Thought I would take the time time to tell any interested on how I got into stalking a couple of years ago. Might be useful for someone thinking of starting.
STARTING OFF IN STALKING
Part 1-FAC application to getting the kit
I have always been into shooting since the age of 14, first with an air rifle and then using my Grandfather’s old Trulock and Harris double 12 hammer shotgun. I used to use this crawling about the hedges after rabbits, a good grounding in stalking and field craft. By the time I was 18 I was hooked and obtained my own AYA sxs 12 bore and then a Weihrach HW35 export .22 air rifle for rabbits and squirrels. These became the mainstay of my arsenal with my shooting mainly rabbits, pigeon decoying and flighting and the occasional hare shoot up on the Berkshire downs when invited.
My brother started a clay shoot about this time and so a bit of wing shooting practice was added now and again.
In those days, some 30 years ago, deer were largely regarded as a pest and on beating days around Chilton in Berkshire, standing orders from the keeper were to have a go at any Roe that came through the line (no Muntjac back then of course). Many were the Roe that must have run off peppered with No.6’s to die a miserable death in the woods. I’m glad to say that I never took part in those barbaric practices but then that was the common thinking of the time. We largely have the foundation of the Deer Society, the influence of European Stalkers and the likes of Richard Prior to thank for the protection of Roe deer and then Muntjac when they came along.
These days of course, very few would consider taking Roe deer with anything other than centre fire rifles of the minimum .240 calibre. Muntjac can now be shot with the smaller .22 centre fires of course but I for one shall be sticking to .243
I have to say that I did take the odd Munty' with my 12 gauge but only when loaded up with ‘OO’ buckshot. Apart from certain exemptions, this too became illegal and so my desire for a proper stalking rifle came about.
Fast forward a few years to January 2006 and I was applying for an FAC having obtained all the necessary signatures. In my area we come under Thames Valley and after a few weeks I received a visit from our local Firearms Officer (FAO). He had checked out my ground over which to shoot and OK’d this but was not happy with my lack of shooting experience!! Shotgun shooting since the age of 14 did not count nor the experience gained from all those years of safe gun handling and field craft.
“Bolt actions are very different” he said, and my bolt action shotgun did not count. The only way he would let me have a rifle was if I started off with a .22 rimfire and gained experience first. I stood my ground and pointed out that this could not be used on deer and that if I wanted to shoot rabbits I could do so with my .410” shotgun!!
After nearly 2 hours of arguing and talking round the subject he said that he would only recommend a .243 if I found an experienced stalker to mentor me for at least 6-9 months after which he would re-assess the matter. He also pressed very strongly for my taking the BDS 1 course as well and as a condition of my being granted an FAC.
I later checked this out with the deer society who said that I could threaten to challenge all this in court but that they recommended I follow the police procedure as the best hassle free option.
I was then lucky enough to find a local stalker who agreed to host me on his shoot for 9 months or so while he taught me the ropes and then to write a letter to Thames Valley saying that in his opinion I was OK to go on my own.
This then, was the course I followed and in July 06’ I received my FAC for a Tikka T3 Hunter in .243 calibre conditional on my shooting only in the presence of my mentor.
I now set about getting the necessary kit together based on my reading of a brilliant book on stalking. I can’t praise this highly enough for anyone thinking of starting off in the sport. If you get the chance read it (The Deer Stalking Handbook by Graham Downing). For completeness I will list the kit I bought and their 2006 costs.
The main item, the rifle, I chose by looking up the Sporting Shooter magazine’s “Top Five Centre Fires”. I chose the Tikka because of its reputation for good “out of the box” accuracy and value for money. The whole project had to be done as best value for money. I had promised my wife that no household money would be spent and that my stalking would all be self-financing and paid for by a part-time gardening job.
Here is the initial kit list;
Tikka T3 Hunter £650
Deer Hunter camo’ jacket £55
Deer Hunter camo’ trousers £35
Schmidt & Bender 8 x 56 scope £310
Bushnell 8 x 56 Bino’s £130 (bought in America)
Head light £25
Head and face veil £7
Gerber knife £40
Folding shovel £8 (bought at local market)
Bi Pod (folding Harris type) £25
Plastic box for transporting shot carcase £12 (found in B&Q with fitted folding lid)
In addition I found the following helpful. These I already had or made.
Length of rope for hanging up deer to bleed before the gralloch.
Spare folding Swiss Army type knife.
Towel (as well as the obvious use you can sit on this up in a wet high seat)
Shooting sticks (two bits of hazel joined near the top with a leather thong)
Mobile phone & of course a……….
Hip Flask (Celebration after the deer is shot)
As you can see I managed to get going for some £1300.00 plus ammo.
This is based on new kit but no doubt you could start cheeper with 2nd hand kit. I just didn't want to take the chance on getting saddled with a "shot out" rifle and naff scope.
The plastic box, by the way, I keep all my kit in and take this in the back of the car, then once I have put coat, veil, bino’s and rifle plus hung my knife and shovel on my belt this box is then empty. If I am lucky enough to shoot a beast it can be taken home in the box with no blood seeping out into the back of the car. The box will hold 2 gralloched Munty's or one big Roe once the legs are bent round a bit. It’s a much better option than newspaper or plastic sheeting.
Once home I use it positioned underneath the deer once it is hoisted up in the garage prior to skinning. It thus acts as a very useful drip tray and holder for the skin and discarded odd bits of deer prior to disposal.
Anyway, all the kit was obtained by the middle of August and so I found myself ready to go stalking for the first time by the end of the month.
My next post will tell the tale of this first outing with my new stalking mentor.
Bye for now.
cz452 American .22lr 16" with P'hale mod & Tasco 8x50
Tikka T3 Hunter .243 with Sm'dt & Bender 8x56
CZ550 American 7x57
AYA Mod 4 sxs 12 bore
WR Pape 1912 sxs 16 bore
& just for fun,
Bolt action 9mm Garden Gun (great for rats)