Firstly let me say that I have been a member of this club for a while. When I joined it was on the back of joining Minsterley ranges, it seemed a logical choice as the range seemed friendly and accommodating and I was keen on stalking.
My first outing was with a chap called Phil Lynch a gruff bear of a chap who steered me in the right direction and my first stalk resulted in a good sized pricket within a half hour or so of leaving the keepers cottage, not common I would imagine but fortunate for me as the client. Sadly Phil moved on to the great stalking ground in the sky and another stalker took up the reins. The new stalker Brian Horton told me he was recruited from within the ranks of the stalking club rather than being drafted in from the outside.
I am sure that there are many here that have paid to stalk and your experiences will differ widely. To my mind a stalkers job is to get the client in a position where a shot can be taken that will result in the humane killing of the beast. If that assumption is false then please feel free to correct me. The following is my honest experience of the Minsterley Stalking Club.
The estate comprises of 14000 acres containing several woods the largest of these being approximately 400 acres. Of the 400 acres only a third of it is stalked as the gamekeeper is very particular about rifles being used by the pheasant pens. In my term of membership I was only taken to a fraction of the estate and repeatedly found myself in the same three places.
When one stalks it is an exhilarating experience even for a seasoned shooter such as me. The long hours walking in the beautiful countryside surrounded by Mother Nature in all of her glory waiting for a glimpse of antler and the adrenaline rush when you spy your quarry is difficult to describe in mere words. I have been out on many occasions with the current stalker and over time one forms an opinion of your companion. When I make the decision to actually pull the trigger on any species it is always after a deep breath and a calm assessment of the situation. Is there a back stop? The periphery, is it clear from any interloper that might walk into harm when the shot is taken? The foreground, is there an obstruction that may deflect the bullet from its path and cause injury rather than death?
These are questions that are not asked by the stalker at the club. The emphasis is on how quickly the shot is taken. On every occasion that a beast has presented itself I was pressured by the phrase “take the shot or I will” on two occasions this was followed by the report of his rifle before I had time to think of a response to the statement. I previously said that a stalkers job is to facilitate a shot by the client. This is not a priority for the clubs current man.
The club states that the stalking is accompanied stalking only. It has been my experience that after a “Walk around with rifles” you will be put in a high seat while the accompanying person often leaves you to walk around on his own. The last time this happened he shot a fine buck within five hundred yards of the seat that I was left in. This was despite the fact that we had two way radios. The final outing with this particular stalker resulted in what I can only describe as an awful experience for both myself and my guest who was on only his second stalk. This was the final straw and resulted in a heated conversation between myself and Brian over his lack of professionalism.
I did a financial assessment of my membership and the maths makes for depressing reading. The membership fee was £175 per year at the time of my joining and it was £50 per stalk. Last year I had ten days stalking, when I say days that actually means approximately four hours in the evening. Out of ten stalks I had two beasts, of the other nine outings we only saw deer twice and the stalker injured a buck at two hundred and fifty yards shooting from sticks.
10 stalks at £50 = £500 plus £175 membership fee = £675 that equates to £337.50 per deer. Or if you prefer 10 four hour stalks works out to £16.87 per hour to generally walk around and have a nice sit down at the end in a high seat watching rabbits play at your feet.
My conclusion is that Minsterley is what it is. If you want to pay the best part of two hundred pounds a year to be a part of a deer stalking club and pay sixty pounds for four hours of stalking then that is your prerogative but in my opinion you would be better spending your money elsewhere with professional stalkers. Perhaps the stalker has been snared by this ethos but either way it is less than an ideal situation and unless the situation is dealt with I can only see a decline in membership. It is sad to see what could be a great sporting experience ruined by bad practice and greed.