I have shot all sorts of deer, including moose, but I have never managed to bag a sika. Admittedly, I have only actually been stalking for these elusive deer once, up in a place near Inverness. But it was a determined effort by three of us, over several days. And we failed. We saw plenty of signs, and we even glimpsed a few animals, but none of us managed to get a shot. The closest we came was when one of us almost stepped on a deer that was hiding in a relatively small tussock of grass.
“The beast somehow managed to remain invisible — and then bolted from my feet like a rabbit. I nearly had a heart attack,” was my friend’s description of this event. We returned down south with a renewed respect for these notoriously sneaky and tough little deer.
A sika surprise on the airwaves
I hadn’t really thought of that trip — or, indeed, about sika generally — until my local British Deer Society branch (North-East England) sent out an invitation to members to attend a talk given by the chap who shot the record sika head. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it — but, as chance would have it, that very same day I was driving across the spine of England with BBC Radio 4 playing and stumbled on an edition of the Nature programme that was all about the sika of the Purbeck region of Dorset.
Now, some of you will know that I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the BBC. That is to say, I love to hate the state broadcaster, with its Guardian-reading, tofu-munching, urbanite sympathies. Well, okay, I don’t really hate the BBC — it’s more that I think it is incredibly important and should live up to much higher standards than other broadcasters. And in truth, it normally does. Not that I am normally one to admit this.
So I listened to the programme with some trepidation, ready to hurl insults at the radio if it started spouting the usual Bambifi ed nonsense. And as it became clear that the programme was going to focus on the sika on National Trust and RSPB reserves, I said to myself: “I bet they brush over the fact that both those organisations are killing sika." But I was wrong. Very wrong. To my astonishment, the programme included substantial interviews with two deer managers, who were allowed to explain, clearly and in some detail, how and why they cull substantial numbers of sika.
Which leaves me with little to say, except “well done” to the BBC, the National Trust and the RSPB. (Normal service will be resumed next week!)
To a Deputy Chief Constable’s credit
While I am in the process of being nice to people (an unexpected and highly unusual aberration, admittedly), I should go the whole hog and mention Deputy Chief Constable Andy Marsh, of Hampshire Constabulary. You may recall that a few months ago I laid into DCC Marsh, who chairs the Association of Chief Police Officers' committee on firearms licensing, because he appeared to be the driving force behind the proposed increases in certificate fees.
Well, what I have neglected to tell you is that shortly after my column appeared, I received a long and detailed personal letter from DCC Marsh. He explained some of the reasoning behind his report, and invited me to contact him for further discussion (an invitation which, to my shame, I have not yet taken up).
Now, leave aside the gist of the argument and consider this: how many other senior police offiers, in similar national roles, would even bother to respond like this to an obscure magazine columnist? How many would care enough to invite a dialogue?
I have a feeling that DCC Marsh might turn out to be someone with whom we can do business.
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