When Cervusguide (Tom) put up the post advertising a free Muntjac stalk for anyone who had never shot one of the species I didnít for a minute think that I would stand a chance of being selected. However I was more than a little happy and surprised to receive a message from him to advise that both myself and one other forum member had been chosen
Until Tomís post I didnít have any idea where Cornbury Park was, however once googled I was especially pleased to see that it is between Charlbury and Leafield in Oxfordshire. The reason being that as a Satcoms apprentice in the early eighties I spent many happy months at the British Telecom International training college which was based on an old radio station at Leafield, only a couple of miles from Cornbury.
Thursday soon arrived and I was due to meet Tom at the Deer Larder at 3pm for a tour of the Park and then to set off for a stalk in the surrounding woodland. I made most of my kit preparations the evening before and got away in good time in-order to re-acquaint myself with old haunts from well over 30 years ago!! A real trip down memory lane, following the same route down the A40 from Herefordshire and driving up the access road to what used to be the radio station but is now the Caterham ex F1 teams HQ. Their security looked pretty handy so I took a quick picture and went on my way, looking forward to the real reason for todayís tripÖ.
I was soon meeting Tom and after a cup of tea we set off in the Polaris Ranger to have a look around the fenced part of the deer park. There are certainly some amazing facilities and great to see between 300 and 400 Formosan Sika in a number of naturally occurring groups, the Stags and older Prickets all together and the hinds in their own group. There are some very impressive trophy animals for anyone wanting to complete that collection! After the sika we had a look at a new enterprise which is a small flock of Mouflon with a very good looking ram in residence.
I think the fenced park is around 450 acres so those animals within have a good amount of space to spread out and do their own thing. The total estate is however 5000 acres with an amazing area of deciduous woodland which even now I have only seen a fraction of!
We were soon parked up on the edge of the woodland and I readied my kit. I had brought a Howa .243 with me and Sako 90gr factory ammo. The weather had been quite dull in the morning with a big storm going through around mid-day. Now there was beautiful sunshine and blue skies, although there was quite a stiff breeze which tended to swirl through the woods in many directions. The woodland is fairly open with some wide rides and gently undulating contours, really attractive in the sunshine but quite crunchy with dried leaves underfoot. Within 300yds Tom was pointing out the first Muntjac buck and to prove my inexperience it took me quite some time to set my eyes on it! I was glassing too far into the distance through trees when itís head was showing probably only 70yds away. He was a good looking buck and too good for culling today as there was obviously medal potential in the not too distant future. Throughout the day I was very impressed with Tomís professionalism and strong ethics for Ďproperí deer management, definitely a stalker and not a killer!!
We set off again and soon saw several pairs of Roe and more Muntjac, all quality animals and not difficult to get within easy shooting range of any of them. Although there is a small syndicate who manage the woodlands wild deer population they are absolutely not hammered as I have never seen less flighty deer and compared to my corner of Herefordshire this was an absolute deer nirvana as they were everywhere, obviously helped by the warmth of the sun even between 4 and 5pm. After stalking for another 45 minutes or so we had turned through 180 degrees but were coming back through another wide ride when Tom spotted a couple of Roe moving through the trees to our right. I did spot them but hadnít noticed the muntjac buck who was left behind. I heard the whisper to get my sticks ready and then spotted the buck approx. 70yds into the wood, slightly lower than us and on the edge of a boggy wet area. He was stood perfectly broadside but unfortunately exactly behind a small sapling about 6Ē in diameter. Head and neck to the right and hind quarters to the left. He was a good looking animal but Tom rightly judged him to be a good cull candidate. A hushed whisper asked if I was happy to neck shoot him? I was content that there was sufficient view and it wasnít too risky so put the cross hairs where I estimated his spine would be and started to squeeze the trigger. Just as the crack broke the silence the buck stepped forward but fortunately immediately dropped to the shot. What should have been a low neck shot turned out to be a be a high chest shot due to him moving but it was a clean kill so I was happy.
After taking some pics we left the buck on the edge of the ride and walked on without attempting to be quiet in-order to retrieve the Polaris and take the buck back to the game larder for the gralloch.
The next 15 or 20 minutes of walk saw groups of fallow, more roe and muntjac! Again all would have been shootable but it was lovely just seeing deer in natural woodland and especially deer that obviously arenít over shot and although wary werenít completely spooked by our presence. There are also wild Sika in the wood surrounding the park but those were the only species of the four wild deer present that werenít seen in abundance!
Soon my Muntjac was gralloched and in the back of the truck. I thanked Tom for what was an extremely enjoyable afternoon/evening in an amazing location.
I will certainly be back, probably with one of my boys to give them a chance at a cull animal.
Overall a brilliant experience and I cannot recommend Cornbury Park or the resident deer manager highly enough. It truly was my lucky day