Reaching the heights in a plum job
Shooting Times & Country|April 21, 2021
With damage by munties apparent in the woodland, a morning stalk fails to find the culprit but a plum orchard yields the perfect opportunity
SIMON GARNHAM

As a newly trained commando soldier, you want to stand out. I was known to be quick. Regrettably, my reputation for speed was only on a computer keyboard. I’d have preferred a good name for swiftness in something macho, but no. I tended to be called upon for the moments when touch-typing was required and no clerks were available. One such occasion took place at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.

We had helped secure the base and were establishing forward operations into the Hindu Kush mountains, playing a game of hide-and-seek with Osama bin Laden. It quickly became clear that we needed an awful lot of kit that was in the UK. Urgent Operational Requirements needed writing at the rush. Who was the finest British touch-typist on camp? Step forward Captain Garnham.

Wish-lists included everything from quad bikes to underslung grenade launchers. The creative juices flowed, writing exaggerated reasons for their essential urgent despatch. I stopped short of the assault engineers’ request for Silly String of the sort found at children’s parties. Actually, it was useful for spraying into narrow cave entrances where tripwires might be stretched. We needed something extremely lightweight and colourful to rest gently upon them and reveal their taut presence. My mother came up trumps for that one via British Forces Post. We tried not to trouble Whitehall for party accessories as a rule.

I mention the military wish lists because they sprang to mind this week. The trail had gone cold on a muntjac. My son, William, and I were on listening watch in a spring woodland. We were wondering how the munty had given us the slip. Everywhere, a thick curtain of green shoots, green stems, green leaf bud and green branches offered the most marvellous concealment for our evasive and diminutive quarry.

We crept on through the wild garlic, hoping that a little movement might betray the beast.

Seventeen eggs

We disturbed a hen pheasant that clattered away noisily. The rough scrape among the nettles that she revealed was a captivating sight. Her precious cache of 17 eggs was perfectly concealed, the matt olive shells blending naturally into the dust and the undergrowth.

“Muntjac are omnivores you know. We need to protect those,” I observed. Poor William continued to suffer whispered lessons as we admired the carefully concealed nest. “Munties are known to eat eggs.”

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