After months of emailing and maneuvering to get a few days off from a family holiday in the UK i managed to get out to eastern England to the small town of windhingham for some stalking. While my native Pakistan has fantastic hunting both of wild winged game and mountain hunting we really miss out on deer stalking and especially forest hunting. I've been lucky enough to hunt a number of countries over the year..south africa, Kenya for birds, Bangladesh for Jungle fowl, In the UK ive hunted in Scotland perthshire, western England in Devon and Hampshire, down south in Kent and Sussex. So it was nice to see eastern england and the norfolk region this time around.
I went with Mark and Rob Aldin from deer stalking in england hoping to get two roe and maybe a muntjac. Arriving early afternoon in Diss Rob picked me and it was a pleasant suprise to be able go immedieitly for a stalk rather than spend an excited, sleepless nite in anticipation of hunting the next day. Straight to the field then as Rob picked me from the train station, a quick change from my civies in hunt gear and we were off. Happy to have a remmy 700 with a S&B scope - same rifle i have at home and am familiar with. Rob explained how we were gonna work the piece of property that evening and it felt fantastic to be out with rifle in hand. I was at once comfortable with Rob and love learning from every new PH i go out with.
Crops were still standing and i knew seeing deer would not be easy - but there's always so much to see when out stalking that no session could be a bad one. One cannot help compare PHs from different parts of the world and how they approach hunting and client management. Within a half hour i felt like id hunted with rob many times!
The lack of deer sighting was frankly alarming...i was expecting to see alot more deer, but the cover being what it was it was not suprising. Almost two hours of walking the hedgerows and field carefully yielded nothing until finally we came upon a roe doe. We literally got upto five feet of her before she bolted barking....testament to robs finesse in getting close to deer. The first evening we gave it almost four hours till the light gave out but only the single doe was sighted.
Rob got me back to the Bnb - a very nice clean well managed place by 12pm and said be ready at 230 am for the next session. Great! not long to wait then. Halfhearted attempts at sleep were interrupted by my alarm and rob at the door...and within another halk hour we were in a well made highseat in the dark with hopes high. Nothing showed itself till almost sunrise and back to stalking the margins with rob. The next field over finally roebuck was sighted. Id decided for the first animal anything would do...a cull roe or gold medal..whatever came my way i was hungry to get off the mark. The buck was bedded out 350 yards away approximately and with more careful planning we got into a position where i set up sticks and waited. We were out of cover and no chance of getting closer and no backdrop to attempt a shot. 350 with sticks was a long shot for me not knowing the rifle and drop at that range..and it being early in the trip we decided to wait it out...hoping with luck the buck would come our way. An hour in this position and a many tense cigs later the buck was disturbed from his place and did actually start coming towards us...excitement was on. Something had disturbed him..robs gut feeling was a bigger more dominant buck had pushed this one our way. He came along the hedgerow and stopped for a millisecond with a possible frontal shot but as is my habit to wait for the PH who knows the ground to give a go ahead and as rob said take him the buck just flanked off into the hedge and was gone. Frustration! Beating myself up because i could have maybe taken that frontal shot as he was a 150 yards....that's stalking. We tried to get up to where he disappeared yet the animal did not show again. A long stalk and wait with us doing little wrong but no shot...damn. Rob was pleased however that i did not take the shot without him saying so and assured me i did the rigght thing. Had i known the ground and that the shot was safe we would have taken that buck. Onto to another patch then but other than a loverly red doe which i managed to get on film no more target species showed themselves. An interesting high seat and stalk session then but some bad luck..cant complain. I saw the countryside come alive around me, saw owls hunting at dawn from the high seat. I wanted that buck though!
