*my apologies in advance; I have been told that my style of writing can be difficult to follow*
My family and I go up to Perthshire, Scotland for a week every August. The deer population is near zero where I live so I thought that this year I would try for my first roe buck while up there. The parents gave me the all clear and it didn’t take long to find the website and, in turn, the email address of a local stalker who was only too happy to take me out. However, the dates I mentioned were no good for him. So I explained that I am only up once a year and hoping it was not too rude of me asked, if he knew of anyone else offering commercial stalking in the area who may be available, could he please put me through to them? He was very understanding and did not hesitate in giving me the number of an international sporting agency who are based locally, before wishing me luck.
The sporting agent is a professional stalker himself and takes out all of their stalking clients personally. The dates were fine for him and when I asked if booking two evenings would be sensible to give myself the best chances of connecting with a buck his response was 'perfect,' so that was that.
The evening of the 24th eventually rolled around and at 5.00pm I was picked up outside my hotel in a burgundy coloured Nissan with the logo of the agency on the outside and a smiling stalker on the inside. It took roughly 45 minutes to drive to the 14,000 acre plot of forestry at the foot of the highlands during which we talked about his thriving business and . . . DEER. The scenery just kept getting more awe inspiring the further north we drove:
When we arrived at the estate we were greeted by one of the syndicate members; a stockbroker, who had brought his father along and after a short chat some target practice followed. The estate rifle I was using was a Steyr Mannlicher in .270 Win with a full wooden stock underneath a Zeiss scope, the bullets were 130 grain RWS H-mantels. The target practice was at 75 yards and my grouping was not amazing (to say the least), for which I blame the people who warned me how horrible a calibre the .270 is. The effect of all these warnings was that I winced and threw myself into every shot making my groups inconsistent but my average POA was an inch to the right and down. All I could think about was the supposedly gross amount of recoil to come . . . which never came. However, they were only bad enough to knock my confidence but tight enough to be sufficient for a heart shot on roe, so off we went.
We then got back in the car and drove through the forest on a gravel path, stopping a few times to check what turned out to just be brown patches of heather. When we stopped we had just passed a big ride that stretched both upwards and downwards for what seemed like vast distances:
Round chambered and safety engaged, we cut into the ride and started stalking down to the high seat (you may be able to make it out as the white blob). Immediately stalker X found recent tracks from red and roe leading down the ride in the direction we were heading. Where the rushes and heather gave way to mud we could see clear slots from both species. We stalked to the bottom of the ride where the forest gave way to a clearing stretching left and right with the high seat straight ahead. By this point my heart was really pounding. So after taking a deep breath and checking the coast was clear, we made the rifle safe and climbed up.
With the rides stretching out four separate ways at right angles from us there was a lot to spy, so we got to spying. About ten minutes later I turned to say something and on turning back we both lurched forward as we saw a russet coloured animal in front of us that had just miraculously appeared. It was browsing on the edge of the tree line on the left side of the clearing and sure enough it was a roe! We both peered through the binos and I blurted out ‘it’s a buck,’ . . . no answer from stalker X . . . ‘it’s a doe,’ he replied. I was pretty sure it was a buck but now it had its head in the grass so we watched for a few moments. All of a sudden it raised its head and looked straight at us (I don’t think it scented us because the high seat really was a HIGH seat, so we should have been above the scent line; it was probably more attributed to my heavy breathing), ‘no your right it’s a buck!’ he whispered (he had picked it up just a second later than me by which time its head was in the grass and he mistook its little antlers for blades of grass). I couldn’t take my eyes off of the little buck so after a few seconds had passed stalker X reminded me of how stalking works by whispering the word ‘rifle,’ ‘OH S***,’ I whispered in response. Then i slowly brought the rifle up and through the gap in the wooden structure. After I got comfortable I once more started peering at the buck. He was now bobbing his head vertically and licking his nose in an attempt to catch our scent. He either decided we were of no threat to him or gave up (probably the latter as the wind was also in our favour) because he continued browsing, slowly moving diagonally to the right and away. After moving about 20 yards he took a step to his right and stopped to scratch himself thereby presenting a beautiful broadside shot. Remembering to aim an inch up and to the left I disengaged the safety, exhaled and squeezed off the trigger, all without wincing or moving forward in the slightest.
I recovered from the recoil as quickly as I could but by the time the rifle was settled he was gone. ‘Reload,’ said stalker X, which I had completely forgotten to do because I was so focused on the buck. Had I missed and the buck run off? Stalker X suggested I may have shot high and hit the spinal column; dropping him instantly. We waited for a few minutes then made the rifle safe, climbed down, chambered a round once more and started to walk to the place where we had last seen the young buck. It did not take us long to find because it had indeed dropped on the spot. After I shook stalker X’s hand with a big grin on my face he estimated the distance at 135 yards.
