Over the Christmas period, a competition appeared on Facebook for a days stalking in Sussex from British Game Meat.
The company - British Game Meat (British Game Meat, a trading platform for the United Kingdom, Facebook British Game Meat) is new on the scene and headed up by 22 year old Peter, an entrepunerial young chap who has seen a gap in the market trying to link up hunters with the end consumer of fresh, British game. Time will tell if it works or not, but if his enthusiasm has anything to do with it, I would't bet against it.
I was lucky enough to win the competition which saw me doing the near 200 mile drive on Friday evening to West Sussex to meet Peter and a stalking friend of his, Luke, first thing Saturday morning. The day started the way I like it - a cup of tea and a chat about the stalking to come. Peter bid us farewell to go and sort out breakfast whilst Luke and I went to stalk a forestry block just down the road. We set off about 0730 as the light in the trees was just brightening, and it was a lovely cold morning. Interestingly, Luke was the first stalker I have met who does not use binos. From what I saw in the day to come, it certainly doesn't hinder him and the 1400 deer to his name is testament that he doesn't need them.
It was 0900 before we saw our first deer, although there was plenty of sign from the off. Luke had spotted some Fallow in the shadows of the wood, but I couldn't see them, a very frustrating few minutes ensued as he reported what was there, me only managing fleeting glimpses through the scope. There was some light shrubbery in the way and it proved difficult to get a shot, although after a lot of frustration I managed to find a dark pricket moving between some trees. The gaps were not big enough to present the full deer, but I waited for the front leg and front half of the deer to appear and released a shot. There was a thud, and we thought it was succesful although from the limited visibility it was hard to see any reaction to shot, it soon mixing with the rest of the herd running away. We waited a short period and moved to the shot site where after condsiderable looking we could find no sign of blood, hair or anything. We cast around the area and had a good look around but finding nothing we came to the conclusion it most probably missed, maybe deflected slightly by the foliage and the thud could may well have been a tree. I was gutted, annoyed and perplexed in equal measure, but as Luke says, the first time has to happen some time. I wasn't so sure and after a little bit more (unsuccessful) stalking, we went to meet Peter for a well earned breakfast. However, there were some demons to slay, and I was worried I had fluffed it.
After breakfast we went for a look at another piece of ground, drew a blank except a cracking flush of wild teal, and as we found we were both keen carp anglers, Luke took me to see his lake he runs. We then met Peter for lunch, to set us up for the last chance in a high seat where their confidence was high and they had enjoyed a high success rate in the past. Several hours past with only a fleeting glimpse of a doe in the forest block and a fox working the woodland edge. Had it not had been prime deer time and 20 minutes before end-ex it would have been a valid target, but hopes remained high for Luke that we would see one. I was starting to wonder if the morning was my last chance for a while...
With the light fading and maybe 10 minutes of useable light left, we decided to check a field we had looked in on the way across, near where the car was parked. This turned out to be a good move as there was a lone fallow knobber in a pond area and a shaky, less than perfect 50 yd shot off Luke's shoulder (sticks in the car and a fence in front that meant an elevated shot was required) led to my deer number 12 in the bag, a very happy stalker, relieved competition host and my first male fallow deer.
We then met Peter for the last time, congratulations were passed, carcass put in my car and I set off back home. On the scales he went 53lb and will give me a bit more venison for the freezer.
If Peter is reading this, thanks again and I wish you all the luck with your endeavour. Luke, thanks again and please enjoy the whiskey.
Lessons learnt from this stalking outing:
1. Never give up. Now I have had 2 deer that have come after it would be easy to give up hope and assume a blank. It is not over until you have driven away from the ground.
2. Always take sticks, you never know when you'll leave a highseat and have a walk. This time was the first time I hadn't taken them, I wish I had.
3. Be calm in the face of deer. I guess it is good I get excited, but it makes for jumpy, quick movement getting binos/sticks/rifle set up and greatly increases the chance of them doing one before the shot. Slow and steady, catchy monkey....