A Mid -Winter Foray

Easily the coldest winter for a very long time it sees snow lingering on the lawn for over two weeks, an almost unheard of state of events.

Finally she is at rest after a long downward trip

Eventually though a high materialises and despite the low lying snow a plan is hatched. The long trip into the mountains is tiring and treacherous hard packed snow and ice abound. The trail demands caution and respect every step of the way. Finally after five or so hours the hut looms out of the gloom in the late afternoon.  The chill air by now has a tenacious grasp on my unclad head and I hurry to shed my pack and don my beanie and down jacket. A brew is soon on the way with supper to follow. The alarm is set on my watch for 04.15 the next morning and at last it is time to dive into the scratcher.

Pitch black and I grope for my head torch it firstly illuminates my expelled breath then helps me turn my down pillow into a jacket. The alarm has done its job and helps ejaculate me into this pre dawn ritual of awakening. I pad barefoot over to my primus and ignite the flame under my kettle, this done I can now concentrate wholly on the rest of my dress code for the day. I have no sooner zipped up my gaiters when the steam erupts out of the spout of the vessel. I drown the tea bag and stir it around the mug until satisfied it is of the required strength. I reach for the toilet roll and cup in hand we crunch through the hard packed snow toward the ritualistic dumping ground. Everything coincides nicely and I am soon hut bound again with empty mug and bowels.

After a quick breakfast my day pack is secured and rifle in hand I am soon closing the door of my temporary abode and my trek begins. Some ninety minutes later I leave the trail and head into the bush heading for the tops.

Daylight is edging its way over the distant eastern tops and just starting to illuminate the gut I am in, my torch is switched off and stowed away for the day. The very steep ridge which is clear of snow arcs up and away from my position on the bush edge, and I need to gain access to its spine if I am to make progress. The rock on this exposed ridge is crumbly and even with much caution pieces break off and career down into the iced gut only to be carried even further away on its slick shiny surface. I make no more than a half dozen more steps when I freeze statue like on hearing a chamois whistle. I say whistle but it sounds more like a smokers- cough- heavy breathing as in an obscene phone call even. Eyeballs swivelling near all round my head I locate the animal at two o clock- just its horns and part of its face but what I can see is staring intently at me. I don’t move a muscle and after a minute or so the head disappears and as soon as it does I sit down to afford me a better shooting position should I need it. The head soon comes back over the parapet and again holds all of my attention. This time though, I am looking at him through my Leupold glassware and his neck is glued to the crosshairs. In my mind I am convinced it is a buck and without much conscious thought I trip the trigger. He leaps out of sight only to emerge briefly in a gut before crossing a rocky spur and then throwing itself into the next gut. This gut was chocker with deep soft snow and the animal plunged deep into it slowing its progress considerably.  Just as he was starting to pick up speed again he again filled the glass ware but this time his forward movement was halted and he detached himself from the steep face and somersaulted end for end over a bluff before landing on his head in the icy gut and blitzing down out of sight at a rate of knots.


The time was 08.06 and I was in a dilemma it was a case of should I hunt on or back track down the gut to retrieve my prize. Eventually I chose the latter and eased myself into the gut and after donning crampons and ice axe began to follow the blood splattered progress of the chamois. It was all disappointment when I finally caught up with him or should I say her? Yes it was a doe and a pretty mangled one at that, one horn completely broken off and the other pretty severely damaged. Bugger I had descended the best part of 2000ft.

I took her fine winter pelage and the back steaks and continued my descent into the bush. The rest of the day would be spent quietly making my way back to camp through some likely bush I knew of in the hope of securing some real back-steaks …….that is what comes off a deer’s back.

It was an hour or so later that I bumped two forms, one of which quickly disappeared amongst the trees and the other paused for a vital few seconds allowing me the shot. The yearling collapsed without a sound its back legs thrashed momentarily then all was quiet.

The quiet now spoilt by its steaks sizzling in the pan before me soon to be added to the de -hy meal and mashed potatoes bringing to an end yet another mid- winter foray.

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