The phone rang yesterday afternoon, my friend asking if I'd like an evening out on the roe bucks. For one reason or another I haven't managed to get out yet this season so jumped at the chance. We agreed he'd pick me up at 7.30 and we'd decide on which highseats to head for then.
Fair to say that for the rest of the afternoon time stood still, and even with an hour spent pulling together the stalking kit I couldn't find enough things to keep me occupied. Finally 7.30 arrived as did the unmistakable Landrover, in to which I piled the rifle, bag and sticks.
We agreed that my mate would drop me off at one of the new seats (when I say new, it's been in place for 6 months but hasn't yet be shot from) and he'd head off to another seat that overlooks a couple of fields of oats. He dropped me in the gate way, agreeing a pickup time and he left me to enjoy the warm summers evening. One point I'll note now, the land we are on has a healthy deer population but we're under no pressure to shoot deer and can therefore be selective in what we shoot.
The seat is a short walk from where he dropped me, on the edge of a old pond. It's in a cracking location looking towards the edge of a mature broadleaf wood, with an area of new plantation in front which the leads to some arable fields, currently planted with pea/barley. A quick scan of the hedgerows showed no sign of deer, so set of for a gentle stroll to the seat. It may well have been signs of things to come but I was just enjoying being out that I didn't even remove the rifle from the slip as I slowly walked along the hedge. Coming to the gateway in to the field of pea/barley, I glassed the wood edge that I could see and also quickly over the crop as well. With nothing showing I crept through the gateway and down the side of the crop. I'd taken 20 or so paces and old charlie shot from the edge of the crop and through the hedge without a look back.
Finally comfortable in the highseat I settled back and enjoyed the setting sun and beautiful panorama, occasionally sweeping the tree line for movement. After almost an hour I was beginning to wonder whether the deer didn't share my appreciation of the locale and had decided to go elsewhere. That was until a chestnut shape emerged from the tall grass at the edge of the wood. A look through the binos showed it to be a mature doe and I was half expecting her to be joined by a youngster or two. Alas not, and she happily picked her way through the clearing, edging closer to me before disappearing behind a couple of hazel stools.
It wasn't long before another bright chestnut shape slipped from the trees, again a quick check showing that it appeared to be a lone doe. However a couple of minutes later I caught glimpse of movement behind her and two little fawns charged to catch her up. She led the calmly through the plantation and out in to the crop. They remained happily eating for 15 or so minutes before making their way back to the plantation where I lost sight of them, again behind some hazel.
I was beginning to wonder if a buck was going to show, although to be honest I wasn't particularly bothered. The doe and her little 2 reappeared and with nothing better to do I decided to watch them through the binos for a while. Hang on a second, that doe appears to have grown a set of 6 points. I spent the next 5 minutes watching what I can only describe as the buck playing with the 2 fawns, he would chase them and then the tables turned and they'd run after him. After a while he seemed to get bored and began feeding his way towards me, leaving the little 2 to rejoin their mum.
Now at this point I'd usually begin to say that I got the rifle ready and waited for the buck to present a clear broadside shot, but for some reason the thought of picking up my rifle never really entered my head. As I said earlier we're under no pressure to shoot the deer on this land (this may well change once the saplings are showing above the tubes), and although we don't have a formal cull plan I'm fairly sure this buck wouldn't have been on it.
So with the rifle by my side I continued to watch the buck feed his way towards me, waiting for the perfect photo opportunity. He appeared no more than 30 yards in front of me on the other side of the large ditch. I managed to get a few shots of him before he dropped down in to the ditch, only to reappear 10 yards away and calmly walk right under the high seat. Totally oblivious to my presence, until he got down wind. His head shot up and it felt like he looked directly at me. Whatever he saw can't have overly worried him as he went back to feeding and disappeared up the hedgerow and in to the pea/barley.
It was soon time to head back to be picked up. As the landrover pulled up I could almost see the disappointment in my friends face that I hadn't seen a buck, only for me to recount the story.