The land I picked up permission to stalk on last year has been teaching me some lessons about how stalking differs between a mainly woodland farm and an open, arable set up. The first buck I took off here last year just happened to be from a small patch of woodland, that's one of only a very few clumps of trees on the whole area. Sub-conciously I think this had kept me in a woodland mind set and consequently it took me quite some time and more than a few outings to connect with a second deer. As soon as I took the second deer I saw where I'd been going wrong.
Because the grond is so open and the clumps of trees so sparse, the deer don't lay up in the woods (such as they are), they tend to lay up in the lee of the hedgerows and the little banks they grow on. This is "spot and stalk", rather than the woodland tactic of "stalk, spot, shoot". Since the penny dropped I've now taken another 3 deer off this ground, including this year's first roe buck, which I shot the day before yesterday.
I'd spotted him from nearly 300m away, looking diagonally accross a field. I was on the Northern hedgerow walking towards the corner, he was on the Eastern hedgrow, which led South from that same corner. (does that make sense?). There was no approach to him from where I was that would lead to a safe shot. Because of the wind direction I guessed that he wouldn't bed down where he was, but would go through the hedge and lay down on the other side. This was confirmed when he turned and sauntered into the hedge. Quickly I crossed over to the hedgerow and spotted a gap that I should be able to crawl through (it looked like the gap had been made by deer actually). As I carefully poked my head through the hedge I looked right and sure enough I saw a deer, 2 actually laid in the grass at the side of the hedge. A doe and immediately behind her I could see the buck's antlers. I then started to crawl on all fours towards them. I'd gone about 20 metres when the doe must have caught a whiff of me and stood up and started to walk directly away from me. While she had her behind towards me I got myself in a kneeling position with my rifle on the sticks. The doe then walked out into the field about 10 yards and started to walk back towards me testing the air, trying to catch scent of me again. The buck had remained layed down during all this and only had his antlers visible. I was hoping desperately that the doe would remain curious rather than alarmed; if she decided to bolt, the buck would probably follow her and I'd not get the shot. Eventually though the buck must have picked up on the doe's concerns and he got up and started coming down the hedgeline towards me, I could tell he was uneasy. Suddenly he made a short run out into the field, but fortunately stopped after only about 5 or 6 yards and turned back towards the hedge. At this point I was sure he'd go through the hedge and get away so I gave a bit of a whistle which stopped him so I took a slightly quartering shot, at which he jumped forward, bounced off the hedge, landed and then stumbled forward and lay down. I could still see movement from his antlers, and he lifted his head a couple of times, so I could see he wasn't dead. However, he was down and hard hit. The doe still hadn't bolted though and she was stood barking at me.
I waited until the doe had finally gone before going forward which took about 5 minutes, which would hopefully give the buck a chance to expire. The buck was still alive though, and had enough strength to keep lifting his head so I put another shot into him and that ended it for him. Gralloch completed I went and got the car and finally called in on the landowner on my way off the farm to let him know how I'd got on.