Having had an eye on the weather all week I was relieved when Saturday morning finally came and it was above freezing (just) and the snow hadn't arrived as threatened. I'd hastely thrown a plan to travel down to Dorset for the day - a bit of smoke and mirrors was required as i'd told the mrs i was plucking turkeys then shopping for her X-mas present so timing and conditions were critical I met up with my mate Foxdropper at 4am at another permission to try and give him a crack at bagging his 100th fox of the year. It was cold (for a Southerner) and crispy underfoot with frost and whilst there were a few rabbits about Charlie obviously had sense and had turned in for the evening so we got back in the car and travelled down to lovely Dorset.
Arriving at the wood we had a quick nip out the hip flask for good luck and made out way to the seats to be in place before dawn. It was another glorious dawn that crept up on you with the scent of Douglas Fir and the chorus of woodland songbirds and owls making it magical as always. As usual the dawn light played tricks on you and every shadow or twitch of bracked looked like a part of a deer.
The view from my seat
The light had finally arrived sufficiently for me to be able to scan the shootable areas when to my left I saw a movement out the corner of my eye. Slowly turning my head I saw, to my amazement a young Sika stag no more than 10 meters away- I say stag but he was more a buttoner with the smallest lumps appearing. My heart was beating so fast it blended into a bunble-bee type drone and as I carefully moved the rifle towards him. I almost had to stand on a rung of the ladder and lean over the highseat to get him in the scope and with him now facing away from me placed the crosshairs on the back of his head. Whack and my FIRST SIKA was on the floor - WOOHOO.
Pic from the seat
I texted Foxdropper the good news and we decided it best to limit the disturbance and delay the gralloch and see what else the dawn had to offer. It was a decision that worked well for the pair of us as, not half and hour later, a Roe doe appeared having snuck in under my observation radar again no more than meters from the seat. At this distance my small movements were more sensed than seen and, just at the light click of the safety was enought to move her behind me with a few frightened paces. Thinking quickly I whistled softly and she paused and turned back towards me quatering ever so slightly. Switching the rifle to my left shoulder I placed the crosshairs to the left of her brestbone and shot her freehand to which she dropped on the spot.
Ten minutes later another report echoed around the wood and FD had a Doe on the floor - this was turning into a productive day. By 9am we stiffley got out the seats and went to gralloch the fallen. It was the first chance I had to inspect my Sika, who had swelled a bit by now, and whilst he may be a tiddler and not float anyones boat I was stoked to have finally grassed one.
The Doe was a big girl and healthy in terms of fat and condition - almost the same size as the sika.
It has to be said that the old saying 'Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance' stands true and the extra effort cladding up the highseat paid off with such close encounters.
The wood owner popped round during the mid-morning lull and FD managed to pop a few squirrels with the .22 whilst we shared a Thermous of coffee and caught up. On the way back to the seats I bumped an old Doe that presented an easy shot and if it weren't for the spindly brush in the way she'd have been added to the growing pile under the seat. I decided against trying to shoot through it and cursed as she turned on her heel and hopped away from me with her white rear flared. Back in the seats and with the sun dappling through the trees it was a great place to be although being in the early afternoon we wern't too hopeful anything would be around for a while believing it to be a the lay up time. Beyond all expectations not 15 minutes later two sika hinds emerged from the treeline and meandered there way towards me picking a zig-zag ling through the brush and pausing only briefly. They were soon past the point where I could rest the rifle on the seat bar and I followed the lead one freehand. She paused just before reaching the ride, I picked my spot and fired at no mnore than 60 yards. Now I've heard a lot spoken about the ability of Sika to take shot but really did have to see it to believe it. Thump - 131 grains of 6.5x55 straight in the boiler room the impact of which threw he off her feet.... the up and OFF! I sat in disbelief as she charged off then visually marked the strike spot and prepared to wait the customary time before following up, furious with myself for not going for a neck shot. The other Sika tore off with my one then peeled off and raced towards FD's seat whereby another shot rang out. I phoned FD and said I had a runner and he said he had a Roe doe down infront of him. I then proceeded to take the piss out of his quarry identification skills as it was obviously a sika he had and to get his ass over to me and help find my one.
I marked the strike spot of a large tuft of pins and blood with a branch and began the follow up which headed off reservation towards the neighbouring mass of think holly and bracken where my permission ended.
The strike point
There was a good blood trail which I followed for 50 meters before FD arrived - he had a better view of her path from his seat and was able to say she had plenty of go in her which was disconcerting.
The trail stopped where she hit a tree at a bridleway which marked the boundry and we scanned for a sign on her entry point on the other side.Casually glancing up the path we let out a sigh of relief to see her lying quite dead another 40 yards up on the side of the path - best part of 150 yards in total, and a big girl she was too! My second sika - bloody hell!
It turned out he'd shot the roe I bumped earIier and he'd bumped the two sika I saw when he got to his seat! After a few nips and a bit of huffing and puffing carrying the quarry back to the seat we slumped back in them for a rest as much as anything else.
BANG! from Foxdroppers direction quickly followed by my ringing phone.... Just got my 100th fox of the year! It had come charging in from downwind of a gralloch not 10 meters from his seat
Talk about a red letter day for the game diary!