Sunday, 7 October 2012

Elk Hunt...

Yesterday (06/10) I participated in a local elk hunt which had been arranged by the University here. It was an invite for all the exchange students studying forestry from a local forestry company to go along and see something new and act as beaters in a driven shoot.

Early start at 6:00am and we were picked up at our student accomodation. Surprisingly there aren't many forestry exchange students studying here so it was us three from the UK and 6 Czechs who we had already spent quite a bit of time with.

No time for breakfast but it didn't matter because it was being provided for free at the hunting cabin in the woods. A nice big fire was already on the go and we met a few of the people running the shoot. Not long after breakfast the guests started to arrive with their expensive cars, expensive outdoor clothing and big guts, the usual sort.

After a briefing on the plan for the day we set off in the cars to the first location for the shoot dressed in our red caps and vests. The shooters made their way around to the other side whilst we beaters headed off to our position to create a chain of people through the forest which would drive the elk towards the shooters. We were provided with two wooden batons to create as much noise as we could whilst walking.

The horn blew three times and we were off, walking slowly, shouting, clacking our sticks and trying to keep equal distance between the person in the chain either side who was 150 - 200 metres away. After awhile due to the terrain it was impossible to see the person either side of you but I kept going through dense forest and swamp when all of a sudden I saw movement, a young male elk not 20 metres in front. We paused for a few seconds looking at each other and then he ran off towards the right with me wondering if he would still be alive in a few minutes time. I got to the end of my beat at a long clearing in the forest where a powerline ran through. Several others also made it but the chain had become a bit confused and some people weren't there yet. The few of us who were stood in a safe location and waited to see what happened, it was deadly quiet.

We stood there in the rain and cold for a good 10 minutes waiting for instructions and wondered where the others were when all of a sudden BANG! A shot rang out that must have been heard for miles and all of a sudden it became real and there were 5 more shots shortly after that. We all looked at each other wondering what had happened.

We got the order to move, down to the shooter's position to meet up with the others. The word was a large bull elk and a calf had been shot but it wasn't clean so they needed help finding them. Eventually we made it back to the road and the others who were all safe and accounted for. Turned out this group of shooters were useless and no-one had actually hit anything at all even though we had driven 3 elks out in front of them. A small part of me was disappointed after all our efforts but a large part of me was glad that these 3 elk would live another day at least.

We returned, soaking wet to the cabin for a free lunch and to dry off a bit around the fire. After eating we got ready for another shoot at a different location. Same procedure again but this time the gaps in the chain were smaller which made it easier. Walking through the forest clacking my sticks and I saw an interesting looking bird through the trees, it flew off before I could get a proper look but as I continued through the forest I saw it again with another one this time, it was two Hazel Grouse! So the day had suddenly become all worth it. The second shoot yielded nothing aswell, there weren't even any elk this time. But we finished up and headed back to the cabin again where we were presented with a gift for our efforts from the forest company. It was a very nice pocket torch, plus we got to keep the vests and hats as a little souvenir.

Finnish Bird List additions:
44. Hazel Grouse

Free stuff.

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