My First Muntjac
That’s a bitch of a time to get up no matter how keen you are, but somehow I managed to stay awake enough to remember to put the rifle in the car and I set off on the 112mile journey to meet up with Mark from Dear Stalking England for my first stalking event in Suffolk
Now I had never even seen a Muntjac in the flesh so imagine my surprise when I nearly got one in the bag before even starting. Doing 70 down the A12 a Muntie casually walked across the road in front of me and I had to swerve to avoid it. It made the central reservation and I wished it luck with its next attempt on the south bound carriageway.
It was pitch black and freezing cold when we met up at the farm gate and despite felling something akin to jet lag Marks winning smile and crushing hand shake managed to get me all revved up for the stalk. DSE’s new base is work very much in progress and I felt Mark was just teasing when he pointed out the new building where stalkers would be able to get a fresh coffee in the morning before the stalk. “Not today mind, but in the future” I sipped my plastic coffee from my flask whilst admiring the barn and thinking it would be lovely when it’s finished.
Kitted up we set off for the first stalk. Having been bollocked on SD for my stupidity in carrying a loaded rifle with just the safety on, I took the advice of my learned peers, pressed the little catch on my Sako and lifted the bolt to its first position for extra safety.
After stalking across to a large field we were faced with a ditch that was a jump to get across and I heard an odd rattle from behind as I jumped so I immediately checked my rifle only to find the bolt had come open. It had fallen fully back and £1.10p worth of Federal .243 bullet had simply fallen out of the gun.
Not such a great idea then.
I slipped another round in and closed the bolt properly and clicked the safety on again.
The fields were devoid of deer but on approaching another ditch by a wood we could just see the top of a Muntjac above the edge. Sadly no shot presented so we carried on our way. A startled Muntie gave us its famous middle finger salute with its white tail and that was the last we saw of it.
Moving on to a road which ran through the woodland we came across a very large (by Munti standards) buck with a nice set of antlers about 30m in the woods to our right. Mark said it was a magnificent specimen of a Munti which worried me a bit as I didn’t want to shoot anything that had a medal fee attached. The wife would cut my head off and mount it if I spent an extra £500+ on shooting a deer.
In the next few min’s whilst I had my rifle pointing down the ride waiting for the buck to appear I was debating the urge to shoot it against the risk of it costing me a fortune. I was told I’d get but a split second to take the shot as Muntie’s hardly ever stand still. Fortunately the decision was taken out of my hands as the buck disappeared from view never to be seen again.
We stalked round to some barns and creeping slowly round a corner I could see a Muntjac doe emerging from the wood. I should have gone for sticks and rifle immediately but instead I tried to get Marks attention as he was about 3m in front of me and obviously hadn’t seen the deer. I managed to get him to stop but he still couldn’t see it. I opted for setting up and just managed to get the rifle off my shoulder as the doe walked to the edge of the wood no more than 50m away and stopped dead. As I eased the rifle on to the sticks and popped the lens cover Mark was still saying “where is it” My head dropped to the sights and I just caught a glimpse of the Munti through the sights staring straight at me before it vanished left.
OH I can see it now said Mark And we both laughed
We went back to the car and drove about a bit looking for Fallow but not much was happening so we trogged into the village for breakfast. We were struggling to find anything open and to my horror Mark found us a table in a hotel???? I could not believe they would serve someone dressed like Rambo in such a posh establishment but incredibly they did and without so much as a sideways look. And a very lovely full English it was too. Mark said it was an apologise for no coffee on arrival and I reckon he’d made up for it in spades. The journey back to the farm somehow turned to ghost stories of which Mark had several quite remarkable ones. The conversation then turned to DSC1 and some very useful tips followed. We discussed the qualifying shots and I pointed out id never shot from the kneeling position? The irony of this was soon to follow.
