While on the subject of roe (below), it is also worth noting that I currently have a huge glut of venison after a productive stalk at the weekend in a newly planted forest enclosure. The broadleaf trees were being hammered by a small residual population of roe which were fenced in last summer, and we were under strict instructions to knock them back. An opportunity presented itself in the sunset, but being a whimsical, soft-hearted soul, it didn’t sit very easily to shoot two does within fifteen seconds. I felt hot waves of guilt at finding them lying dead side by side in the snow a few minutes later.
Perhaps I am just a softie, but roe are such exquisitely beautiful animals that the spectacle of destruction was almost appalling. Fortunately the shots had been true and the deer went straight down, but it made me realise that I wouldn’t have the stomach to be a professional deer manager, killing beasts every day of my life. I don’t regret shooting these two – I understand that they had to go, and the logic behind my shots was unwaveringly robust, but I think it’s only right that as the dust settles, there is a twinge of sadness amongst the swirling emotions of excitement and delight. Maybe it is simpler to say that I wouldn’t like to have shot those two and felt nothing at all.
I’m lucky in that I stalk for sport and pleasure, and I’m not usually bound by the expectations of others to turn my hobby into the mechanical process of “deer control”. I’ve often stalked right in to deer, had the rifle to my shoulder and then decided against it, and being free to make that decision is part of the fun. I often stalk because it means I can lose myself on the hill for an entire day, and returning home with an empty roe bag is almost immaterial. Then again, there are times when the shot is the pinnacle of excitement – the logical conclusion to a hard-fought stalk, and I pull the trigger with enthusiasm at the task in hand.
Whatever the story, I am a base carnivore like every other sensible soul, and the prospect of this much venison is a total delight. I have plans to smoke it, cure it, dice it, mince it and dry it – I was given a sausage machine for Christmas, and if I dig around, I’m sure I can find Artie van der Biezen’s recipe for biltong which I scribbled down ten years ago in the bosveld. There will be no waste, and in a way I am glad to feel strange and unexpected emotions on killing these two.