DDS started a thread some time ago regarding how many people on the Forum had not shot a deer, to which I replied. Some time later his motives were revealed , he had put all the names in the hat and drawn out a lucky winner to whom he was offering the opportunity to stalk with him on his ground. Never has my flabber been so gasted, he was offering me that chance.
Then, the fly in the ointment. I had to explain that I was waiting for a variation to be processed since I had sold my rifle in order to buy a new one, so was at present not able to accept even though Hants FLD had told me that it was granted. "No problem" says he "let me know when it's sorted and we'll go from there".
A couple of weeks later Richard picked me up from the B&B for the first (afternoon) stalk. We chatted for a short time so that he could check my familiarity with shooting off sticks etc., then, into the pickup and off to the first location.
After parking, he explained carefully what we were going to do then we geared-up and set off into the first field. Richard took time to point out the deer signs we encountered and explain their significance, stopping frequently on our journey along the hedgeline to check signs and glass the area. The going was very soft, Devon having endured some pretty nasty weather over the previous few days. So progress was careful and slow. We completed the circuit with no deer showing. Back into the pickup and off to another location.
As we approached the next area, Richard pulled over to glass a field in front, seven, sunning themselves in the corner of a field.
Alas, not his ground. We drove on to the next location.
We again set out along the hedgeline after a quick brief. After a couple of stops to observe, Richard indicated in the next field, a Red hind with a young follower resting in a depression. The stalk was on.
Due to their position they could have easily seen us if we were to do anything to draw their attention. I was now totally focused on not messing it up. A couple of time she looked over in our direction as we hugged the hedge in our progress towards a viable shooting position. In order to get into them we would have to follow the hedge to the top of the field, cross a river into their field, reach the top of that field and then work our way towards them into a safe shooting position. Not much pressure there then.
Uphill from the river, we worked our way towards the top field boundary keeping careful watch. Slowly we made progress. As we reached the top of the field, my lungs beginning to burst with the exertion and trying not to breathe too loud. We paused to assess the situation. It was now that I realised that the light was fading fast. No time to lose. It also became clear that the younger follower was nervous. She obviously knew something was up, but couldn't be sure what. She started to separate from the older hind, heading towards a wooded strip immediately behind them.
Richard indicated to me to set up my sticks to line up the shot, which I duly did wondering all the time why she could not hear my heartbeats which were pounding in my ears, so she must be able to hear it too. It wasn't until I was set up that I saw that she was sitting lower than I expected, thinking that she was couched I turned to Richard behind me. Seeing the situation immediately, he whispered to me to take my sticks further along the hedge to a slight rise, which I duly did (to my mind in the same manner as a herd of wayward teenaged elephants). Setting up again, I placed the rifle on the sticks, to my relief I was graced with a side view of a stationary deer. Just like DSC1, with just as much self-imposed pressure. This was it!
You know when you are just about to squeeze the trigger and you think "I wonder if......."? Take control! Sight picture.Backstop. Breathing. Squeeze. BANG. Reload. Stay on aim. Watch.
Richard appeared at my shoulder, "I saw legs in the air. I'm sure you got her". Picking up my sticks, we went forward. By this time light was fading fast. No sign! Then, just as Richard pointed, I saw her, on her left side in a small ditch on the woodland edge. The shot appeared high and there were still signs of life so I prepared to take a second as Richard advanced to check. "She's gone. Congratulations".
A quick photograph and do time to waste. It was getting dark,now, so head torches on and a long walk back to the pickup to collect the extraction equipment. Richard showed me the process explaining as he went as he carried out the field gralloch before going back to collect the gear. Down the field, across the river, into the next field, up the hill to the farmyard. Unpack the gear, assemble, back down the hill, across the river, up the hill on the other side, load nearly 70 kilos of floppy deer and reverse your course again.
By the time we got back to the pickup Richard was just about done (I was two fields and a river back), but we loaded up, put the gear away and set off to the game dealer after a quick word with the farmer. At the larder, Richard then showed me the process as he booked in the carcass. Paperwork completed we shut up shop and headed back to the B&B. On arrival Richard wanted to discuss the stalk that he had offered the following morning. One look at the pair of us and it was a no-brainer. Scrub the morning stalk.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED thanks to a very kind man.
A cup of coffee, a shower and a good night's sleep followed by a three hour drive home allowed me to reflect at leisure on the day's events. I can only say that I am overwhelmed by Richard's generosity and can only hope that I can repay his kindness, or at least pass it on. Thank you again, Richard for the memory of an opportunity of a lifetime.
(Can I just say that as compensation, Richard would only accept a charitable donation, which I was more than happy to do. So H4H and Fishing for Heroes benefited from his generosity )