Apologies to Terry for the delay in posting this one
Apologies to the rest of you for the length of the article
The hardest thing about writing this up was working out where to start.
It brought together everything I like about the sport and this site, and because of that, and despite what I have said a few times before – ie I hate doing write ups – I decided to relent and to do a write up about a trip I enjoyed to Sikamalc’s place in Sussex over the weekend of 21st and 22nd of May.
I had phoned Malcolm and enquired about booking a slot on his patch in for the early part of the buck season some time ago. Little did I realise that the phone call would bring so many threads together. First of all, a newbie on the site (scrumbag) who had been in touch because of my username indicating something in common, unknown to me had been in touch with Malc too. This was the first happy coincidence, and “scrumbag” aka Mike ended up booking a weekend with Malc at the same time as me.
Mike and me met for beers a couple of times beforehand and we were both looking forward to the weekend long before it came around. On the 20th of May I left work early and picked up my stuff to head down to the B&B in good time. When I arrived who did I see but none other than “pheasant sniper” or Terry, who I hadn’t met since we both did a bit of shooting on Broadlands a couple of years back, something set up by EMcC, another SD regular – and mate. It was a small, happy world!
When Malc and Sandra arrived, we did a brew up and yarned for a bit, then it was off to check zero and give Mike a chance to try out Malc’s rifle. It was all a bit of a laugh, Malc brought along Tod the wonder-dog plus the (ie Sandra’s) crazy new pup, Kizzy. She provided hours of fun with all her running around, particularly cos she has one of those funnel things on her neck and head to stop her worrying an injury. The sight and state of her running with that thing on in a field of long grass definitely belongs on YouTube……….
We saw our first buck of the trip on the way back to the B&B and little did we know how good an omen that was to be.
Our day on the 21st began early enough, one of the not so good things about roe buck season, but if it was easy would it be worth it? The alarms went at 4.30am, not as early as some would do it, but early enough. There was just time for a quick cuppa then into the vehicles and off to the ground. I had the pleasure of stalking alongside Terry. Don’t get me wrong, I like being on the ground with Malc, he knows what he’s at, knows the ground intimately and he has Tod. However, me and Terry hadn’t been shooting together for way too long and off we went.
It was a weird start weather-wise, surprisingly cool and because of that it was very misty, even foggy. At first we selected a big oak to stand under and just wait and see what happened. Although the spot was in a gateway and would normally afford a view in close to 360̊, on that morning we couldn’t see more than 100yds or so, and despite our early optimism about the sun burning off the mist, it seemed that bank after bank of mist or fog just kept rolling in. After about half an hour or so we both got itchy feet and decided to go for a slow walkabout. All we saw over the next half mile or so was rabbits, loads of feckin rabbits, but not a sight of a deer.
With the mist I had forgotten where I was on the ground, but as we approached a large drain I remembered ok. Back in January I had been to the same bit of ground with Malc and taken a roe doe close to this same spot. I told Terry where I would like to go and off we went. We ended up stalking down the side of one of the most “deery” bits of ground imaginable, good cover, good feed including buttercups, crops – you name it, it is there, buck heaven – but NO BUCKS!
Terry and I stopped close to a railway line, had a chat and tried to plan our attack on the rest of the ground, when all of a sudden Terry spotted a nice little 4-pointer buck about 300-400yds away, but right beside the railway line. Nonetheless I started to stalk in on him; he was so intent on feeding that I was able to quickly halve the distance between us. Then, it looked like disaster was about to strike as a train hurtled down the track alongside us, certain to scare the buck. Right enough the buck quickly moved away from the side of the line, but didn’t charge off, he ran for a few yards but quickly reverted to a slow stroll along a hedge line at a right angle to the rail way. He didn’t look like stopping, but didn’t seem to wake up any either as I was still making good headway on closing the gap on him. Eventually the buck stopped to feed at a briar patch and I took the chance to get the sticks up and set the rifle up. Just at that point, typically, it looked like the buck had clocked us. However he was standing almost perfectly broadside on to us, so I steadied my aim and squeezed off a shot.
