Sika are often described as the hardest of all deer in the UK to stalk and kill, and after managing and stalking them with clients for over 20 years I thought I would give a couple of examples of experiances I have had with clients whilst hunting these secretive and hardy deer.
I had an area in Sutherland Scotland that covered 12,500 acres, which was divided by a Salmon river and had two man made forests on either side that had not been managed for over 50 years. The cull was about 80 head a year, this included Red Deer, and the ground rose to about 1500ft.
Bernie Langhorne was a client I had from Virginia, a small built man who was softly spoken and quite religeous. He and another 3 hunters had joined my team for the week to take a Red Stag and a Sika Stag each, and had arrived in early October which is bang on for the rut. Bernie was shooting a 270, which is a good round for either species. He was a fair shot although like many Americans, he had mostly hunted from tree stands.
The evening I took him for a Sika stag the weather was overcast but dry with a slight westerly wind. Our drive up the glen on the quad was uneventful and I parked the bike about 300 yds from one of the old suspension bridges that spanned the River Blackwater. Making our way across I tested the wind again, and started to glass the edge of the forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Sika venturing out to graze a bit early.
Speaking in hushed tones I relayed to the client that Sika are never dead until they are in the larder, so as soon as you have fired at the beast reload and get back onto the target, they do not die easy at times. Equipment checked we started to stalk the edge of the forest, heading towards a large gorge which ran down the western edge of the wood, and which also acted as a funnel for pulling the deer down off the high ground as the light was failing. Bit by bit and checking every hollow, we stalked carefully into the wind. The ground along this part of the forest was undulating, and one had to approach each new hill with caution as you never knew what would be on the other side.
After about 30 minutes of stalking I stopped to glass well ahead, and as I bought the glasses down a set of antlers appeared over the next hill about 150yds away. I instantly told the client to lay down as a deer was coming and there was no cover to hide behind. Looking up I could see a mature 7 point Sika stag standing in front of us broadside and grazing without any knowledge we were there. These are fairly rare moments with Sika, and I intended on taking full advantage.
Pushing his rifle forward with my jacket underneath the rifel to lift the barrel out of the long grass, I told the client to take the shot once he was comfortable. With very littel hesitation he fired and instantly knocke dthe stag over the hillock it was standing on top of. After telling him to reload, he questioned the reason, adding that this was a dead deer. I was not convinced. We had not moved after the shot, and I purposely glassed the forest edge to see if I could see the beast running into the forest, of which there was no sign.
As per usual I asked him to walk in front with one in the breach and safety off, and to be prepared. The ground on the other side of the hillock was open and dropped away down to the river, and as we approached the top of the hill he expected to see a dead stag. The look on his face said it all, NOTHING !!! not a sign anywhere of the stag, and nothing for it to hide in either. Bernie started to get agitated and told me that it had run into the forest. My reply was that it had not and I had watched the forest edge with the bino's and was convinced it was in front laying down, and to keep with me and get ready.
Bernie was having none of it and wandered over to the forest edge about 80 yds away. Having asked him twice to keep with me, he started to walk the forest edge, which had the remains of an old deer fence around it. I on the other hand started to glass in front to try and detect the stag, which I was convinced was laying down and playing dead.
The only cover of any notice over the 700 yd area was a clump of spindle grass or rushes that was grwoing near the rivers edge about 150yds away. Bernie was now walking the old fence line and slightly in front of me, and would not come over and join me. As I approached the area of rushes, the stag jumped to its feet and made a dash for the forest edge about 150yds away. As I shouted to the client he let a shot off at the stag running and missed by a mile, as he reloaded the stag momentarily was stopped by the old fence and his third shot dropped the beast to the floor.
One lucky client !!! The first shot if I remember rightly was slightly back and high, enough to knock the beast off its feet, but not kill it. The client was overjoyed with his trophy, but apolojetic about his misjudgement and not following what I had asked him to do.
I have many other stories about Sika, they are to me the Grey Ghost of Great Britain (Grey Ghost is the Greater Kudu in Africa) they are hardly never off guard and can take a phenominal amount of punishment. And to stand in the half light of an early morning in Sutherland, with the mist clearing off the edge of the hills, and the call of a Sika Stag echoing through the forest is one of the biggest gifts this sport can give you.