Some of you will know that Gadget and I do a bit of stalking together - we have a love/hate relationship based on squabbling, bickering, arguing and a shared love of stalking, shooting and eating deer. In the last three years G and I have travelled the length and breadth of the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe stalking deer and making some serious long-term friendships with fellow hunters all over the place. On the flimsiest of initial PMs here on the SD, we arranged to meet up for the first time, got on well and carried on hunting together ever since - in his company, I have been lucky enough to hunt wild goats, all six species of UK deer, moose, boar, kill endless rabbits and foxes, with a whole lot more to come. I spend nearly as much time in his company as I do in my wife's, so much so that he has his own bedroom and special tea mug at my house. He's an excellent stalker and (picking some of his more positive points) a foul-mouthed, bigoted, unhygienic Manc' with dubious driving skills and anger management issues - and I am proud to call him a friend (when I'm not calling him a total bleeding b*****d ). Whilst intending to do a brief write up of this weekend's stalking in Scotland, I thought it was high time I thanked him publicly for his generosity in sharing the brilliant stalking he has and for opening so many hunting-related doors for me. I'm sure he won't be embarrassed by this as it's an emotion with which he is entirely unfamiliar!
So, to this weekend's stalking...starting with the end of the weekend first, I have already done a quick write up of our outing with Wayne, Andy and some of the SD mob. However, prior to that, G and I had spent the last few days in the Dee valley in Aberdeenshire, stalking Roe bucks with our 14 year old sons. This allowed us to spend a bit of quality Father & Son time passing on our passion for hunting - not to mention being upstaged by their brilliant eyesight and hearing - and earn a few much needed brownie points with our respective wives, to be credited against next year's trip to New Zealand. We drove up on Thursday in the Disco, loaded with kids, guns, kit, my Vizsla bitch and G's young GWP, getting to the cottage we use on the boundary of the Balmoral estate at around 11pm. Once the truck was unpacked, any sensible people would have got a few hours sleep - not us; we headed out onto the farm to lamp a few rabbits - we get the cottage at a peppercorn rate in return for regular rabbit control, so it needs to be done. Then it was a couple of hours sleep before an 04:00hrs alarm call.
Friday AM we were stalking with our own sons - G and his in the north end of the wood (a mix of conifer planting and areas of natural broadleaf, on rolling ground; my son and I were stalking the bottom end of the wood which consisted of open rides, plus the ground across the lane, which was a mix of open pasture and broadleaf woodland rising up above a couple of large fish pools. No.2 son and I were a bit rusty, so probably fairly noisy clattering through the wood and didn't see any deer. Our luck improved a little on crossing the lane - as we stalked up the edge of the pasture we spotted a Roe deer browsing across a sunny clearing above the pond. Glassing confirmed she was a doe, so that gave a chance for the boy to look out for doe characteristics - even at 180 yards, her anal tush was clear, so that was a bit more learning in the bag for him. We watched her through the binos for a while because she kept looking down into the dead ground to her left and I was convinced she either had a follower in tow or there was a buck around.
It was No.2 son who spotted that there was another Roe moving through heavy cover towards our doe - despite glassing neither of us could make out if it was a buck. We crawled in a little further across the field to a little ridge and put the rifle on the bipod for the chance of a 120 yard shot if it presented itself. Clearly it was not to be; as the deer broke cover and I was able to see it was a smallish cull buck, he instantly bounced across the narrow strip of open ground to follow the doe as she ambled into cover. No chance of a shot but brilliant to lie out in the sun and watch the deer. On return to the truck, we found that G and his lad had had similar luck - deer seen but no chance of a shot. Everyone was happy, if in need of some sleep!
Later in the day, after a trip out to look at some new ground and a couple of hours powernapping we were back in the woods for another go. This time the wind was against us and we drew a blank.
On Saturday morning, we were just driving onto the ground at 05:00hrs when we spotted a buck on the open pasture - no time for finesse, I slid out of the truck and shot him at approximately 80 yards. Another bit of learning for the boys (not that they learnt much from the 'stalk' ) - the buck made a classic reaction to a heart shot by stretching his back and running 30 metres before skidding onto his chest as he died on the move. This gave G's young GWP dog a chance to work, which he did without any drama, looking very pleased with himself on finding the buck. The rest of the morning was spent in high seats, but only does were spotted. It was a really nice six point buck, fully out of velvet and coloured up, with good body weight, even if he was moulting in handfuls, making the gralloch a pain in the butt.
Saturday afternoon gave G his chance to shine whilst stalking on new ground. By this time I was knackered and really suffering from the joint pain I've been struggling with, so I chose the low ground and wasn't in too much hurry to start. G and his son headed off up the hill at about 17:45pm - the landowner needed to cull five bucks for the larder and G like nothing more than a numbers challenge . 30 minutes later we heard the first shot, rapidly followed by the second. This then went on periodically for the next three or so hours until last light - the end result was five Roe bucks in the bag, with one of them being a really good head that has a good chance of making a medal. This is tough ground to stalk and five bucks in one outing is a pretty good achievement for anyone. No.2 son and I ran out of steam at about 8pm, only having seen does, so we trundled up the hill in the Disco' to collect and dress out the carcasses left by the track.
Sunday morning saw us up at a decent time, to give the cottage a quick sweep through before loading up the truck and trailer for the long slog back down the motorway. Despite making more stops than usual to accommodate the boys, we got back to Herefordshire at around 20:00hrs - an excellent trip, with deer in the larder and two teenagers having spent some decent time outside away from the Xbox and internet...
I'll bung up some pictures later when I work out how to get them from phone to iPad