After an invitation a couple of weeks ago from Wayne, a select group of the SD's finest were to be found gathered around his barbecue yesterday evening, scoffing burgers and sausages in preparation for an evening's Muntjac culling in a nearby wood. The group consisted of Wayne and his oppo' Andy, Roedinator, Wint, 243varmint, Flytie, Richard-Gun, Gadget and myself. I already knew a few of the group and had bumped into others at the CLA or the Midland but it is always to put names to faces and meet new SD members in person. Gadget and I had hot-footed it back from northeast Scotland a few hours before, so this was a very pleasant way to round off an excellent weekend's stalking.
After a rigorous briefing that consisted of 'shoot everything that isn't wearing a cagoule', we headed off to the wood a few miles away. I've been driving past these woods for the last ten years, wondering who shot in them. I now know that the answer to this, and to the same question asked of any land for several miles around them, is WAYNE DAVIES
The idea of the evening was to assist Wayne and Andy with their Muntjac cull by placing the rifles in highseats on the rides around the woods. The cover was already very high and the best chance of shooting these elusive little deer was to wait for them to appear on the open rides - they have a habit of crossing the rides rather than walking along them, so you need to be alert and ready to take a quick shot before they slip back into cover on the opposite side.
On arriving at the wood at around 6.30pm, we dispersed to our various perches - I was allocated a tall seat in a three-trunked wild cherry tree, set in a deep natural basin with a narrow ride to my left and another to my right. Gadget was in a seat on the ridge behind and above me and Flytie was in a seat above me to my right, with Andy & Richard-Gun in a double seat slight further on again, giving me nice safe shooting. Once in my seat, I loaded my .270 with 156gn rounds (a better choice than the .223 in potentially heavy cover, and the bigger partition round does less damage to these small animals than the usual fast 130gn round I use) and got comfortable. I find it takes twenty minutes or so for the wood to settle down and for my eyes and ears to tune in to what's around me.
Fairly quickly there was a shot from my right, so that was either Richard-Gun or Flytie opening the evening's account. I then spent an hour or so glassing the cover and keeping an eye on both rides. At around 8pm, I spotted movement in the cover on the edge of the right hand ride about 80 to 90 yards out - on glassing it, it turned out to be a large cock pheasant faffing around in the grass. As I watched him, I caught the tiniest flicker of movement on the edge of the lens and a Muntjac buck hove into view, sticking its head out of the cover on the other side of the ride a few feet from the pheasant. In what was an unusually coordinated movement for me, I managed to drop the binos and raise the rifle to aim without snagging it on anything. The Muntjac appeared to be intent on crossing the ride without stopping, so I took the shot whilst it was on the move - my .270 seemed incredibly loud after a weekend using the .223 on Scottish Roe bucks but the Muntjac dropped cleanly and I could see it kicking a little as I chambered another round just in case.
After a few minutes wait, glassing the shot sight, I climbed down from the seat and walked quietly up the ride to retrieve the animal and gralloch it. I was pleased to find that it was a nice representative buck in good condition, so a swift bleed and gralloch, then hung him on the rungs of the high seat to cool. Then it was back in the seat, reload the rifle and back to the waiting game...
At 8.30pm there was another shot to my left - unmistakeably Gadget's .300 this time and I heard the bullet strike, so I was pretty sure he'd been successful too. By 9.00pm the only thing that had stirred on my beat was a badger - my heart rate raised slightly in case it was a very short-legged Muntjac was it was definitely a large bad-tempered member of the Mustelids. As it was now too dark to see through scope or binoculars, I unloaded the rifle and climbed out of the seat to hock the Muntjac carcass into a convenient 'muntie handbag' for the walk down to the trucks.
The tally for the group was three Muntjac (two bucks from 243varmint & me and one doe from Gadget) plus a fox from Flytie. Mr Davies made it clear that he was deeply ashamed of us - he'd cleared his cold room and selected the finest, stealthiest shots on the SD in anticipation of a Muntjac bonanza and all we'd managed was three deer and a fox. I jest of course (I think) - it was congratulations all round, particularly as 243varmint had managed to shoot a stunning buck with lovely hooked antlers complete with brow tines. Very likely to make a medal and a really nice trophy to boot. Even better, it managed to bolt into cover despite good shot placement, so it gave Wayne's dog Max something to do as well.
Last job of the evening was to take a couple of group photos, as it is rare to gather together such a fine and handsome body of deer stalkers in one place, so the event needed recording for posterity. The only person missing from the picture was our very generous host, as he was behind the lens swearing and wrestling with his new camera. When the picture is posted on here, I suspect we might all have our eyes shut, given the blinding power of the flash...
So a huge thanks to Wayne and Andy for a very entertaining evening and I hope to meet up with you all again soon at one of the local SD beer, badger skulls and chips evenings.