What happened next could have been the worst thing that ever happened to me! The buck ran. No sound of impact, no reaction to shot, nothing. Nothing that is, except a great big feeling of “Oh f*ck NO!” right deep inside of me. Worse, I could have sworn that I saw his offside leg swinging around as he jumped the hedge and ran off up the path behind it. I turned to Terry, dejected, I said “I hoped that was a miss mate, but I think I have truly f*cked it up, I have wounded the poor thing”. The lack of strike sound or any reaction had both of us worried. We let things sit for a few minutes, then off we went, me with a heavy heart and feeling none too good, Terry trying his level best to be cheery. We arrived at the spot where we had seen the buck feed and had our first look around, but saw no sign. Funny how you don’t always get things right time, eh? It turned out later that we were about 10feet away from where the buck had been standing, only a short distance but all the difference in the world.
Then, we saw a four point buck further up the hedge line, crossing in front of us heading out into the field about 80yds or so away. Was it the same buck? It looked different, darker and heavier, but I couldn’t be sure. Sticks up again, rifle readied, but this buck quickly turned and headed back into the hedge. Was this proof of a “good clean miss” with my first shot? We didn’t take the chance and carried on searching in the area where we reckoned that the first buck had been standing when I shot at him.
After only a few minutes, but what seemed like hours to me, Terry spotted paint on a leaf then within seconds I felt a whole world better! I saw a patch of lovely, frothy, bright red blood all over a few bramble leaves. I just about yelled at Terry “He’s dead! I’ve got lung blood”.
We soon got on to the blood spoor, and had a fairly easy trail to follow in all honesty given that it was thin and sparse, though at the time it seemed to drag on and on, thank good it was fair weather and not raining. I was also thinking to myself “thank god Tod is available”. There was loads of evidence of the state of the buck as he had run up the path and he had clearly been weaving all over the place. There were blood marks on hawthorns to both sides of the path, then a big splash of blood on a small tree indicated one last bump and right enough, a quick glance round the tree saw him lying there, on his back, head towards us. It looked like he has somersaulted to his end. Despite the fact that I was looking at a dead buck I have never been happier in my life!!
When we inspected him we saw the strike and exit marks indicated an absolutely perfect heart and lung shot. Why, or how, did he run? Who knows? Maybe the train had scared him or primed him to run? His lung was hanging out of the exit wound and maybe this explained the relative lack of blood, again, who knows for sure. Anyway, he was gralloched and it was time to head back to the larder to tidy up and get him into the chiller. As we headed back to my car we saw another buck, but a quick call to Malc and we left him for another day.
After doing the biz at the larder we returned to the B&B where we had the usual excellent fry up prepared by Sandra and Malc, only this time with Terry “helping out” or maybe he was getting in the way? Sandra? (Go on – be honest)
We all had a good yarn and swapped tales of the morning, sadly Mike hadn’t connected, but had seen a couple of bucks, and after all it was his first ever deer stalk.
Mike had to charge off to fulfil a prior engagement, but the four of us and the two dogs went out for a stroll on another part of the land. There we met some of the family of the owner and saw their dormouse hedge. What more could a body ask for? A deer in the larder; a hearty breakfast, good company, two working dogs in tow on a walk in beautiful countryside on a late spring day – and a dormouse hedge! What other pastime could give you a scenario like that?
That evening, following Mike’s return it was back out again, this time swapping over, me with Malc, Mike with Terry. I really enjoy being on the ground with Malc, he just generates such an air of optimism and confidence, and of course Tod the wonder dog was there too. It was a bright sunny evening so we decided to start the stalk on a part of the ground which suited the wind and to sit there for a while. All we did for the next hour was count rabbits, saw a fox and the dreaded random member of the public.
