A clean sweep of fieldsports projects are scuppered by enemy action after a ‘tidying up’ of red stag antlers bound together by chicken wire

My grinding yet penurious efforts as a Shooting Times contributor are being sabotaged. Time after time. I base my reasoning on the old Army saying: “Once is a matter of chance. Twice may be a coincidence. But if it happens a third time, it’s enemy action.”

Let me explain. Back in April, my tame red stag dropped his antlers, as normal. What was abnormal on this occasion was that both antlers were tightly bound together by twisted strands of chicken wire. I have had two master stags in my little park herd over the past 20 years. Rufus, the old one who died a few years back, once got his antlers caught up in some fence straining wire. We had to dart him with a tranquilliser in order to cut the stuff off. (Read this piece on where to find stag antlers.)

Strange crown

Last autumn, my current stag managed to wrap some chicken wire around his antlers. He’d rubbed the wire netting off a tree trunk, where it had been placed to protect the bark. The vet and I attempted to shoot him with a dart gun, but he was far too wily to come within range. In fact, he wouldn’t come near the bucket if he could still see the vet in the distance. I had no option but to leave matters as they were and hope he didn’t suffer any harm from his strange crown.

My chief concern was that when one antler dropped, but remained attached to the other, he might panic and thrash around, injuring an eye with the flailing antler. The vet, however, reckoned the weight of the first antler to go would bring the other one off with it. They normally come off within a day of each other anyway.

The vet was right, as it turned out. I looked out of my bedroom window one day in early April and saw the stag looking like an old donkey, bereft of any headgear. I dashed out and secured the fallen antlers before they could be nibbled by the hinds. I placed the antlers carefully in a barn. They looked amazing, being tightly bound together by a huge ball of wire. I planned to take some photographs then write an article about such incidents, which are widespread in the wild. A few weeks later, I went to the barn to retrieve the antlers and set them up for a photo. Disaster.

The wire had been removed and the antlers hung on a rafter, individually. My wife, it emerged, was the culprit. “Yes, I snipped all that nasty wire off. I am always tidying up after you,” she said, sternly.

So it goes on. I placed some steel shot on a wet cloth on the windowsill, to see if it rusted. It didn’t, for many weeks. But one day, the experiment was abruptly terminated by my wife, who chucked everything into the bin.

That was also the fate of the eco-wads I placed in the garden to observe how fast they degraded. “But they’d gone all weird and looked like dead starfish,” she proclaimed. Oh, Lord. You see what I’m up against? My wife also cuts each one of my columns out of the magazine, before filing them away somewhere — probably in the bin. Luckily, she never reads what I write.