I removed the backstraps from numerous animals and only used a steel to touch up between each. Kept its edge, certainly did. A permanent addition to my kit. This here knife is a bloody beauty.
Well what a week. We culled 122 camels. This should keep the Station owners happy though this is an ongoing issue for them. They pray for rain for their cattle but also for the Never Never country so the camel move back out into the desert.
A few years ago, myself and 2 of my mates, Alan and Duncan were obsessed with catching large U.K. sharks on extreme fly-fishing gear! This situation arose after we had been catching sharks in the Irish sea using conventional tackle. All three of us were very keen fly fisherman, so we mused on the possibility of landing one of these leviathans on the fly. A plan was hatched, and Alan and Duncan started making the necessary leaders, traces and fly’s. Initially we were somewhat under gunned and there was a steep learning curve. Over several trips the tackle and our ability to catch sharks on the fly improved – with one day us nearly boating a 100 blue sharks… But still the mighty Porbeagle shark evaded us!
An Irish Sea Blue Shark – I am glad that I took my Napier Apex Predator Waist sack, although this is really for carrying Roe, I often use it as a handy carry bag at other times, as it converts from a waist bag to a back pack. This was fortunate as it became essential for that long fight and when packed with appropriate padding allowed me to use it as an effective rod butt holster.
So, we then started targeting the months where a porbeagle
was most likely and hoping for good weather, as virtually every second trip we
had planned would need to be cancelled due to adverse seas. So on June 21st,
2014 we were happy at 6am to be motoring on towards the middle of the Irish sea
after a sleepless night at the Stable Inn. Our skipper as usual was Andrew
Alsop and we were on his boat White Water II, operating out of Milford Haven on
the west coast of Wales.
We motored out at a good clip for about two hours into somewhere
in the middle of the Irish Sea, there was some lively banter and talk of big
fish and the opportunities that the day might bring. On the way-out Duncan and
Andrew started preparing the burley – a secret concoction that draws the sharks
in to the boat. I remember being pleased that I was not having to do this
wretched job as although I have pretty good sea legs – my stomach is turned by
that rotten fish smell.
Before long we are fishing and things are going slow for me… a few blues have come to the boat for the other boys but yet again, no Porbeagle
Then suddenly, my line goes tight… and it is like I have hooked a hi-speed locomotive… The skipper gives me a wink and says that he thinks this is the one… a big Porbeagle and I start praying that this fish stays on… No guarantee when shark fishing as another shark can bite through the line, the hook can pull and if the shark rolls far enough up the leader the skin of the shark will cut through the fly line like a hot knife through butter!
For nearly 2 hours, I was engaged in the most grueling sporting challenge of my life. Every time I got some line back the big fish would just take it back again. My arms were burning like they had never burned before and the 14 weight sage rod was bent at 90 degrees. Slowly though, I started getting in more line and the shark would take less line. I was actually winning. Eventually we started to see colour as I finally got the fish to the surface and then got to the fish to the boat. The fight had taken it out of me though – we were at a stalemate, the fish and I – I couldn’t get this enormous Porbeagle close enough that the skipper could grab the leader and boat the fish. Then the big fish decides to make a last gasp attempt at freedom… I have the drag fully locked as I know if this fish spools me now, I don’t have the minerals to get it back in… Something has to give and with a great crack the 14 weight explodes in half! My heart sinks… all that work to lose this fish of a lifetime at the boat. But the fish is still there, stuffed just like me. Then the call goes out to handline the fly line a dangerous thing if the fish decides to make another run. Mercifully, the big fish has succumbed, and the skipper can get to the leader and we get the fish on board. My epic fight is over.
I marvel at the fish, a big porbeagle, some people call the
porbeagle a “Fako” and you can see why. The menacing predatory appearance of
this leviathan make the blue sharks we have been catching up until now look
like Labradors. This magnificent trophy is then measured so we can get a weight
and the obligatory snaps are taken before being released back into the big blue
to ponder what just happened to it.
My arms were destroyed, my rod was destroyed, I just sat
down and contemplated what we had achieved, and I mean we as it had been a team
effort. I caught another blue later that day but my arms were so sore I stopped
fishing as I was literally scared I might catch another big shark and I just
didn’t think I would be able to cope.
We didn’t realise at
the time what we had achieved but as with all fishy tales – the news spread
fairly fast and the next thing you know I am being told that this fish is
probably the biggest shark ever caught on a fly in the whole of Northern Europe
and was featured in the Angling Times. I don’t know if this is still the case
or not, although with improvements in gear I think a bigger fish could be
landed – I for one now fish a 16-weight fly rod for sharks, which is a little
like fishing with a broom stick!
Growing up in south Louisiana I learned quickly
why this state is called the Sportsman’s Paradise. In this area of the state we
have unbelievable waterfowl, whitetail deer and small game hunting, and freshwater,
saltwater and brackish water fishing is outstanding. At a very early age I was
introduced to hunting and fishing by my dad and grandfather.
Many years later my son and daughter began duck hunting prior to their fourth birthdays. My daughter still enjoys hunting and fishing, and we can’t wait to take my two grandsons out into the field. My son and I have been hunting together for nearly twenty-five years, and many of the marvelous memories that we share were only due to the readily available hunting and fishing opportunities.
Last deer season, we missed the last 5
weeks of hunting due to Mississippi River flooding. The 2,600 acres that we
hunt have been under as much as 12 feet of water since January, but we are
hoping to get back on the property by mid-August. Although it sounds bad for
this season, the deer in our area have been well-fed on nearby, higher land
throughout the flood. The nutrient-rich
Mississippi River enables very rapid, healthy growth of the ground cover immediately
after the water recedes.
Over the past five years, our duck lease
suffered tremendously due to an invasion of an exotic species, apple snails. Some
apple snails are as large as a man’s fist and they devastated the aquatic
vegetation. This did not help to hold
the ducks in the area during these seasons, but last year the snails moved on
and vegetation grew back with a vengeance and the property is once again
looking very good for the coming season.
A few days ago, the winds of our first Gulf of Mexico
Hurricane were ripping shingles off our home, and in the middle of the storm,
we rescued a juvenile Mississippi kite that was unable to fly. After nursing the kite back to health, it was
released to rejoin its mother.
Being in the kings club (we have both been king of Mardi Gras) I am attending the Cajun Royal family, well in this case Troy Landry, King of the Swamp, and King Hephaestus at our Local Mardi Gras. Very well disguised. More recognizable in his Swamp People day clothes.
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