Tod’s patience wore out before ours, so we took the excuse and started off across the land once more. We saw nothing but some old sign for about the next hour, frustrating to some degree, but after the morning’s excitement and with a buck in the larder I was happy enough. Then all of a sudden, up ahead a flash of orange-brown, we froze and went into bino-like-crazy mode. Malc said it first “it’s just a doe”, but a cracker of a doe in lovely condition. Then another appeared, and another. Yep, three does within 20-30feet of each other and all feeding away contentedly. So where was the buck?
Eventually one of the does clocked us and the three of them trotted off into the woods on the edge of the field. Next big field same story, three more does but no buck. Into yet another patch and we saw a doe with a yearling in tow, I was sure I had seen a third animal but Malc wasn’t. Just for fun and a bit out of frustration we decided to stalk in to see how close we could get to the pair. We hadn’t moved more than a few yards when I spotted the buck, and a nice buck too. A young but well made six-pointer with a lightish but tall head. I turned to Malc and asked did he want me to leave it because we had earlier talked about his plan to leave some good heads to breed. He nodded and I put the rifle back up on my shoulder. Again we watched for a while and then tried to get closer to see how close we could go before being spotted. Never mind shooting him, I could have killed him with a kick before he clocked us. It was a bit pointless if truth be told, but I suppose it was excellent stalking practice and fun to boot.
From then on the whole way back to the pickup it was doe after doe without sight of another buck, but then again that’s the buck season isn’t it? Tod winded a couple of does for us as we were about to crest a hill, of course we didn’t know they were does when he reacted so the excitement levels were up. That dog is amazing!
Again, nothing for Mike, but again that’s stalking – and it’s not supposed to be a walk to the supermarket is it?
We had yet another cuppa then a bit of a kip before another early start on the Sunday. This time I was back out with Terry and because Mike had gone home, Malc took the chance to head out with Sandra in a bid to bag her first roe buck.
Terry and I started close to where I had bagged my buck on the Saturday but my expectations were low. The weather was nothing like the Saturday, it was colder, windier and a lot wetter. The rain wasn’t really that heavy but it was that horrible penetrating kind that really soaks you given enough time. However, the rain wasn’t going to get time. Little did we know what kind of morning lay ahead of us? It wouldn’t have taken a great deal to persuade us to return to the B&B, we were joking about the fry up before we went into quiet mode, albeit reluctantly.
We set off into a wheat field, following tram lines in the crop. Within minutes Terry spotted antlers, a few seconds later we saw the head and neck of a buck. I got the rifle up onto the sticks and with Terry quietly encouraging me I readied for the shot. Obligingly the buck stopped only 50yds or so away from us presenting me with an easy neck shot. This time there was no drama, the rifle report was followed almost immediately by the thwack of the impact and the buck dropped, quite literally, in his tracks. Incredibly we had been out of the car for just over 10minutes on what looked like a poor day and we had bagged a buck.
We gralloched him and headed back to the car, another quick check with Malc and we got the go ahead for Terry to try for a buck.
We headed back down the tramlines and set off for a gap in the hedge to glass the neighbouring field. I was close behind Terry as he slowly went through the thick double hedge line and knew instantly from his reaction that he had seen something good. He whispered for me to pass him my rifle. I chambered a round for him – I had unloaded before entering the thick hedge – and passed him the rifle. He was also using my sticks too, and he got into a right state with them, trying to use them upside down on the first attempt. He sorted himself out in short order and I could see him adjust his aim, but I couldn’t see the buck. A few seconds later it was bang-thump, obviously a good clean strike. Terry turned and gave me the thumbs up. I could scarcely believe it! Less than ten minutes after I had taken a buck, Terry had grassed one in the adjacent field and, as he told me on the way down the field, it had been with a doe and a young’un too.
Terry said that he thought it was an old buck we had seen the day before, one with a tall enough head on him but curving back giving the impression that the buck was old or “going-back”. However, on seeing him on the grass we weren’t so sure, he looked good – too good.
