Following last week?s rant about the antics of the BBC in headlining their Home Affairs correspondent?s non-story about shotgun certificates and children, the reporter in question, Danny Shaw, emailed me the following message:

Thanks for your interest in this. It?s sparked a lot of debate. Our coverage made clear that children under 15 years old can only use shotguns under adult supervision. The Association of Chief Police Officers says that children under the age of 10 shouldn?t be able to use them at all. The issue has been aired before, but what?s new is the information from 51 police forces we obtained, particularly about under-10s. That?s why we did the story.

Now, the fundamental story, as you well know, has been run umpteen times before. How typical of the BBC?s arrogance to assume that it is the sole purveyor of national news. And justifying a story on little more than the way the information was collated on this particular occasion, strikes me as rather desperate. What did the BBC?s recycling of this story add to our understanding of the issues? Nowt.

The truth, I suspect, is that the idea was pitched to Danny Shaw by somebody with a vested interest in attacking shooting. To be fair, Mr Shaw and his editors probably had no idea they were being used, even if they were susceptible to an anti-rural story. The idea of youngsters legally carrying guns (as the BBC’s website initially stated) must seem preposterous to the latte-and-tofu set.

Incidentally, a mention in dispatches here for BASC?s media department, which dealt with the issue with well-rehearsed efficiency. Perhaps that new media centre is coming into its own?

Losing the head

In an unmistakable symbol of spring, Rufus, my tame stag, has dropped his antlers. He?s a few days early this year. I happened to be passing by his field when the first one came off, leaving a red wound and a trickle of blood. Each antler has about 13 points and they weigh several kilos. When it dropped, Rufus seemed disconcerted. For several moments he jumped around, thrashing his head about, though not actually brushing the remaining antler on the ground. I thought this second antler would soon come off, but it didn?t.

Presumably, the sudden weight loss on one side of his head felt very odd and it was this rapid change, rather than a conscious desire to rid himself of the remaining antler, that caused the stag to jump around like a fish on the end of a line. He soon settled down. The next morning I confidently expected to find the second antler lying on the ground, but it remained stubbornly attached to Rufus?s head. Not until the early evening did the second one finally come off.

Having lost both antlers, Rufus is transformed. With his thick neck and heavy body he doesn?t have the grace of the hinds and he?s also looking a bit moth-eaten to boot, with a rather scraggy coat as he starts to moult. In a few short days he has been transformed from the sort of magnificent beast that features in Victorian sporting art, to an animal with all the charisma of an old, broken-down donkey. And he seems to know it too, as he has spent the last few days hiding in the rushes.

The extraordinary thing is that his antlers start to regrow the moment they are shed. Within three and a half months, his great rack will be back to its former glory. It?s an amazing thing to witness the rate at which they grow. If I get myself organised this year, I shall take photographs every week or so from the same angle. They would make an interesting record.

Mind you, when thinking of the stag?s incredible ability to grow antlers in such a short space of time, the fact is that the hinds perform an even greater feat, albeit over a longer timescale. They grow an entire live baby deer inside their bodies.