Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Poachers and puppies

It's less than a week until Christmas, and we're being plagued by poachers. A neighbour called to say one of his lambs had its throat ripped out by a dog, and another neighbour lost a couple lambs earlier that week. The poachers were working in broad daylight, using wolfhound / lurcher crosses to run down deer; unfortunately, some lambs got in the way. The market is paying over a pound (£) per pound (lb) for venison, so deer are valuable.

We know so much about the poachers because, after recent heavy rains, the fields are so muddy that they got their vehicle stuck. The poachers were easily apprehended by our local police, who I'm sure pointed and laughed at them before dragging them off to the station. It is a serious issue.

Aside from deer, heating oil has been stolen from farms around us, and dried split wood from the woodsman's barn at the bottom of the road. Chickens and geese have also been taken and I'm worried for my turkeys. Last night someone ripped open a round bale of silage, one in a pile of bales. The cheeky thieves were checking the quality before they went to the trouble of stealing it! They would have to come back with a tractor and bale forks to get it.

In a bid to help, we've set up our Critter Cams in various hotspots. Normally we use these infra-red cameras to look for predator activity of the furred and feathered kind. But, vermin is vermin, and if we can catch a face or vehicle make/plate number, it might help stave off future thefts. Or at least give the police something to go on.

I'm not worried about things getting stolen, but I fret over our kennel dogs. If I were to lose a dog to a thief I would be inconsolable.

Quincy has been letting me know that she wishes to spend more time with me, instead of in the kennel with the other dogs. When I try and put Quincy in the kennel after a walk, she stands next to me wagging her tail. If I leave the truck open, she jumps in, peeks out at me and wags her tail. So, she's been coming with me on morning checks. We're packed up ready with feed, milk replacement, and pheasants for neighbours -

The back is full so Quincy has to ride up front with me, which she prefers. She uses the opportunity to showcase her retrieving skills. First a notebook -

Here - I found this for you!

Then a lamb's milk bottle -

Here - I found this for you!

Then a glove -

Hey - you'll never guess what?! Yup. I found this for you!

And this is all before I've even pulled out of the driveway. 

In her defense, if I cleaned out my truck once in a while, we might not have the in-car retrieving entertainment. But, where's the fun in that? In the end, I give her a dog lead to hold on the ride around and she stares out the front window, proud as anything to be carrying her lead.

When we returned from our morning rounds, I saw that the stalker was in with the boys having breakfast. How do I know? -

Gamekeepers are easier to track than deer. Look for abandoned boots, en route to a kettle and baked goods.

Dave the stalker was successful on my patch of ground, and put a big fallow doe in the chiller for me. That's two roe does, and one fallow doe for about 80 pounds of meat in our freezer this month. I've butchered and packaged both roe already, but the fallow will have to hang until after Christmas. For the rest of the season, our shoot day menu will be venison casserole for the workers, thanks to that fallow. 

The dogs had all the raw bones, and butchering scraps. There was enough to feed seven dogs for three days. And I made 5 quarts of game stock for soup and casseroles. It was an early Christmas present for us all.

These are some of the dogs, post-feast -

They tell me they're working dogs, but that it happens to be their night off.


Maria said...

Quincy looks so beautiful! and so grown up, compared to her rounded puppy days :)

Sorry to hear you are having problems with poaching and theft locally. that's really not fun.

Poppy Cottage said...

I thought puppies............

Captain Shagrat said...

Hehe Quincy with the glove reminds me of my Harry lab with the way her ears are positioned, sort of pinned back but opened up. We used to say look Harry's got his 'ears on'. Labrador owners will probably know what I mean;-)

me said...

Quincy is so SHINY.

Robin Follette said...

Such a shame about the poachers. Quincy is adorable. I'm considering another lab to train as a bird hunting dog. Quincy is good PR for the breed.

Jennifer Montero said...

you can't go wrong with a black lab Robin. Besides being biddable, clever and sweet-natured they're a pretty common dog. This is a great advantage on a shoot day as there are usually at least three other black labs in the field. If yours goes astry or does something naughty, simply blame one of the other black labs - it's impossible to tell them apart ;)

Jennifer Montero said...

I think it's a combination of lots of scraps and rarely giving her a bath. Healthy living dog-style.

Jennifer Montero said...

That *is* a lab thing! Ears pinned back. I like your description of having her 'ears on'.

Of course, in Quincy's case when her nose is 'on' her ears go into shutdown and she ignores the recall whistle!

Sondra said...

i'm sorry to hear about your thieving/poaching issues.

i do have to tell you how MUCH i enjoy your blog. i'm living on a ranch in the mountains of montana, and both my american daughters live in the UK with their husbands.

for some reason i can't really explain, it's comforting to read about your life with the closeness to the land and the animals. my husband hunts; we have venison and elk in our freezer. with all the current attention in USA about guns and the evil sick people have done, it's nice to read about life as it should be.

may you have a wonderful Christmas and look forward to a new year.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Ach, poachers! It's only when you've gone to the trouble of growing or raising your own food that you realize what a truly heinous crime poaching is. A couple of local farmers had some oysters stolen, and I'm ready to lock the culprits up for life.

In cheerier news, nice dog! I'm glad Quincy is turning out so well.

Jennifer Montero said...

Sondra - Thank you for your kind words. And I'm envious of the elk in your freezer! Happy new year to you and your family, on both sides of the pond.

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - Oyster poaching is a new one on me, but I empathise with the oyster farmers that lost their stock.