Sprung

There’s a blackbird scolding in the cherry tree. He’s warning his partner their past month’s energies have been invested in vain. The nest she built, the eggs she laid are about to be pillaged by a weasel. The weasel has a nest too and babies to feed, so she raids the nests of others to take care of her own offspring.

Weasel and her mate slink around hunting during the daytime. We sometimes see one or other dash across the lawn, a pilfered bird egg in their mouth. The raids are just intermittent enough that the shotgun is never ready in time to end the mustelids’ lives.

At night time there’s a feral cat on the prowl. He’s been terrorising the birdlife too and killing the young wild rabbits, which frolic amongst the daffodils and the roses. I’ve seen him, in the light of the full moon, arched aggressively and eyes blazing as he defends a dog bone he’s scavenging.

Spring has sprung and all creatures—herbivores, carnivores and omnivores— are taking advantage of Mother Nature’s bounty. Most have young to feed, as well as themselves and there is an urgency amongst both predators and prey to consume as much protein as possible.

The new season’s grass— rampant, bright and full of natural sugars—is not kind to winter-starved pigs. They crop it hungrily but it scours their stomachs, turning their black-bauble dung into dark green slop. The slop accumulates on their tails and stains their hocks.

Goats appear in places they haven’t been since last spring. They travel far from their hilltop haunts to the lowlands and there they feast upon the tender new growth of blackberry leaves and flat weeds.

Deer are feasting too, late to bed and early to rise, they alternate between gorging and sleeping. This morning it’s me who is the slinking predator and the deer are my prey.

I’ve not been a teenager for nearly 40 years but I’ve just seen three available males and I’m behaving like a love-struck girl. My heart is racing, my brain is racing and I’m making a plan to get myself at least one cervus today.

Which one?

The two redheads are big blokes but they’re lean and rough. The more mature one is the horniest but his appendages appear soft and downy. The other has nothing up top. He’s not horny at all but with more of the good grass he might grow a worthy pair.

Lurking near them is a little mummy’s boy. He’s not long off the tit and it shows. He’s a scruffy and nervous little individual, hanging with the big boys for security. They hate him as he brings unwanted attention with his flickering flash of black and white tail.

I make a cunning plan, confident I can get all three males to come home with me. I drop back, sneak up a rock-strewn gutter, utilise breeze and cover till I’m above them. Or am I? Where’d they go?

As it happens, the two big rednecks have caught wind of my intentions and they make eyes at me just long enough for me to realise I’ve been sprung. Somehow, without me communicating verbally, they know I’m only after them for their body and they’re not interested in a girl like me.

The odd-boy-out is hiding now, playing peekaboo amidst a thicket of manuka and matagouri. Even for a weaner he is tiny. He’s thin, his hair stands on end and his horny protrusions are ‘pffft.’ For all that, he is kinda cute, too cute to tear limb from limb with a piece of speedy metal.

So it’s been a wasted morning, I’ve failed as a predator. I stomp away disappointed – no meals on wheels for the ravenous offspring today. Not that my offpsring need me to feed them. They’ve been off the tit for a very long while, weaned and thoroughly independent unlike the kids, kits, kittens and chicks all about me.

Then I see treasure, dropped carelessly beside the creek. A freshly cast buck paddle. Big strong base, 10 defined points, chocolate brown and perfect. Till today, right this minute, I had no clue there was a quality buck in the vicinity.

So, just like that, my hunt is no longer a waste of time. If I needed a reminder to pull my head in and appreciate I was out here, free to roam with rifle in hand and with the opportunity to harvest a feed, this was it.

So I pick up my lip, lift my shoulders and put my smile back the right way up. I tuck that buck’s gift under my arm and appreciate it as the treasure it is. Not only has this cast-away antler brightened my day today, it’s given me hope for next season’s possibilities too, should I be lucky enough to roam and hunt for yet another year.

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