My sponsored DSC1 and route to stalking PLUS puppy diary

A day of first Times and New experiences

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Hi all,
It's been some time since I had anything of interest to report, but with an ear to ear grin I can now report that I've finally caught up with my third deer since I started stalking almost this time last year, and the first of a new species for me (fallow). This trip was very special for several reasons, not only was it the ffifth time I've been out with Barry since first going on my birthday last August (and so somewhat of a relief to finally get a deer in the crosshairs) but it was also a chance for me to properly christen several pieces of kit, and my dog's first "find" on a real deer.
The omens couldn't have been much better, a warm sunny day, clear skies and the smell of springtime. This would be my first stalk with my new (to me) rifle, which I loaded carefully into the car along with the dog and my wife, who would be dropping me off and then heading away shopping for the day. Meeting Barry at our traditional filling station car park and transferring gear to his truck, with the dog unceremoniously plonked in my lap with nowhere else to sit we headed off to the farm some 10 minutes away. The plan was to take Barry's rifle just in case and have a quick walk around the field margins on the edge of a wood, check out a trail cam Barry had put up, and then head a few fields away to sort out the zero on my own rifle before I set out stalking.
In her usual fashion the dog behaved less well than she should have. As if sensing that I wasn't paying her 100% of my attention, she took to walking at full stretch of the lead again, rather than loosely next to me as I've been teaching her. Her head was down a lot scenting rabbits and old deer slots and who knows what else, but generally she was ok. She's never been much of a puller on the lead, so with it looped over my belt I had fair control over her enthusiasm.
Barry, Poppy and I made our way without incident to the camera, and found that the only pictures seemed to be of Barry's backside after he had set it up, and several more blank white images. Barry suspects a dip in a muddy puddle may have been the reason for the lack of discernible images. Oh well! We headed back to the truck and tucked ourselves out of the breeze alongside a hedge, and with a little faffing positioned the target and truck in such a way that i could rest on the truck to take my shots. I took the dog 50 yards or so out of the way, not sure how she might react to the noise. As it happens she barely even showed an interest in it, which is good. With a little to-ing and fro-ing I had the rifle set up and it was time to try my luck.
Barry had already showed me the boundary, and with a few last words of advice he left me to get on with it. I'd call him if I dropped one, or else he'd meet me at last light. I was excited as I made my way along a fenceline to intercept the woodland. This was the first time I'd stalked alone. I formulated a rough plan to stalk the very edge of the woodland, stopping several times for a few minutes at places that would afford a good view through the trees in case any deer were already active in the woods, waiting for dusk before they came out.
A few vantage points revealed no visible deer in the trees, so I decided to make my way to a small hill which overlooked several points where deer had obviously been coming in and out of the woods. My plan was to stand in right against the hedge, rifle on the sticks (home made and as yet untested) and stay still and quiet until darkness fell. Twenty minutes passed. The dog was getting bored, rooting around in the grass at my feet, and I had just lost sight of a hare that had been entertaining me some 30 yards away, oblivious to our quiet presence. I texted Barry to say no joy yet, then texted the wife. I reached down to give the dog a fuss and generally tuned out for a minute or two.
Glancing back up, I couldn't believe my eyes! A young buck had made his way out, and was standing smack in front of me, 100 yards from the nearest cover and maybe 50 yards out from my position.
"Where the hell did you come from?!"
I glanced down at the dog, but she was still preoccupied with the ground at my feet. The buck was looking at me. Very slowly I shifted my position and lined up on him. He was facing right, quartering slightly but not too much to rule out a chest shot. I was flooded with adrenaline, it had been so sudden! He knew something was wrong. I kept still, and he ran to the right and slightly uphill. He stopped and watched me. Slowly I pivoted, stepping over the dog, and got the rifle on him again. Perfect broadside. He turned and ran back downhill, then stopped and faced me head on. No way was I going to try a headshot.
The buck was skittish, I got the feeling he was still trying to work out what I was, and I didn't want him to! It was minutes til last light, and if he spooked and made a break for it I knew I had no chance of another that night. He pronked away downhill. "That's it" I thought "he'll be off back to the trees"
About 80 or 90 yards out he stopped and looked over his shoulder at me. No shot.
Then he turned broadside left.
Thoughts raced through my head and the adrenaline coursed. He was alert and close to the boundary, it was near dark and I had a totally unproven dog. I took aim at the base of his neck.
As I squeezed the 270's trigger I got the impression the deer had made his decision too, to run! Too late. He turned on impact and his legs folded, he dropped and I cycled the bolt. I watched his legs twitch a few times, and covered him. 5 minutes passed and with no more movement I was confident my shot was good.
The dog had switched on. I'm not sure if she'd finally smelled him or was just picking up on my adrenaline, but her excitement was visible. I untied her from the hedge, and gave her the full 2 meters of lead.
"Find it, then, show me!"
Hardly a difficult task, but it still pleased me to have her tug me along straight to the deer. Never a shy dog, she got stuck in for a good old sniff, tail going like mad. I left her to it and stuck my hand under the beast's head. A huge exit wound in the lower neck confirmed my shot placement. I texted Barry and started about the gralloch, but in the dark and having only watched others before I ended up waiting for backup rather than making a mess of it. Poppy got a little over enthusiastic and tore open her own neck wound as well. I wished I'd picked one of her nice reserved littermates!
Barry arrived with a stalking friend, and with their guidance and I was able to complete the gralloch by torchlight. Another first, and another piece of kit "blooded"- the knife that Wildboar1978 gifted me last year.
No pictures of the beast I'm afraid folks as it was dark, although he's now hanging in my cellar after considerable physical effort and a bollocking off the wife for dribbling blood through the kitchen.
All in all a good day! Rifle christened, home made sticks christened, knife christened, new species dropped, dog acquainted with real deer and soon the freezer filled (and looking at the size of him a few mAtes freezers too, if they can be convinced to eat bambi

I must say thanks to Barry as well, who has been really good to me ever since my first outing with him was a blank, he's had me back several times for free and taught me a lot as well. Top man!

I hope my write up was enjoyable and didn't bore anybody too much! Thinking about it now, I'm still beaming!
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