But apart from that what a cracking start to the day! Two bucks downed within 10 minutes or so and both taken cleanly, it just didn’t seem real and I thought I was dreaming, it almost seemed to be too good to be true. We called Malc and arranged to meet to plan something for Sandra. Terry and I headed back to the car with his buck and as we drove off down the lane we saw Malc and a dejected, very wet Sandra coming towards us. After a quick chat we were off with Malc headed to a bit of ground were he had seen a buck when he was out with Mike, Terry and I went off to glass a couple of other places to find something in case Malc and Sandra blanked.
The two of us set off at a real snail’s pace into a spot were we had both seen deer on previous trips, as we came to a gap in the main hedge I spotted a buck about 500yds away browsing contentedly on a wild rose bush. We texted Malc but he replied that he had seen two bucks on his bit and that he was stalking in on them with Sandra. It seemed that there were bucks everywhere. The next ten minutes or so of waiting for the expected shot were tough to take, the tension was worse than on any of my own stalks. At long last we heard crack-thump, the gap indicating a reasonably long shot too. Terry and I jumped up and down like a pair of kids, high-fiving and all sorts, we knew Sandra had taken her first buck and we were both stoked!
Malc got in touch and the excitement in his voice confirmed it before he had even said the words. We headed over to meet the pair of them and give a hand with the extraction, take photos and such. We weren’t hanging around, no gloves on, hats off, practically running in our excitement and as we reached Malc’s car we bumped yet another four-point buck, but he didn’t run off! What was wrong with all these bucks? Walking around in the rain, standing around when shooting was going on, ignoring two big excitable eejits running around whopping like kids.
Sandra’s buck turned out to be the best of the weekend, a really good cull buck with a deformed head. One antler was a small back curved hook, the other a scrawny two-pointer. An excellent one to take and taken at 100yds or more off sticks too, and don’t forget, this was Sandra’s second ever deer.
Photos were taken and much back-slapping and congratulating was done too, it was a moment to treasure alright. Here I was in the very best of company and at such a time as that too. We had three bucks, though Terry might have some explaining to do about his “cull” buck, we had two dogs going daft with the excitement and we also had four adults jumping around and kicking up a fuss like a bunch of kids – magic! It’s a bit of a cliché, but it fits this one perfectly, it just doesn’t get any better than this!
So how do I sum this one up? With another cliché perhaps? We live and learn.
I have read it time and again on the site, every day out is a new lesson learned and this trip proved that beyond doubt. I consider myself to be a reasonable shot, I have a good rifle in a useful calibre and use good quality ammo in it. However, my first buck didn’t react like I expected and I imagined the worst. The second buck seen could have been a distraction from the task of following up properly on the first. We stuck to the basics and found the first buck and it ended very well on that occasion. Malc often says it and Sunday proved him right, you won’t shoot many deer if you stay at home. The weather screamed “stay in bed” but the deer were out and we had a real red-letter day, one I trust Sandra won’t forget in a hurry – I know I won’t.
I have met some cracking folk via this site, Malc for starters and through him I also met Sandra. I kinda met Terry via the site or really via Eddy (EMcC) years ago and it was good to be back out stalking with him again – let’s not leave it so long next time eh Terry? Recently I have been out stalking along with Moses, and have been on boar trips with Moose and Boghossian. Mike is likely to turn out to be a future deer-stalking and fishing mate too. The SD site has been a real boon to a blow-in like me, and has given me the chance to meet like minded folk and do some good hunting.
Thanks to Malc for the permission to hunt on his ground. Thanks to Sandra, Terry and Mike for the good company and all four of them for making the weekend the success that it was.
Oh, and I was reminded that having a deer-trained dog available is a real comfort!
Malc, Terry & Sandra any photos and instructions on how to insert them into the article would be most welcome. Ta again for a cracking weekend!