Last Friday night, I found myself enjoying a drink in Sh1kar’s company in his garden, gazing at the only Blue Moon of this year, having returned from a very enjoyable evening’s roebuck stalking. After helping me to take my first roebuck back in May, Sh1kar had very generously invited me back to try for another in the rut. As it happened, the rut hadn’t actually started yet, but nevertheless, we saw plenty of bucks. We set out around half-past six in the afternoon, which gave us around three hours of daylight, plenty of time to look around. Harvest had started, it was dusty and dry, but most of the wheat and barley fields were still just lakes of dry stalks which we scanned for the protruding V-shape of roe ears. We started in a high seat under an oak tree overlooking a wide band of pasture, a hedge, and then two fields separated by another thick hedge. Walking towards the seat we had spotted two roe in the right hand field, about three hundred metres from the seat, and we tried to call them in. We were quickly able to ascertain that one of the roe was a little four-pointer buck, but despite our best efforts, it remained resolutely uninterested in the Buttolo. Eventually, after a bit if running around, they both laid down and vanished for good under the surface of the field.
2015-07-31-191748-01 by pinemarten, on Flickr
But these were not the only roe around, as Sh1kar nudged me to point out a buck that had just materialised to our left from the wood that the seat backed onto. As it worked its’ way down the edge of the field to the left, it became clear that it was quite a nice six pointer. I tracked it through the drilling’s scope, waiting for it to move ever so slightly downhill to offer a safe shot. And it came ever so close to doing so, eventually presenting what one could describe as a borderline safe shot, but as that’s the same thing as borderline dangerous, I held fire. At which point it entered the sea of wheat, turned right, and vanished through the hedge, never to be seen again. We came down from the high seat, retraced our steps and crossed over into the field to see if we could stalk into it that way, but it had evaporated, so we moved on, trying another seat, a few more fields, taking in some beautiful views along the way, before calling it a day. On the way back, just as the sun was setting, we saw another pair of roe in a field, one of which was a buck with a malformed left antler. Sh1kar also heard that a friend on nearby piece of ground had shot quite a spectacular malformed buck with a right antler like a coat hook. And so we retired for dinner and stargazing.
Sh1kar woke me up at 5am, a minute before my alarm went off, and after that moment of slight panic that comes from coming out of deep sleep in an unfamiliar place, we were off again, this time to a different patch, near the one where I had shot my first buck. Again, we alternated between walking and sometimes waiting a while in highseats, calling from time to time, but there was still no response from the deer. As we were walking down a straight track which I believe used to a be railway line, we both spotted a roe’s head protruding from a depression in an area of pasture to our left. We set up near a gate on sticks, again fruitlessly tried the call. Then I saw a doe ahead of the little buck along the hedge. We could only see the buck’s head, a spiker, perhaps two years old, but as it wasn’t budging there was no shot. So we went back further along the track, into the next field, through a hedge on the left, and then down a track on the other side of the hedge from where we’d seen the two roe. And sure enough, there was the doe on the left, and the little buck on the right, who had now stood up and was intermittently grazing. The doe looked slightly suspicious, but not the buck, he hadn’t clocked us. So I set up the sticks, lined up the buck’s shoulder on top of the thick number 1 reticle post, waited for a clear shot, squeeeeeze… BANG! went the 7x57R, and down went the little buck. “I think it was a little high”, said Sh1kar, “but he went down. Very good.”
Deuxieme_brocard_010815 by pinemarten, on Flickr
I had indeed shot the buck a bit high, at the top of the spine, which I wasn’t happy with, and Sh1kar’s intervention was required to bring matters to a close, although it wasn’t ever going to go anywhere again. I was also a little surprised as it was only perhaps a 50m shot and it didn’t feel like I’d pulled it. Subsequent inspection threw some light on what had happened and it wasn’t down to the shot technically, but more to anatomy and my inexperience: the entry wound had gone in high in the shoulder, but as the buck’s head had been down to graze, the shoulders were hunched up, so although the bullet went through both shoulders, the ribcage was actually lower down. Well there’s a lesson learned there, I won’t be doing that again. Still, as Sikamalc says, dead is dead. Sh1kar went to fetch the truck which gave me the chance to slowly muddle through the gralloch. Which I can do fine, I’m just a bit slow and find it easier to do when no-one’s watching somehow.
After a fantastic breakfast, Sh1kar was kind enough to let me use his larder to skin and joint the buck which is so much easier to do in proper facilities than hanging from two S-hooks on the front of my shed, and as I had guests arriving from France that afternoon, who have a toddler who I doubt is accustomed to seeing amateur butchery, I thought it would be more sociable to sort this out beforehand. As it happened, my friends had never eaten venison, and so I was able to serve them the backstraps and fillets, seasoned and rolled in sesame seeds (NDT-Man’s recipe) and grilled quickly on the barbecue, accompanied with beans and salad from my derisory vegetable patch. Which is about as close as I think it’s possible to come to a “menu du Terroir” in Ealing!
Thanks again to Sh1kar not just for the invitation and all the effort he’s put in to guiding me, but also for the hospitality, the use of his facilities, the butchery tips which all together made this trip and the previous one such great experiences. Hopefully we won’t have to wait for another Blue Moon for the next one!