The Deer Hunter

Cue Cavatina. Have it playing in the background as you read. You can think of me as Robert De Niro as well, if it’s not too great a challenge.

Yesterday. Rufus and I went off to one of our regular locations, the hills above the Upper Lliw reservoir. I always check to see that it is cow and shgeep free and sure enough, all the cows were on a different hill. So I parked up and off we set. We had just got to the man-made ridges where the US army trained during World War 2 when I heard and saw in the distance a pack of dogs, a rider and a quad bike. I managed to get Rufus on the lead and we headed for the high ground, the four foot mound, just before we were engulfed by the dogs. They were hunting dogs, out having exercise I assume, and I was worried about how they would react to Rufus.

Rufus was right next to me and clearly overwhelmed by all the hounds. They were all around us, stinking of dead things and shoving their noses into everything. Rufus was growling and I would have been too, if I hadn’t been trying to calm him down. The hunt master (I assume that was his title) was blowing on his hunting horn but didn’t seem that interested in controlling the pack. Fortunately, the dogs were in a good mood and Rufus was his usual restrained self, so there was no trouble and the pack moved on. All the way back to the car I could hear the hunting horn being blown, a brash, childish sound.

Today, after we’d been for a nice walk around the estate, I left Rufus guarding the house and went off to hunt deer. Margam Park has a herd of wild deer consisting of Fallow, Red and Pere David breeds. They’ve been on the site since Medieval times and there are references to deer there in Roman times, too. October is the rutting season and I’d long planned to try and get some photos of the bucks in action as they battled for top spot in the harem.

Fortunately, I met a jogger who told me where the deer could usually be found. I decided to climb the hill behind the park to get an idea of the layout and sure enough, I spotted a herd of about 15 deer in the fields below, right where the jogger said they’d be. I dropped down the the fields but the deer had disappeared. I’m a novice deer stalker but I understand the principles – stay down wind of them, move slowly and quietly and slowly. It only took a few minutes to spot them in a mud hole and although they had seen me as soon as I had seen them, they didn’t seem spooked, possibly as I was half concealed behind bushes. I was about 200 yards away but I couldn’t get any closer without being in full view so I backed off and headed around a low rise in the ground towards another bush, staying below the brow of the hill and trying to remember where they were in relation to my position.

Eventually, I reached the bush, which turned out to be an overgrown stone monument of some sort. I was now within 100 yards of the herd. They were still aware of me but as I was not moving, they didn’t seem concerned. The big male was more interested in something on the opposite side of them, which was closer to the main part of the park. I used this distraction to make my way a little closer, using another clump of bushes to approach without being seen. Eventually, I was within 70 yards of the group and I got some nice photos.

All this time I was eyeing up the path that would take me back to the park. I’d read that one thing to be wary of was the rutting males, full of testosterone, might decide I was a threat. I was aware of my escape routes, should I need them. But the path would take me closer still to the herd and in full view. I decided that they would probably run away rather than charge me, so I made my way along the gravel track, slowly getting closer in a round about way. I ended up around 50 yards from the herd, and apart from watching with some curiosity, they showed no real concern that I was there.

It was only while putting my camera away again later that I realised I had dropped a lens cap and a body cap somewhere along the way. They’re probably in the trophy cabinet of the male Fallow deer.

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Managing expectations

Another in the occasional series of management guides by Management Guru Rufus Blue.

Managing expectations is key in any business relationship. In this case, the relationship between master (me) and minion (Dave). This is best illustrated by an example this morning.

We have been having a run of bad weather, with heavy rain and strong, gusty wind. I require a walk every day and Dave is the means by which that walk is facilitated. He has a grasp of weather conditions that I don’t really have time to develop, and that’s fine (I can’t be perfect at everything). So I rely on Dave to pick the right moments to avoid the worst of the weather. But underlying this is the ongoing requirement for the daily walk.

This morning, it was raining. It had been yesterday as well. The aim was to build an acceptance that walking in the rain was okay and so yesterday, using the simple but effective technique known as ‘puppy dog eyes’, I ensured a walk in the drizzle. It set me up for this morning. Although the rain was coming down, Dave was already influenced by yesterday’s decision and was more susceptible to suggestion. Thus, there was no question over whether we were going out. It was a case of when and where.

Dave’s pretty good at finding decent places to go so I have no worries there and leave those decisions to him. Giving your minion some responsibility makes him feel valued, as indeed he is. But I didn’t want the effects of yesterday’s walk fading as time went on, so the puppy dog eyes came out again. Sure enough, and as expected, Dave started to get ready to go out. A triumph of the management of expectation by example and repetition.

We ended up at the Brynllenfrith plantation again. The name sounds grand, but it’s just some trees a little north of the Upper Lliw Reservoir. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to explore and, as usual, we had the place to ourselves. Once we were in amongst the trees, I let Dave off the lead (it’s so touching that he think’s I’m the one on the lead) and while he scrabbled around taking photos of the mushrooms and drops of water on the fir tree pines, I explored, made sure he didn’t get into any difficulties, and took my exercise. When he fell over, I didn’t laugh, even when he tried to make light of it by claiming it was a wet and slippery tree root he’d stepped on.

An added bonus was that we didn’t actually get wet because it held off raining until we got home.

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