I was recently invited to manage the deer on a farm within 5 minutes drive of where I live. It's a small farm, roughly square and about five fields wide by four fields deep with a hill in the middle, so safe shots are difficult to come by. The farmer mostly raises cattle, but he has a field of rape at the back of the farm. On one side is a main road and on the other is an area of woodland and scrub.
The farmer asked me to manage the deer as he's fed up with them trampling down his rape field. Unfortunately the farmer only got in touch in early March, so I went out three times in the last days of the doe season but never managed to strike lucky.
The first time I was waiting on top of the hill in a strip of trees. Next to the trees is a game cover. A nice 6-point buck and doe appeared the other side of the game cover, barely 20 yards away, having walked up the brow of the hill. If I'd shot the doe when I first saw her, the bullet would have landed somewhere in South Wiltshire She knew something wasn't right, but slowly made her way through the game cover. Very slowly I'd manouvered the rifle on the sticks so that I could shoot her when she was between the game cover and the trees, since this was the only safe shot possible. All the time the buck, still in velvet, was trying to figure out what I was. I was ready on the sticks as the doe came out of the game cover. I clicked off the safety - and she bolted at the sound with the buck following closely on her heels.
The second time out I saw nothing. The third time I was lined up in the valley with my back to a tree and the rifle up on the sticks. A muntjac doe appeared about 100 yards away, but as I was about to take the shot I heard a noise to my left as a man walking his two labradors came past me, along a footpath, and headed into the field. He never saw me, but I said a silent prayer of thanks to the gods above that I hadn't pulled the trigger.
Last night I called the farmer and said that I'd be out this morning. He was very pleased to hear from me again as he was afraid that after three blank attempts I'd have given his farm up as a bad job I told him not to worry and that I was happy to carry on, but the lie of the land meant that it was going to be as much luck as judgement if I happened to connect. He understood, and then said that he was regularly seeing three or four roe in the field of rape.
So at 05:30 this morning I parked the car in the farmyard and headed up the hill towards the rape field. From the wood to the edge of the rape field it's just over 200 yards. Keeping to the side of the wood I spied into the field and, sure enough, there were a couple of roe. Unfortunately although the ground rises from the wood to the rape field, once you're at the fence of the rape field it's as flat as a billiard table. Fortunately the farmer had parked two flat-bed trailers mid-way between the wood and the fence, so thinking one of them might present a handy shooting platform I dropped back to the woodland edge and made my way to the furthest trailer. Standing with my back to the trailer and the rifle on the sticks I was now about 90 yards from the wood and 120 from the rape field. I could still see the heads of the two roe deer but they both looked like does.
Glancing to my right I saw two more roe heading down the middle of the field. Looking through the glasses I could make out a young, spiker, buck being chased by a nice 6-pointer. They came towards me at a quick trot as though on a piece of string, the older buck about 10 or 15 yards behind the youngster. Onwards they came, then headed to my right and moved towards the wood. They were now about 60 yards away between me and the wood, with a great backstop (not the wood, the field ). As the older buck stopped, I gently squeezed the trigger. At the shot he staggered and fell and I quickly reloaded. The young buck, now about 20 yards in front, stopped at the shot and looked back. Then, apparently without a care in the world, he started to graze. I had moved the rifle and the sticks, and as he turned broadside on I squeezed the trigger again. Like his older companion he dropped to the shot.
Looking at my watch it was 05:45 - 15 minutes of stalking and two bucks already accounted for. Leaving it a minute or two while I let my heartrate go back down to normal, I made my way towards the older buck. Now that the roe were moving from winter to summer coat the plume from the shot was very visible:
Having checked for eye reflex I made my way over to the youngster and did the same. Having now completed the easy bit I dragged them over to the edge of the wood and gralloched them.
(N.B. Bolt removed for photo )
The sun was now breaking through the mist and it was going to be a glorious day. I shan't take any more bucks of this land unless the farmer notices some new ones come in. The frustrating thing is that I'd have preferred to cull a couple of does back in March, but those will now have to wait until November.