For me the stalking is just an excuse for a good day out and as I had a couple of days free this week I thought to bag me a few deer for the freezer plus get a bit of a walk and also check up on my trail cameras.
Recently I tried using some wheat, and also some beef nuts, to feed the deer into the trail camera and to my amazement a pine marten appeared on the wheat, I don't think he was eating it but maybe it attracted mice or something which he did have an interest in. This was offset by the fact that since I put the wheat down I haven't had a single photo of a deer as I think the sika are simply too wary to come anywhere near something new that has appeared on the ground.
I'd been told that pine martens like eggs, raspberry jam and peanuts and so I baited the area in front of the camera with all three and had put the camera in place about a week ago with pretty limited expectations.
On Tuesday I went up for some stalking and the first priority, of course, was to have some lunch:
Then I set off into the various woodlands and up some forest clearings to see if there were any deer lurking. Even at this time of year they are loath to make an appearance in daylight and so the time after sunset is really the only chance but, just occasionally, the stalker who covers some ground in thick forest is in with a chance in daylight:
Although it hasn't been a warm late winter it hasn't been cold either and there is starting to be some grass grow along the side of the tracks and this is always good to get the deer moving:
I took a little break from unsuccessfully chasing the deer to check the camera that I had baited for the pine marten and found that it is true - pine martens like eggs, raspberry jam and peanuts. I had approx one hour of video on the camera over a period of about a week and almost all were of the pine marten who enjoyed his visits.
Initially he came, looked in amazement at all the goodies that had fallen from the sky and then he went away again for a few minutes, I guess to have a swift brandy to steady his nerves. Then he returned to take in the full extent of his discovery and I've got to say I think this video is very funny. It is clear that he sized up the eggs, then he went away for a few seconds and then he realized that leaving such valuable prizes lying about left him open to thievery. It wasn't a few seconds until he was back, picked up one egg and took it away, presumably to hide it. "An egg hidden in a secret place is worth two lying on a forest ride" is a very well known pine marten saying:
Over the next 45 minutes he kept returning and managed to remove all 6 of the eggs that I'd left and over the week he also got stuck into the jam and peanuts. He even made an appearance in daylight - I guess when stuff appears to fall from the sky it is important to keep checking in case a delivery arrives and someone else gets to it before you do:
So, having recovered the camera card I once more baited the area in front of the camera with some eggs and jam with the intention of returning the next day to see how rapidly he picked up on the latest delivery of goodies.
None the less the stalking continued and once the light started to go I managed a wee stag calf that was ideal for the freezer:
On my return the next day there was plenty of time for lunch and tea and general snooping about. When it came time to check the camera I noticed that, once more, the eggs were gone but that one was lying in the ditch in about 4 inches of water. It isn't very clear from the camera video but there is good sized ditch between the camera and the area I'm baiting and this is full of water.
On viewing the video it became clear why there was an egg in the ditch - the clue was that the latest eggs were a fraction bigger than the first lot and this made them just a little bigger than a pine marten's mouth. So after a titanic struggle with our egg, and a little break to eat raspberry jam to keep our spirits up along the way, it becomes clear how the egg ended up in the ditch:
The camera is back in position with a good supply of peanuts out the front of it this time plus I fished the escaped egg out of the ditch and put it back on the grass so it will be interesting to see if there are any further developments. You can see the remains of the wheat (starting to sprout) and beef nuts in this photo as well though the ditch isn't really clear in this photo either:
Then it was time to head off and try to sneak up on some deer. It proved somewhat harder going than the previous night but even so it was good to be out and about:
Right at least light I saw a movement which I thought was a fox but on stalking in it turned out to be a little sika and it is now hanging in the larder, so another successful day in all respects.