Last Friday I had a morning stalk booked with Colin and was looking forward to another chance for my first buck. I had had 3 stalks before this and enjoyed a bit of everything - high-seat, stalking farm hedgerows, calling in woodland - with several deer seen; 1 shot at a fox (missed...); and a muntjac in the scope for 5 minutes but no shot due to cover. This has all been very enjoyable and coupled with the thousands of threads read on here I was beginning to get a wee insight into stalking and felt even more keen to get my first real chance at a buck and maybe a shot. Reading all the good feedback on Colin and hopefully catching the tail end of the rut meant I was feeling optimistic.
With the usual early start (when do you get used to that?!) Colin picked me up at the hotel and we were soon out the truck and covering forest road-side areas of clear-fell while trying the call. Deer were seen rightaway (does) but no real reaction to the call and no bucks so on to the next patch. This time a much larger area of clear-fell and we were more mobile - covering ground; calling for 5 or 10 minutes; moving on; and glassing all the time. Half way across the ground Colin spotted a distant deer and we both agreed it was a doe. We stalked forward a little to gain a better vantage point and after a minute or two I picked it up again only to tell Colin it had turned into a buck! It was still too distant for a shot (250-300 yards) so we continued our stalk and halved the distance before getting the rifle on the sticks and glassing again only to find it had turned back into a doe. Just as I was convincing myself that my enthusiasm had turned ears into antlers Colin spotted the attendant buck and told me to get ready. However, while the doe wandered about in the sunlight the buck refused to move out from behind the cover and when after 5 minutes Colin tried the call, this seemed only to unsettle them with the doe leading the buck away from us and over a crest towards the tree line. Chance gone but I was delighted after my first real stalk and managing to cover such a distance on difficult ground without spooking the deer.
Colin reckoned we had probably scented the whole area during our stalk so it was back to the truck and on to the next area - a large stretch of clear-fell below a lovely open hillside which surprised me as roe ground, looking more like typical red deer country. Almost as soon as we were away from the truck Colin spotted a doe and a buck way up on the hillside which we noted for later and then continued along the bottom of the band of clear-fell which was bounded at the top by a dry stone wall before the open hillside started. We soon spotted another deer tight against the wall and again managed to stalk to within about 75 yards and get the rifle on sticks before trying the call. However, this was another doe and possibly a yearling with no sign of kids (or an attendant buck) and after 10 minutes watching her she moved on and allowed us to move up to the wall immediately below the deer spotted earlier on the hillside. By now only the doe was visible and still over 600 yards distant. We had permisson to shoot anything in range over the wall so our only option was to try the call and see if the, now hidden, buck could be tempted within range. Despite the distance and a strong wind in our faces the doe could clearly hear the call and we waited expectantly to see if the buck was interested but there remained no sign of him. We continued this for 5 or 10 minutes but by now it was well after 8 and I think we were both reconciled to the morning ending without a deer, although I was still delighted with how it had gone and the experiences gained. In fact we had well and truly slipped out of 'stealth mode' and were just chatting about this and that while watching the deer on the hill when Colin whispered that there was a buck coming in fast alng the line of the wall to my left! I spotted him just as he dropped into a dip and Colin told me to get a comfortable rest on top of the wall and be ready for him to reappear. Sure enough, he reappeared just as expected less than 50 yards away and stood quartered twards me. Earlier Colin had discussed the ideal heart-lung shot if presented broadside but said if it was close enough and I felt confident he was happy with a low neck shot. This was clearly the shot in this case and with a nice solid rest on the wall I whispered "low neck...." to Colin, fired and was delighted to see the buck drop where he stood. From standing idly chatting about my next trip and thinking about breakfast back at the hotel to having my first buck on the ground only 30 seconds had passed and after a quick handshake from Colin I was left a bit dazed while he hopped over the wall to retrieve my buck.
He was no monster buck but a neat six pointer and well worth the effort and time taken to achieve. My shot was not 100% perfect but Colin's .308 had done its job. I watched Colin complete the gralloch and then he took the inevitable trophy shot for me before a short drag back to the road and back to the hotel for breakfast!
It goes without saying I am delighted to have achieved this milestone and I can't recommend Colin highly enough. He put in a huge amount of effort to get me in front of deer and although the end result was clearly a massive bonus, the experience up to that point had been fantastic anyway. Having devoured the contents of the forum for the last 6 months it is also worth mentioning the huge help the info and advice posted on here has been. My reason for joining was always to learn and make sure that I was as well informed as I could be if/when I found myself in the position I was in last week. You can't really experience from a forum what it is going to be like when you get that first shot but my own main concern was always the welfare of the deer and minimising the chances of me cocking things up. Both objectives achieved, I hope!!
And will I be back? A definite yes!!