I had planned for a while to go stalking with a friend on Friday evening. He was travelling a fair way so the iffy weather forecast was a concern. However he also wanted to zero his new gun at mine. The forecast for the afternoon was OK so we went ahead and decided to risk stalking if the weather didn’t deteriorate too far.
The zeroing went well and the weather seemed set pretty fair so we set off to stalk.
I gave my mate the option of 2 pieces of ground and let him decide which to stalk. I learned a while ago that if you send someone to a hotspot and you go and sit in a hole in the ground you can bet you will see a deer and they wont. So, let them pick and go from there.
Decisions made we set off. After about 200m of my stalk a clearfell comes into view and there is a roe deer in the bottom of the valley. It is cutting the corner of the clearfell from one set of trees to another. I cant tell what sex it is but try to get a rattle on across the tinder dry clearfell and brash. I managed to get over 100m nearer and decided another 15m would get me to a good position for a shot once the deer was identified. As I made up the ground the deer stepped into the trees and was gone.
I was now at the bottom of the valley and opted to stalk along the bottom ride. The wind was wrong so I decided to hurry, it started to rain so I quickened further. At the end of the ride it climbs and then swings round into the area I had originally been aiming for. Just before the rise the clearfell changes back to mature trees. As I entered them there was a good buck to my left. He quickly moved away but going in the direction I had come. I tried the buttallo for a few seconds but got no obvious response. At the level he was at there is another grass ride so I figured if i was quick and got back to the clearfell I might see him on the other ride. As I emerged there was no sign of him and then there he was, immediately in front of me. The crafty sod was looping right round me. He once again started to trot away/ This time I barked and he stopped. 70m off sticks and job done.
I performed the gralloch, left him where he would be easy to recover with the vehicle and then continued on. As I went back into the trees and started to climb I saw the red of a deer coming towards me. I popped the rifle straight on sticks and put the cross hairs on the neck of the buck. Second deer down and it wasn’t even 200m from the first!!! Not exactly a testing shot at about 15m! He had been coming straight toward me when he was straight downwind of me, I assume he knew he was on the big bucks patch and that all he wanted to do was get out of the area and out of danger. (I had found deer hair on the ride suggesting they had already had a tussle). I can also only assume that the rut hasn’t really got going here yet as I cant believe these 2 boys would have been so close if things were in full swing.
A tremendous night although, unfortunately, my friend had not even seen a deer.
On the drive home I called my friend the grouse keeper. We had a provisional arrangement to go lamping but again it was dependant on the weather, which was currently not great. We decided to chance it and meet at my house, when I got back at 11.30pm.
By the time we met the rain had stopped. I wished my first friend a safe trip as he was heading home and not out with us and we set off. I opted to leave my gun at home and let the keeper do the shooting. He doesn’t get chance of a lot of foxes on his ground and tonight we had decided to lamp some of mine.
First we called at my mothers piece. I had taken a vixen and six cubs but suspected that there might be another cub around. Sure enough as we drove into the third field there it was. A clean shot and the first in the bag.
From there it was on to the chicken farm. I had taken a vixen and 2 cubs on Wednesday, and we believed that there should be more cubs. They had just moved into the area in the last week or 2.
I decided we should walk onto the farm as I didn’t want to drive right past the farmers cottage at half past midnight. (This decision was to really pay dividends later rather fortuitously)
As we cast the lamp over the first field beneath the chicken shed we got eyes. We quickly moved forward to take a fence out of play and my mate got onto the fox and declared it to be eating a chicken! His first shot was a hit but the fox wasn’t down. A second stopped it i its tracks. I said we should stay put and call a little. Within minutes I got a flash of eyes which quickly revealed themselves as a second cub. This one was calling well and came right in to about 60m. A clean shot got my friend his hat trick.
I said we should just cast a lamp on the other side of the sheds before we left and lo and behold we got another set of eyes. These quickly vanished. I suspected the fox had crossed the beck so we hurried to the bridge and lamped the field beyond, The fox was there but seemed to clamp down at the back of the field. As we were on foot we could follow into the now long (and very wet) grass. As we got to the back of the field there was no fox. At this point we heard a rabbit squealing. I knew there was another pasture about 80m through some wheat. We thought perhaps that the fox we were following had caught the rabbit so we crossed into the wheat. By now I was wet above my knees and I reckon each of my boots had about 1pint of water in each. As we were half way through all hell broke out in front of us, squealing, yipping and geckering, we looked at each other and both thought “cubs!”.
As we got to the edge of the pasture we could see three sets of eyes. (I should point out that htis was using an LED torch as my lamp battery had gone flat after the first pair here!!) Unfortunately there were cattle in the field too. My friend set up on a wide fence post and I settled the lamp on the first. A quick shot and job done. The others vanished but a quick squeak brought them both back. The second was quickly despatched and then the third set off across the field through the cattle. For safety I whispered “no, no, no, clear, clear, no” etc as the shot changed from safe to unsafe as the fox moved, As it settled into clear ground I barked and it stopped, “clear” and the third was down.
6 on the night and the foxes were calling us!!
We now just needed to pick them up. We crossed the fence and walked out into the field. The cattle positively charged towards us, we walked briskly back toward the fence and then simultaneously noticed a much larger and lighter silhouette moving through the cows. At this point my friend, about 10yrs younger and 7 stones lighter cleared the fence like an Olympic athlete. I demonstrated just how ungraceful a 17 stone Fosbury Flop can be when performed over a 5ft wire fence into nettles!!!
Other than a tear in my trousers and some scratches on one hand I was ok and we had a chuckle. To cut a long story short we could only gather 2 of the foxes and left the third.
As we walked back to the vehicle my friend owned up to the fact he had no more bullets!! Thankfully we saw nothing else.
I finally made it to bed at 4am but what a hell of a night!!