It’s been a long winter, literally and philosophically, illness (M.E.) preventing an outing since October. We had our first BBQ of the season last week and the venison sausages were sorely missed. I’d also been promising my lad an outing for what seems like forever. So, after a carefully paced day and refreshing spa visit with the missus, painkillers were popped and the fatigue temporarily ignored.
After briefly tipping the hat to the farmer, my lad and I set off in an anti-clockwise direction around the land. This would bring us into wind, along the valley adjoining woodland, which the Roe particularly frequent. Moving slowly round a knee-length field of wheat, I turned, noting my seven year old lad rubbing a dock leaf on the back of his hand. A tinge of sadness that he was clearly suffering nettle stings was soon replaced with the satisfaction that he hadn’t made a sound and had immediately known how to treat.
Moving into a field of frisky Friesian’s, it was mildly frustrating that they noisily skipped away from us in the direction of the valley entrance, dictating an alternative approach to avoid spooking any Roe in the area. Pleased that working round the cows had worked, we spotted a deer lying in the long grass in an adjoining field, a doe and also outside the farm boundary. We moved very slowly and quietly into the valley and I was most relieved that the flock of noisy guinea fowl in the area last year, seemed to have moved on. But then, after stealthily moving a hundred metres or so, my lad coughed noisily. I looked back up, just in time to see the white tush of several Roe bounding away from us at the far end of the valley. Making clear my discontent in hushed tones, we carried on down the valley. Just before the end, where the land turns sharply left alongside the wood, we were met by the loud gobbling of the guinea fowl who had clearly just moved areas, rather than moving on, after all.
Finally herding the guinea fowl into the wood, we passed by, sure any chances of Roe had gone for the evening. However, we settled down by a wall, half-way along the side of the wood, in the vague hope that as the light dropped, Roe may again appear. An hour or so passed and I was pretty pleased with how well my otherwise listless lad had sat, generally quietly and still. I made a few gentle calls on the Buttolo, in the hope of enticing a Muntjac out of the wood, but nothing stirred. The sun now set and the lad getting restless, he asked if we could move somewhere else. Thinking there no harm in having another look at the valley, we moved slowly and quietly back in that direction.
As we neared the end of the wood and valley entrance, over the brow of the hill I could see a deer couched behind the hedge at the valley entrance, eighty metres or so away. Slowly glassing, it was a buck and although young, clearly in fine condition. I slowly positioned the Sako A7 onto the sticks and watched for a brief while, before deciding to attempt to get closer and hopefully take the shot from the brow of the hill off the bipod. Leaving the Roe Sack and Sticks, the lad and I crawled towards the brow, occasionally looking up to check the buck’s movements. Just ten metres from the brow and now sixty metres from the buck, he stood up. Although clearly still unaware of our presence and lazily turning to lick his back, it was clear he would likely move off before we reached the intended shooting position, so I raised the rifle for a kneeling shot. Taking several deep breaths to slow the now rapid heart-rate, I breathed three-quarters out and steadied the sight picture, with the cross-hairs just behind his shoulder to allow for his slightly quartering stance. Zeroed two-inches high at one hundred metres, allowing for the slightly higher fall of shot down-hill, I thought should put the shot straight through the heart. A gentle squeeze and the shot released. It was immensely satisfying that the follow-through after the gentle recoil put the sight picture right-back where it started and the buck dropped instantly on the spot.
The slight frustration that my lad still hadn’t had the opportunity to observe the deer before the shot was taken (this is only our second successful stalk together) soon passed, as he dashed excitedly back to get the Roe sack and sticks. Indeed, he was so excited, I had to stop him rushing straight down the slope. However, the buck was clearly dead and so after explaining why we would usually wait a full five minutes before approaching, we did so, although not letting him near until, touching the Buck’s wide open eyes with the end of the sticks, there was no reaction.
Although only my seventh deer and seven months since my last, the gralloch went well. Although still far from instinctive, everything came out cleanly, without contamination or splitting the bladder, as had occurred on my first three attempts. All the glands and organs were in great shape, although a mental note was made that I could certainly do with a guided stalk or two with an experienced hand, to be able to more readily identify. It was particularly pleasing that, as intended and expected, the shot had completely taken out the top of the heart, although passing through the middle of his left shoulder on exit. My lad showed great interest in every step, asking what each of the organs were. However, as the light was falling fast, this time he had to make do without hands-on knife practice, although I did have to promise that he could give some hands-on help with the butchering. Unfortunately finding now was not the time to realise I hadn’t put the compact camera back in the roe sack after the last outing, we headed for home.
Butchering this afternoon was straight forwards enough, one of the haunches now in the freezer for the next family gathering and the rest in the fridge to be finished off tomorrow. To cut out at least some of the work, the butcher in the local farm shop will be doing the mincing and sausage making. I’d much prefer the satisfaction of making again myself, but have to be careful not to do too much and risk another crash, ending up back in bed for a good week or two. So, another most memorable stalk and precious memories both with and for the lad