I lived in Europe for four years, and hunted in Germany, but while I have visited England a few times, I have never hunted there. I have a friend here at The Stalking Directory - BritHunter - that was almost able to get a hunting trip set up, but my Dad got ill, and the plan fell through.
While I doubt that I will be coming in the next 12 months, although possible, I plan on getting to the British Isles to hunt within the next 2 years. It may seem like a long way off, but since you folks have so many different species to hunt and you get to hunt year 'round, I don't think it's too soon to start planning.
Let me outline what I like to hunt, how I like to hunt, and what my expectations are, and you (the collective 'you') can 'adjust' my thinking as necessary and help me get on track to plan both the timing and 'focus'.
First, What I'd like to hunt:
1) Top of the list is a roe buck. I shot one in Germany when I was a kid, but it's not a classic 6-point roe buck. That's what I would like to concentrate on - a "classic" 6-point roe buck. I'm not seeking a gold or silver or bronze medal animal. While I am mostly unfamiliar with the standards for "gold", "silver", and "bronze"; "score" isn't much of interest to me. Rather 'gold, silver, and bronze' seem like reasonable 'rulers' to use to describe what I'm seeking. Correct me where I'm wrong. I'm simply interested in a "classic" (in form and points) 6-pointer. From what I've seen here at SD, a "bronze" would be a "dandy".
2) Small game. I love bird shooting. Especially upland birds. I'm not sure how "rough shooting" encompasses birds, but it sounds like what I'd be interested in. "Driven birds" also sounds like the kind of shooting I like, but I can't tell if it's a bit more formal than what I'm interested in. Mind you, I don't mind "formal", and it would be great to participate in that great tradition. However, "Hunting" is what I'm seeking, not social interaction.
3) Chinese Water Deer - I'll rank them just higher on my list than muntjac. They are a real novelty to me, and if I were able to hunt them and roe, that would be great.
4) Mutjac, fallow, sika - pretty much these three hold the same interest for me. It would be great to get after any of them.
5) Red Stag - Red Stag gets 'last' place only because I have a nice 'capital' stag from the '60s, and he would be tough to beat. I'd love the stalking experience, but since I HAVE to have some priorities, the stag ends up 'last'.
Any list like the one above suggests that there is a "preference" for a "trophy". That's not the case. One can't make a list for planning without indicating some 'priority'. While it's true that I really do want to get after a nice roe buck, the "what" I'm really after is "The Hunt", and I'd be tickled with the opportunity to hunt any of the above animals.
How I like to hunt - I'm a "stalker" at heart. Over here we call the kind of hunting I do "spot and stalk". I've hunted from "hochsitze", and other "high seats", and that's a very effective way to hunt, but I enjoy planning a stalk to get to an animal, or walking around "looking" (hunting) for them. So... Hunting from a stand would be fine, but "stalking" would be my preference.
My expectations - First, I prefer to field-dress (gralloch I think you call it) my own animals. I've yet to meet any guide or any other person that can do a better job than I can. (Plenty of people can do as good a job, but none can do better.) I wouldn't fight someone over it, but to me, that's part of the hunting experience, and to relegate, or delegate, it to someone else isn't "my cup o' tea". So, if I got teamed up with a 'guide', I'd want at least to discuss the 'details' of gralloching whatever I shot.
I understand that "trophy fees" are now a "way of life". While not what we do here except on "game ranches", I am resigned to the reality of it. Also what I find a little disturbing is that I also don't "own" the meat of an animal I shoot. The "game-keeper" does. So if I don't own the "trophy" 'til I pay for it, and I don't own the meat 'til I pay for it, doesn't that basically make me someone paying for the privilege of pulling a trigger on a live animal? "Economics" aside, that doesn't sit very well with me. NEVERTHELESS I am resigned to the fact that "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." I mention this not to poke a finger in anyone's eye, but rather to give whomever might be considering offering me advice or assistance, the "view of the world" I have.
I'm also not of the mind that every "guide" in the world is born the best shot in the world and the best hunter since Nimrod. I'm a pretty good shot, and I know my firearms and my capabilities with them. I'm not interested in being told when to shoot. When I hunted in Germany, it was hardly hunting. The Jaegermeister knew the game in his gebiet like the back of his hand. If you got drawn for a 1a stag, he could take you to the hochsitze, look at his watch and say, "He will step out of the tree over there in 7 minutes. Be ready to shoot." In 7 minutes a stag would step out, the Jaegermeister would "approve" the animal and the shot, and you would then be allowed to shoot. I'm not too keen on that sort of hunting. It's fine for some, and I have no argument with those that choose that process. It's just not for me.
Here's how I look at what a "guide" SHOULD be providing. First, when I hire a guide, I'm hiring someone with local knowledge. NOT someone to be my "boss"; NOT someone to critique my shooting skills, and damn sure not someone to "teach" me to hunt! When I arrive on scene, I know how to hunt: I know how to shoot game correctly, and I know how to 'behave'. What I DON'T know are the local animal's habits or the local terrain. THAT'S what I'm paying a "guide" to provide.
Ideally, I would want a guide to be a 'partner' in the hunt, and respect both my marksmanship skills and my hunting skills unless or until I demonstrate incompetence in either. If I have a "fellow hunter" as a guide, we can both take satisfaction in an animal well-taken. Otherwise, I'm nothing more than a "trigger puller" whose most important piece of "hunting gear" is my wallet.
Money isn't too big of an issue in the following context. I'm NOT looking to pay the highest prices for "genteel" hunting. I don't need a 'gunbearer' for example, nor do I need to be fed "caviar and quail breasts" every 4 hours. Rather, when it comes to "money", what I am perfectly willing to spend money on is getting access to quality land and animals, and having a quality HUNTING experience, not a quality SOCIAL experience.
If I've come off a little "rough around the edges" in the above, it was not my intent, but I don't apologize. It's just that I am old enough to have had some bad experiences, and feel like it's better to be up front with people right from the beginning. Then, those that don't share similar opinions can simply avoid the conversation, and those that have at least similar view points can offer what input they care to. Also, this way, we don't find out later, at an inopportune time, that we're not really of 'like mind'. True enough that you "British" are more eloquent in expressing your 'pros and cons' than I am. However, "What you see is what you get" is true enough with me.
I did not, and don't, denigrate anyone's choices of hunting styles. The only "thing" I am strongly opinionated about, and make no apologies for, are jerk "guides". In my experience, they considerably outnumber the 'good' ones. If you're a 'guide' and are looking for someone to follow you around like a lost puppy, then we should avoid each other.
I would sincerely appreciate your comments and suggestions especially on when and where to find hunts as I described above. Also recommendations on bringing firearms to "there". And how long in advance do I need to make plans for any particular type of hunting, for example "rough shooting" or Chinese water deer, or roe bucks, etc.
Thanks for your time,