Back to the farm and I had a few hours to kip in the car before the afternoon stalk and Mark went off to do some chores. I awoke and spent a while shooting the 1000s of crows coming in over the cover crop. It wasn’t quite as good just using my index finger and shouting bang but had I had my shotgun with me it would have been a cracking afternoons sport.
Mark arrived back with good news having sorted out a future breakfast venue and some accommodation for the stalkers. He was telling me about all the people he knew and how they were all distant relations of some sort. I was resisting the urge the urge to ask what relation he was to fellow Norfolk man Stephen Fry as he looked remarkably like him
On his travels he had also located a herd of Fallow for us to stalk with a particularly impressive black buck in the mix.
We drove to another set of woods with a large pheasant pen and some well-prepared drives in between blocks of woodland. We zig zaged through the woods and my heart skipped a beet as we would near the edge and lean out to look up the ride, every time expecting to see a herd of deer just waiting for us.
In the woods themselves I kept seeing hares. The size of the things was mighty impressive and they were difficult to tell if they were Muntie’s or Hairs at first glance. There was dear spoor everywhere and perfect little lanes formed by many Munties, but sadly no deer.
Time was pushing on and I could see Mark was getting anxious about finding something. “How can you lose a whole herd of bloody Fallow” he implored the gods of stalking.
I was thinking it was maybe a ghost herd he’d seen
Then our efforts appeared to have been rewarded. A black fallow buck and two does. The buck and one doe moved off quickly but a single silver haired doe stood stock still. Sadly right behind a tree. I had a perfect view of its arse at 65m and the rest of the beast was obscured. I moved my scope to the left of the tree and decided once its head was out I was going to stick one right below its ear. Then sadly Mark said the back stop in the direction of shot was inadequate so I would have to wait for the deer to walk forward and line up in front of another large tree. I prepared to shout for the deer to hold in the right spot but it turned and exited the scene all the time keeping the tree between us.
Light was fading and the rain that had been falling as drisel was making an attempt at becoming proper rain. I was mentally half way between the knowledge last light was a good time for a shot and that disappointment of potentially another blank stalk. The day had been fantastic and I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself in the beautiful surroundings in Marks company, but we all know you can’t help wishing you had one in the bag.
Then ahead we could see something on the ride and it looked like a deer. I had to drop to my knees to get a clear view under a overhanging bow and it was definitely a Muntjac doe, but it was rangey. I reckoned 150ish and Mark confirmed 145m with his range finding binoculars. I wasn’t going to waste time adjusting my sticks for a kneeling shot and it was the only shot I had, so I set up free hand kneeling and rested sideways against the base of the large tree.
“Can you get it” asked Mark
“Hang on I’ll let you know” I said
I got my eye to the glass and to my surprise I had a steady bead on the heart so without hesitation I squeezed.
The deer simply vanished from view but Mark was jubilant. He had been spotting through his binos and was full of congratulations and handshakes. I was far less convinced I’d pulled it off if I am honest and for sure I didn’t know which way the dear had run. A wave of concern swept over me so I voiced my concerns to Mark who said “no problem mate you dropped it on the spot”.
God I was relieved
After a respectful time we walked up and there she was my first Muntie. Apparently as it was my first I had to be blooded and Mark did the honours before taking a pic for me. The shot looked good and the 100g 243 had gone through with minimal meat damage (bout a 25mm exit wound) I was over the moon.
I then had to gralloch the beast. I warned Mark this was only my third Gralloch and proceeded to demonstrate my advanced Freddy Kruger stile. Mark ran me through all the inspections and we were both chuffed to see a chunk missing in the heart where the bullet had passed through. We buried the gralloch and headed back to the car which was conveniently only about 300m away
I reckon we only had about an hour of shootable light left so this deer had come to us just in time. We headed back to the farm and said our good buys and Mark shot off apparently desperate to see who killed miss Beal on East Enders
The two hour journey home was in miserable heavy rain but I smiled all the way.
Thanks Mark, see you again soon