I have been stalking in a small dense sitka spruce forest near Thornhill, Dumfries for about 18 months. Not been very lucky. Plenty of signs of activity, droppings, slots, fraying, etc. And I have seen a reasonable number of deer, but they have been out of season, or off the permission. So nothing grassed until now.
So it was the evening of Thursday 28th August, I was sitting in a high seat. Its situated on the main forest track, the track running right to left. Behind you to the left is a lovely ride, in front to the left a little ride/glade, in front to the right is a bigger glade, with a ride joining it from the right, and a ride joining and crossing the track on the far right. So you are kept quite busy keeping an eye on all of the possibilities
Light waning a touch, but its nothing like dark, a Roe pops out of the forest and into the little ride/glade to the front left. At first glance it looks like a doe. My mentor has told me that at this time of year the doe will often be followed by a buck, so I get my rifle on "her" so I am ready. But the better view through the scope shows antlers. Not a doe at all, but a young buck. Again my mentors words in my ears, as soon as you get a clear shot, shoot, don't wait for a "better" shot. The animal is feeding, it steps forward, safety off and fire. Head back, it does a tight turn to its left, and disappears back the way it came. I note the location of the shot, just to the right of a conspicuous patch of bracken, pack my stuf and get ready to leave the high seat. My mentor calls, and I confirm that yes, I think I got him. He's on his way.
Wait the prescribed time. Head to the point of impact. Not so easy to find, the bracken, conspicuous from the high seat is rather less obvious at ground level. Its difficult to describe the feeling. Certainly with a huge hit of adrenalin, I am quite shaky. I find the point of impact, and I am delighted to see lung tissue and bright red oxygenated blood. Don't disturb the blood trail, make the rifle safe and wait for my mentor.
Mentor arrives and we follow the blood trail. It goes fine for the first 2-3 yds, then we loose it. In the growing gloom we spend may be 20 mins looking for the blood trail. I am getting increasingly anxious, then my mentor sees a spot of blood on a blade of grass. We are back quite literally on track. The buck had turned a lot more than I had seen, crossed its own trail and headed into the trees. Now the trail is quite easy to follow, patches of blood like stepping stones, crawling under the canopy, the stepping stones take us to the body of a lovely little buck.. Physically difficult, dense sitka spruce means your on your hands and knees, but we found him.
Haul him out, not easy through the trees. To the road, and ready for the gralloch. I am sweating like a pig at a barbecue, adrenalin, the effort of the carry etc. I need to slow down and be careful. Not a brilliant gralloch, but OK under the circumstances. Back to the caravan, hang him to cool, and clean up. My mentor and I share a celebratory we dram, and then its time for bed. I didn't sleep well, lots to remember, lots to think about. Liver and kidney for breakfast.
So, my first ever deer, a small buck, maybe 15-16 months old. He's now at home, skinned, butchered, mainly frozen, but part eaten.
Its been a long time coming, but a brilliant experience, massively rewarding and ultimately very very satisfying.