The day was spent sleeping and again at 6pm we were out onto new ground a half hours drive away. This time absolutely gorgeous well managed block of woodland which to hunt is simply my favourite. Careful considered steps all the way glassing frequently. Not long in and we heard a munty barking and soon after saw a nice stag run off to the right - in velvet and stopped only briefly. Rob didn't see it well and only a snap shot could have gotten it - another target species gave us the slip. Another little while of stalking and too the left we saw another deer...40 yards away a roe doe, oblivious to us, which in itself is another thrill. We had the sticks out and i was on it only to see a doe, but i saw movement right behind though the brush and expected a roebuck. Instead it was another munty...head obscured by trees...body offering a perfect stationary heart lung shot. But careful glassing and rob said a yearling buck not worth taking...again by this time i was frustrated at the missed chances and ready to drop him...but followed robs advice. The rest of the woodland...although gorgeous to work through didn't show us more deer. We took another our to work through it and ended up sitting on a lovely highseat well placed between forest and cover from 930pm until too dark but no deer showed themselves. Plenty of red deer wallows and tracks were seen and this forest was the highlight of the staking experience for me - especially as much of my rifle hunting back home is mountain climbing and arid region stalking.
Final morning - back at first high seat area where the roebuck gave us the slip. Rob and mark on discussion agreed that this area has a roe in residence as his territory and our best chance was to get to high ground above the field where the roe gave us the slip so when he might emerge at dawn we would have a safe shot. So again at 3am..trudging through bramble and thistle to get to the correct spot. The plan worked well. As it became predawn a doe emerged below us in the field and quickly worked her way across it to the far hedgerow and disappeared. Soon after i saw another roe about 800 yards away under trees..simultaneously another buck appeared in the field below us at about 300 yards and moved quickly following the does footsteps without giving us a shot. We worked out way down the hill to the edge of some cover and setup sticks hoping the buck would reemerge....yet no such luck. We stayed put...feeling the hunt slipping away from us...still setup on sticks. Rob had his call ready and although clearly the rut had not kicked in as a last ditch effort he figured to try a call. I suggested he try going back up the hill to our intital position check if any more deer would emerge form the forest to the far north while i kept vigil on the field still setup on sticks. He returned shortly saying another doe is out with a buck following closely heading our way....perhaps we were in for that badly needed break?? Another fifteen minutes and the doe came into view at the far end of the field...she fed down...looking back periodically to check if the buck was following..but no buck in sight. another ten minutes and she decided to go back the way she had come. Thoroughly frustrated Rob again trudged back up the hill to scout where she had gone. I remained in the same position now it being almost 540 am....suddenly a deer was out in the field...i though perhaps the roe doe again but looking through the S&Bender scope i saw it to be a muntjac! More observation showed it to be a buck with and i even saw a decent antler of a few inches. I looked up at rob on the hill 100 odd yards away and gestured towards the animal looking for a go ahead? It took rob a few seconds to see it and figure out what i was gesturing at until he gave me the thumbs up..finally a shot. I nudged the remmy safety off silently and held mid animal...the ultra light trigger i must confess went off a millisecond before i anticipated but happy days the buck fell poleaxed without a single futher movement. Estimated range at 140-180 yards. Relief and celebrations all around and some colourful language at the awesome feeling of an exciting mornings sequence of events leading up to a kill finally. The joyous walk-up to the small deer was wonderful and a long photo session at my first munty. He turned out to be just at the end of velvet with one very very decent antler and the other malformed...a unique trophy of a very neat little species of deer. Not many people know that muntjacs are indigenous to Pakistan in the Margalla hills above the capital city of Islamabad where they are seriously endangered and therefore little chance of me getting to hunt one at home - so was very pleased to add a new species and one close to the heart.
Just hope Mark and Rob can get a skull mount done after cleaning away the velvet because after all a trophy is so much more than inches of antler or horn...its the memory of the hunt and the effort put in in gorgeous country with lovely professional people who love the same things all fieldsportsman love that one is reminded off when looking at a tiny bit of antler and canine tooth on the shield or lookng at 55 inch kudu from earlier hunts - the satisfaction is the same.
Thus ended a very interested couple of days of stalking. I can heartily recommend Stalking in England and Mark and Rob are truly stand-up guys to hunt with who put in a lot of effort to make this hunt happen. The kill was simply the icing on the cake.
Cheers all and hope to return soon to settle an account with some elusive roebuck and hopefully one or two of the monster stags Mark is known for.