A visit down to Dorset had been long overdue and hints dropped in conversation with the landowner about numbers of deer and freezer space hadnt gone unnoticed.
Tim and I got to the ground at 4:30 and decided to stalk the upper part of the ground first as, whilst this had been the plan on previous visits we had always seen a sika on the lower fields and got distracted.
The weather was superb, a bit of a chill but with the promise of a nice day in the air which was calm and still. Its a very undulating, hilly area so it didnt take long to warm up and the pulses quickened further when we saw some sika on the fringes of some gorse thickets in the distance. I spotted a small group in a shadowy copse but the soon rumbled us and moved on. Deciding to pursue them over the rise Tim and I planned an individual stalk where we would both rendezvous within sight of each other before continuing the stalk at different heights, me at the lower end, him traversed 50m up the hill.
The sika I was after hadnt looked back and were nowhere to be seen so I went to my designated lower part, waited for Tim and the moved off in unison. Shortly before a banking of gorse which would separate us into two separate rides of visibility and with a large tract of thick gorse and bracken further up. Tim stopped and raised the rifle onto the sticks at something I could not see. Despite having no target I did likewise encase his shot should put up a brief chance for me. Tims shot came but with not tell-tale thump of a connection, then another with a positive sound of a strike. I moved backwards and started to slowly climb the hill thinking id be needed to assist the retrieve until I saw Tim frantically beckoning me towards him. Fearing his rifle had malfunctioned I legged it up the hill only to see what he was frantic about - a group of six mature stags 150m away and about to leg it. As I was scrambling the last few meters whilst putting the bipod down I quickly asked which one was hit thinking id have to dispatch it none he said, mines down, hurry up before the rest feck off! That being the case I quickly selected a beast of my own and thumped it in the chest to which it dashed into the thick stuff.
Tim was obviously very well chuffed with himself and when we reached his stag he started grinning from ear to ear. He was delighted, a really nice 7 point stag. Its been a long time coming that one and well worth it.
My high spirits subsided when the attention turned to my own predicament of following up on a chest shot sika stag which has disappeared into a head high jungle of gorse and bracken over 50 acres in size. The strike spot was easy enough to find and there was a consistent blood trail up to the fence line where the grazing stopped and the jungle began. Off with the rifle and bum bag and with just the knife I went into the thick stuff. Once hunched up inside you could see the various game trails but finding the blood to determine which one to follow wasnt as easy. After 40 meters of getting scratched to buggery I found him stone dead and was just as elated as Tim had been earlier, a nice 8 point stag.
It was around six thirty after the gralloch so we went to pursue a buck which wed seen last season but that had got the better of us. Several roe seen on a sunny, fallow hillside and lucky us the rut was in full swing and there his was chasing around and I was feeling tired just watching him. We got some brilliant footage of the chasing game and even the mating which Ill try and get up at some point. Nearly an hour since the sighting and with lots on film, insight into the ritual and his next generation thoroughly deployed his time had come and with ruthless efficiency down he went.
The sun was up by now so it was time to go to a patch of woodland where a pair of highseats have been very productive for both Sika and Roe over the years. 5 minutes earlier Id asked Tim which seat he wanted and as we arrived a buck was seen wandering casually over towards his seat. We both looked at each other and he casually said your seats over there mate! Minutes later BANG, WHOOMP and hes got another roe on the floor
After lunch and a leisurely catch up with the landowner it was back to the first ground for a look on the lower fields where wed seen some chasing earlier on. It had quietened down now and we got into position for a call bordering some wheat fields. The calling disturbed a young roe kid which came so close to me I could have picked it up and was a good sign that a doe was nearby and, hopefully, the buck.
The calling continued impersonating the alarm call of the kid and along came the doe with the buck in tow on Tims side of the hedge naturally! At 40 meters (and with the doe just 15) he took a clean shot to the head and dropped on the spot.
A long, long drag back to an accessible track there was still some light and some land left so it was off to a large spinney with potential for another call. We were just about to pack up and move quickly to the higher ground to try and catch out a daylight fox on the gralloch when a movement caught my eye and a small four pointer was seen in the corner of the spinney. I approached cautiously but the bumped the buck who had moved to a different area without being seen. Continuing to the corner of the spinney to see if he was on the other side I saw a nice mature buck couched and soaking up the last rays in a small paddock neighbouring the spinney. There were a few does nearby and it was evident that he was run out. Tim approached with the video camera and even with some close quarter buttolo action he couldnt be bothered to get up so, with me ready on the sticks Tim showed himself, he buck rose and hopped in the air and the round took him in the chest. An older buck going back by the look of things and a great way to end the day.
The grass was quite high so we only managed 3 foxs on the lamp but after a very full days stalking up and down a fair bit of ground and dragging a lot of venison I wasnt complaining.