As I arrived at the B&B I called Jim (Jim@dgvc) to get my instructions for the morning when we were going out after a Norfolk red stag. I was to meet him at his place near Newmarket at 05:15 and from there we would drive in his pick up to the estate in Norfolk where he had his ground for reds.
It was quickly apparent that Jim was just as passionate and knowledgeable about his deer as Brian had been (a pleasantly recurring theme amongst those who advertise their services on this Forum) and we spent the journey talking about the varied deer of East Anglia. We arrived at the estate and as there was to be a partridge shoot later in the day we went to a high seat overlooking a wallow just adjacent to fields where the deer had been feeding. It was a dry and fine morning for a change but there was a very strong wind that didn't bode too well but we took our position and waited listening to the buzzards overhead and watching for signs of movement. To cut a long story short we saw no sign of deer except for an unseen muntjac that suddenly ran off barking alarm to the world. We persevered but eventually called it a day and walked out noticing some fairly fresh slots of a big stag passing 50 metres behind the high seat as we went, we figured that the wind might have pushed the deer in before daybreak, probably before we got into the high seat, and with that we headed off for breakfast.
We were due to return to another location on the same estate in the evening but spent most of the day looking round the fabulous piece of ground that Jim has the privilege of looking after as his home patch, we saw plenty of sign and quite a few roe and muntjac in virtually every corner of the 2,000 acres plus that Jim has under his management and his every word is filled with a passion for the deer and the ground that they live on. He knows that he is a lucky man and he truly is.
I gave Jim a couple of hours break from my company and returned to his house in time to head back for Norfolk. There is a mere on the estate with an island and a group of stags lie up on the island during the day before wading back to the mainland to feed for the night. There were two high seats in the area, a double and a single and Jim felt good enough about me to recommend to the keeper that I go in the single seat that would give me a better chance of intercepting a stag as they came through the belt of trees surrounding the mere. I wasn't totally happy with the scope on my .270 and with Jim's agreement I switched to my .243 for the evening session.
We arrived at the keepers cottage and Steve led us out to the high seat, told me that he had seen three good stags in the area whilst out foxing, he was sure that there was a 12 pointer, 14 pointer and one that he'd not managed to count all the points on! I could take any of the three but if they didn't show he's appreciate me taking a couple of spikers if the opportunity presented himself. I was told that the deer might come out on either side of me and I would have a view of about 150 metres to my left and 350 metres to my right. I got into the seat and Steve and Jim drove off promising to return at dark.
The seat faced out into the beet field and I had my back to the trees and the mere. I settled into the seat, got my binos out and started to scan the edge of the tree line to my left, nothing, I scanned round to my right and also saw nothing. I noticed a hare on the edge of the beet and was enjoying watching it before looking again to my left and b*gger me, there he was already 5 metres out into the field. A nice stag feeding out from the trees into the beet. I had a good look and could see all his lefts and three, and possibly the same on the other side. I put the scope on him but he was not far enough out into the field for me to get a good solid rest as I was straining round to my left and couldn't use the high seat as a rest. I willed the stag to move further out. He took another couple of steps and I looked through the scope again, I was still not happy and waited several more agonising minutes, including a heart stopping moment when he looked directly at me, before continuing to feed and move a little further out into the beet. I could now use the rest on the front of the high seat to get a steady aim and a third look through the scope revealed that I could safely take the shot so I slipped the safety off, held on his heart and squeezed. At the shot he performed the typical heart shot hunch, jumped forward 10 or 20 metres and then collapsed.
I reloaded and waited until I was sure he was not moving then got down from the seat and called Jim. He thought I was winding him up as barely 15 minutes had passed since they had dropped me. Through Jim Steve said that if I was OK with it could I please go back in the seat and see if a spiker came out to save him a job later in the week.
I sat for just over another hour, saw three hares feeding right under the seat, a roe doe walked virtually right past my fallen stag which was completely hidden in the beet, but no spiker, the light had gone so I got out of the seat and waited for Jim and Steve on the track. It was probably now 90 minutes since I dropped the stag and I was desperate to see my trophy. It took us fully 10 minutes to find him, even though I knew roughly where he was and he was a big boy. Steve decided to go and get a fork lift to load him into the trailer. I hadn't fully appreciated how big these Norfolk reds are and even the three of us, all big lads, had trouble manouvering him for the gralloch. In the end we decided the job was better done under the floodlights at Steve's cottage and it was quite some time before the job was finished. My shot placement was good and the heart had been shot to bits which was gratifying. My phone battery had died using the flashlight to try and find the stag but hopefully Jim has got a couple of photos for me and I'm interested to find out what he weighed at the game dealers, the best guess was not far short of 300lbs.
We bade our farewells to Steve, drove home to Jim's place tired but happy, Jim got a few odd looks at a service station as he had forgotten his blood spattered clothes and looked like a mad axe murderer. I retrieved my other rifle from Jim's cabinet and set off for home in North Wales some three hours distant with that warm glow of content coming from final success having had a couple of days in the hands to some consummate professional deer managers and the privilege of seeing some outstanding deer in beautiful locations.
I was lucky to some extent, had we been 5 minutes later arriving at the high seat, the stag would have been out and probably spooked, had we gone to the double seat we'd not have seen him and had the wind not died down he may not have come out at all but that's stalking, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn't, but nothing detracts from the pleasure of being out trying in beautiful country with people who love and care for their deer.
Thanks Mike, Brian and Jim (and Steve) for three fabulous and different days.