Using hides

Tues 29th Nov 2011

Deben hide seat (copy 180px x 127px)I want to begin this week’s blog by mentioning the red deer rut again. Although it’s pretty much come to an end there is still some late activity as I thought there might be. Just a few days ago two friends of mine up on Exmoor, Jackie and Sheila, heard two stags having a massive fight. I reckon one of those hinds with a late calf had come into season in the area. They also heard the stags trying to roar. It’s the only time of the year that you’ll hear this.

Now here’s a question for you. What happens to a stag to enable him to make the amazing roaring sound that can be heard during the autumn rut? I’d love to hear from you if you know. If you do, then drop me an email at johnny@johnnykingdom.co.uk. I’ll tell you the answer next week.

A few people have asked me about my hides recently so I thought that’s what I’d focus on this week.  Well I’ve put up lots of hides in my time and still have eight or nine up on Exmoor. Many of them I’ve built myself. The oldest one still standing has been there for 26 years and has a tawny owl nesting in it. It’s about 30 feet up in the air. I’ll tell you how it came about.

Many years ago a load of old iron pylons were taken down and replaced by newer, bigger ones. They were left lying on the farmers’ land where they fell. A chap I knew, Dr Chesterfield, let me have his and I got a gang of about 20 men to come and help me move them. A great friend of mine, Michael Warren, welded them together. We made a concrete base, hoisted the pylons up and set to building a hide on top, way up in the air.

The hide itself measured 8 x 10 feet and there was a wonderful view from up top. I went up there again just last year when I was filming with UK TV. It’s a bit rickety now after all those years so I was careful not to tread on any rotten old floorboard. The tawny owl flew out as I climbed up which is how I know he’s still nesting there.

The way I do my filming I like the animals to come to me, so I choose where I build my hides very carefully. I’ve got several in woodlands and my latest I’ve built for filming the wild boar. A lot of the footage for my DVD ‘Wild Boar Excitement!’ was taken from it.

I also have a portable one man hide made by Deben. It’s one of the best hides I’ve ever had. It is ever so quick and easy to put up and has lots of pockets and zips. What’s more, it even converts into a chair. I’ve found it particularly useful when filming birds down by the pond. It’s so easy to move that I can simply pick it up from inside and creep slowly forward without disturbing the birds. It really is brilliant.

If you are thinking of buying a portable hide check out their website www.deben.com. Deben equipment is also stocked by Exmoor Leisure at www.exmoorleisure.co.uk.

Another of my hides that a lot of North Devon people would recognise is made from my old chariot that I used to take around the markets to sell my DVD’s from. It’s now up on our land and I use it for badger watching.

There’s one last thing I want to tell you about this week. It’s something I was asked to do for the local community at the secondary school in South Molton. I was very pleased to do it because I was one of the very first pupils to go to the school when it opened years ago. And what did I do? Well, I was asked to make a little speech at the official opening of a zebra crossing.

What’s so special about this particular zebra crossing is that the children have been fighting for eight years to get it built. It was a lovely event. We had tea and biscuits and cakes that the kids had made themselves. They even stopped cars and lorries passing by and handed out biscuits and cakes to the drivers. One of the boys had dressed up in a zebra crossing costume. I think the children should be very proud of themselves for what they’ve achieved and I want to say a big well done to them all.

This weekend is going to be a busy one as I’ll be at the ‘Dunster by Candlelight’ event on Friday and Saturday. If you’re going along do come and say hello to me on my stall in the tithe barn. Then on Sunday I’m off to Dulverton for ‘Dulverton by Starlight’. I’ll just be strolling around that day so I hope I bump into a few of you.

Whatever you’re doing next weekend, have a great time and I’ll talk to you again next week.