Just in case people think I've entirely given up the rifle for the camera, I have a small permission just outside our village that I visit half a dozen times each year.
There are only a few animals hefted to it (roe and muntjac) but there is a large transient population of roe that come from a couple of the surrounding estates, so it often appears there are more deer there than in reality are permanently on site. As a result, when I see the farmer we have a chat and he lets me know if he's seen many deer or not. He likes to see them on the ground but if there are too many they can mess up the harvesting a bit by flattening areas of crop.
By and large I tend to shoot just the one buck and a couple of does each season - enough to keep on top of things and to provide enough venison for the farmer and his family.
Today seemed a good to day to be out, so a quick call last night ensured that there was no conflict in the morning. I got on site at around 04:45, parked up and walked the short distance up the track to look into a large grass field. This is a tricky farm to stalk, as it's only 3 fields deep and 4 fields broad, with a large hill at its center, and as a result there are only a limited number of areas where a safe shot is possible using the folds of the land. Along the brow of the hill is a windbreak of pines with a cover crop to one side, and this is a favoured spot as both the roe and the muntjac use it as a passageway.
Reaching a good vantage point I immediately spied three roe - a doe and two kids, heading from the cover crop away towards the neighbouring ground, but then I saw them hit the boundary fence line and follow it back past the far end of the windbreak. Now out of sight, I waited to see if they'd come back towards me but after 5 minutes there was nothing so I decided to cross through the windbreak and look back into the large grass field on the other side.
Stepping across the barbed-wire fence I had to make my way through some weeds that were about 4' tall, my old labrador puffing her way along behind me. As I neared the edge of the weeds I looked into the grass field and there, about 80 yards away, was a roebuck looking straight at me. I was nicely obscured by the weeds, so I shifted a bit to the left where a clear channel presented itself. The buck, though, was still mostly hidden from view. Clearly unsure of what I was, he did the typical roe buck thing of stepping left and right to try to get a better vantage point, but never coming into the open. I gave a couple of squeaks of the Buttolo, and sure enough this piqued his interest. He came further to the left and then stood nicely quartering on. As he stopped and stretched his neck to get a better view I squeezed the trigger and, after a short 10-yard dash, he lay at rest. My labrador, now 13 and beyond caring, ran from the cover of the weeds and sat down by the buck. As she did, a doe ran from the right and stopped 50 yards away and looked back. Waiting for her to move on, I came out of the weeds and dragged the buck back to the side of the field and performed a quick gralloch.
As I only take the one buck each season it's pretty much Hobson's Choice as to what I end up with. In the past I've generally had cull bucks, but with the occasional better animal thrown in. This was one of the latter, a nice even six-pointer though light in both colour and pearling, and a good representative animal for this part of the world. Back in the larder he weighed just over 20 kilos, with about 50% kidney fat and only a couple of ticks to be seen.
By then it was around 06:30, so all-told it had been a useful morning and still time to walk the other dogs. Calling the farmer later he was pleased with the result, so by next weekend I'll hopefully have half a deer's worth of venison to drop round.
Apologies for the poor photo, but I only had my iPhone with me.