I picked up his head in excitement to have a look at the yearling bucks little antlers and I noticed an exit hole just in front of his ear and behind his right antler. I then found the entry hole square in the back of his neck, just over half way up. That would explain the brains on the grass . . .
To say my confidence regarding rifle skills was at an all time low would be an understatement. Stalker X reassured me by saying ‘you went bang, the beast fell dead without suffering and that’s all that matters.’ All I could think of was where would the next bullet go?
However, while stalker X was performing the gralloch (expertly I must say) he found a chunk of lung on the ground and I noticed another bullet wound on his left shoulder. So we flipped him over and to my amazement there was an entry would just under half way down his chest and just left of the shoulder:
It soon became clear that to scratch himself he had bent his head round abnormally far to the point of contortion, I think this was probably on account of his small single point antlers. His position as I took the shot must have been like so:
With a much bigger smile on my face Stalker X continued with the gralloch and found that it was a perfect heart shot. Although, there was not much heart left to speculate over because of the speed and the down range punch the .270 packs:
CONFIDENCE RESTORED!! I suspect all the adrenaline and the fact that I was so focused on the buck, opposed to the characteristics of the calibre, made the difference between target practice and the real thing.
The gralloch was left for the foxes and stalker X dragged the buck while I carried the rifle, sticks, backpack and both pairs of binos. The slope we stalked down had definitely gotten steeper!
We reached the road and, in turn, the car upon which the liver was removed and put in a plastic baggie. It was later fried wrapped in streaky bacon and eaten for breakfast. Then it was time to pose with my first ever roe buck (excuse the attempt at a smile, I was still pretty out of breath):
Then one of his ickle antlers:
And the prince of the forest himself:
Then we didn’t waste any time in getting on our way because we told the other syndicate member and his father that we would rendezvous with them just before dark to see how we both got on and the light was fading fast. In the words of the syndicate member ‘the old boy got one!’ A red spiker in fact and his father was using a .270 aswell. The ‘old boy,’ then asked if I had been blooded. We had both completely forgotten but Stalker X kindly apologised and promptly blooded me:
On the way back to my hotel I thanked him for such a perfect and memorable first stalking experience. ‘It doesn’t always happen like that,’ he said. Heart shot, neck shot and head shot all in one; he didn’t feel a thing, GOOD and my career as a professional trick shooter begins. . .
He told me he would boil out the head, mount it on a plaque and post it down to me for a very reasonable price.
I had paid in advance for two evenings so two days later (26th) I was out trying for another. This time we were on arable which was much closer, lower and we were stalking for the whole evening as opposed to sitting in a high seat. It was also a commercial shoot so the rides were very well managed (not that the other estates rides were anything but) with healthy looking pheasants and partridges running in and out. The wind was really picking up so we stalked sheltered spots where stalker X thought deer would feel more secure. We stalked the whole plot of forestry and spied all the visible surrounding land which looked like so:
Not a sausage, not even the little ones you get on cocktail sticks. So we walked back round to the car and drove to a separate part of the estate. Just as we were coming over the brow of a hill I shouted ‘deer!’ We skidded to a halt and saw a roe deer in a high grass meadow about 10 yards from the tree line. Although it was distant we both agreed it looked ‘bucky,’ so hopes were high. We stalked round and into the trees, both to get the wind into our faces and to stay off of the skyline. We got to the edge of the trees roughly 100 yards from where we had seen this 'bucky,' roe deer. It had moved into the middle of the meadow and a quick check from stalker X proved it to be a doe and a doe with twins at that. Stalker X tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my right where there were two young roe deer. The trusty swarovski binoculars proved them to be another pair of twins. ‘Where’s the mother?’ I asked. Stalker X could not see her because there was a bush in the way but when I looked further to the right with the binos I saw she was walking straight towards us! With this many does and young about there had to have been a buck close by and if we bumped this doe she would surely run off barking and alert any buck to our presence. So we sat still and waited. The doe passed not 20 yards away, completely unaware. We watched for the next 45 minutes or so before we lost the light. Although we didn’t connect with a buck there was a smile on my face all the same because being that close to deer was really special and I got a great insight into roe behaviour.
A short phase of buck fever? No. A serious passion for Bambi bashing? Yes.
I thanked stalker X on the way back to my hotel. He told me I was welcome and that was that. Now I’m trying to get back up for some hind stalking with him this coming winter.
Hope you enjoyed it.
If anyone wants to get in touch with so called stalker X PM me.