And Finally the Sixth
I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to shoot male and female of 5 of the 6 UK species of deer (and all but sika stag during this calendar year too!) Knowing this to be the case I decided I should fulfil my ambition to get the sixth species this year and booked with Ian Farrington, who I have been stalking with before. I booked back in July for a trip in early December and apart from a few emails, and the deposit, it was forgotten as time tripped by. The plan was simply to get a CWD, any sex and any size but I was prepared to take a buck and a doe if fortunate enough to get the chance.
Well, as is the way of things it was upon me before I knew it and Tuesday morning saw me heading down the M1 to Dunstable to meet Ian and Jo. We met at a Travel Lodge and Ian told me to get changed and get my gear together. I had taken my .22/250 pride and joy and had stopped en route at a piece of my ground to check zero, which was spot on. I took it from the slip and put the bolt in and closed it. When I tried to open it it wouldn’t budge!! Nothing I would do would allow me to open the bolt, it was turning but not sliding. I always carry a cleaning rod and decided I had nothing to lose by trying to knock the bolt out with the rod. As my adrenaline and panic rose so did my effort and a VERY firm smack saw the bolt come free and a piece of ejector pin retaining bar drop on the floor!! The ejector pin was still in place and I thought I had got away with it. I went to put the bolt back in but it wouldn’t go!!! At this point Ian turned up to see if I had got lost. He too had a look at the gun and couldn’t fathom the problem (it turned out the piece of pin had burred the lug slots), thankfully he had brought a spare rifle and I was able to use his .270.
We set off a little delayed and went to a young tree plantation that Ian had selected for the evening. We stalked quietly down a ride to a high seat and ensconced ourselves therein. After about 20 mins a herd of frisky cattle proceeded to drive out the whole wood!!! Someone had left a gate open and they had fancied a change of scenery. After a little cajoling Ian persuaded me to get out of the seat (previous bad cattle experiences) and as the woodland is in 2 seperate blocks we quickly adopted plan B and settled watching a ride in the second piece (cattle free).
Perhaps not entirely unexpectedly, we did not see anything but I could sense Ians frustration/disappointment as we returned to the digs. He clearly had expected more.
My plans for the evening were also scuppered as I had intended to nip across to Essex to help a mate out with a problem fox using my NV but as it fits direct to the rifle and the rifle wasn’t working there was no point. We considered going after it conventionally, even though we thought it might be a little futile but then it started to rain with a vengeance so we binned that plan too. I went to bed with a headache!!
Another day another dollar!! We met in the car park at 7am, the weather was dry and warmer although still windy. Within 10 minutes we were at a different set of plantations and good to go. Ian warned me to be on my mettle as he had known deer be a matter of metres from the gate. Within 30m, and not really ready, 2 chinese burst out of the rough at the edge of the young trees. One shot back into the trees the other ran up the ride towards us then turned. Ian had no time to set up the sticks and told me to take the shot from his shoulder, which I did. As I pulled the trigger I cursed as I knew I had pulled the shot too far back on the quartering deer. It ran into the trees. There was a big puff of hair on the ground at the point of impact but we could not see blood nor the deer from where we were standing.
Ian suggested that we stalk on whilst we let some time elapse for a follow up. As we walked on I noticed a deer coming toward the plantation from a wheat field. We moved forward to get within shot of its anticipated entry point to our ground and set up. Unfortunately it was in a hurry and although it stepped neatly into the ride it didn’t wait long enough to let me shoot it!!
As we moved ever forward through the plantation we saw 2 more deer (or one a couple of times) but due to the lie of the land and the range there was no shot.
We arrived at a high seat and climbed in. Ian explained that the deer were likely to appear at any location along the 2 rides we could see. A few minutes later one appeared as if by magic 30m behind the high seat. It was a gimme and after allowing for angles I dropped it neatly on the spot. It was a lovely CWD doe!!!
I commenced the gralloch and Ian went to follow up the first shot. I heard a shot after a few minutes and was impressed at Ians tracking skills. I walked forward as agreed and found a CWD doe, not mine. Ian had taken the opportunity presented and I took the hint and started my second gralloch. As I was doing it a dog walker appeared, he had ignored the shooting in progress signs put up and proudly declared that his dog had just chased a deer out across the field. The knot that had been sitting in my stomach tightened as I had been fretting about the first deer since the shot and now was paranoid this muppet had frightened it clear out of the wood.
Ian had seen the guy approaching me and returned. We then decided to get 1 of my 3 spaniels out of the car to find the deer (and save Ian having to return to the digs and get his dogs). We put her in where the fur was from the shot impact and she went straight into the trees and a CWD jumped up and legged it, clearly unhurt. My dog then proceeded to empty the immediate area of every pheasant and hare she could find. (the joy of a multitasking dog!!!) She seemed to be struggling to find the deer and so we started to quarter the ground. As my stomach knot locked up and hopes faded I saw her marking something with great interest. Sure enough there was my deer. The first sensation was pure relief and then I noticed the teeth!!!!!!!!!
Ian got a bear hug from a miserable yorkshireman and we started the final gralloch of the day. He assured me it was a gold medal buck which was far more than I deserved and the shot was truly awful but we had recovered the deer and it was dead.
Now you would think my rollercoaster of 24hrs would have come to a stop at this point but I had arranged to get my rifle back to the supplier on the way home. I duly met him at Hannams and after leaving him with the gun neatly reversed into his parked car!!!! I called Ian to tell him the story as I presumed he would see the funny side to be told that the dog walker had reported me to the police for poaching!!!!! Thankfully when they had called the land owner he had explained we were entirely authorised and even complained that the dog walker had been trespassing!!!
Probably the most eventful 24hrs stalking of my life but I now have the 6th species for my office wall, and a buck and a doe to boot, and, unbelievably, a gold medal animal.