Was out and about yesterday, as I had arranged to spend the day helping my friend (who is a local professional deer manager) with his doe/hind cull. We met up at 6.15am with the temperature down at -3. The ground was rock hard, but the day promised to be sunny, so we set off to a local estate about 20 minutes away, comprising of a mixture of large downland fields and small to medium sized woods.
We got there just as first light was making an appearance. Parts of the estate are on highish ground and it had snowed the day before, so there was a bit of snow still laid up against the hedges and field margins, that was now nicely frozen.
A strong icey wind was raking across the more open fields making the temperature feel more like -10. We realised straight away that the deer would be in the woods and hollows trying to find shelter from the wind, so I was duly dropped off next to a big wood with the idea of stalking towards a large grassy bank that ran up to another wood on a hillside opposite, and so would be protected from the wind. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I realised everything on the ground was crunchy as hell, it didn’t seem to matter if you stood on mud, leaves, gravel, it all made the most horrendous noise like you were walking on cornflakes making active stalking challenging to say the least.
Then I knew I had my work cut out! I made my way down the side of the wood to a vantage point overlooking the rough grass bank on the valley bank opposite. The wind was being funnelled up the valley, but was a lot less ferocious by the time it got to the grass bank, so I was surprised to see nothing out feeding.Not a deer to be seen anywhere on the bank. I waited some twenty minutes and had started to get a bit cold (bloody freezing!) , so then decided to cut uphill through the woods to some rape fields further round, on the top edge.
The woods were still surprisingly full of pheasants given that it is the end of the season, and pigeons seems to mark my passage along the main ride by regularly clattering out of the trees in large numbers, so unsurprisingly I reached the far side of the wood with no deer seen. I glassed the first area of rape – nothing, so I inched my way along the dirt track that ran just inside the wood, glassing both the fields and the woods ahead for any movement or a tell tale deer shaped outline that would give the deer away. There was a large clump of dead stinging nettles to my right, and I paid particular attention to this, glassing every inch before satisfying myself that no deer were there. I then took two crunchy steps forward and three roe burst out from the nettle patch, white caudal patches flared out and they all raced away at top speed BUGGER! They must have been laid down, and I didn’t even get chance to positively ID the deer before they raced off. I was gutted, and felt that this same scenario was destined to be played out again and again, whilst the conditions were so noisy underfoot.
I finally got to the point of the wood, to spy the last half of the rape field, not expecting to see much when to my great surprise I spotted Roe doe with two youngsters – buck and doe, making her way across the field.They were in range, but there was no background! (The field at this point is on a hill and the ground dips away in every direction). They got to a hedge opposite, but still no background so reluctantly I had to carry on along the dirt road to a point where it bent round to the right and dipped downhill into a bit of a valley going towards the original grassy bank
again. The sun had come out, and I figured that the warmer conditions might encourage the deer to come out to feed on the grass. I made it along another 60 metres or so and became aware of two deer running below me on the bank to my right. As I was on a bit of a hillside I watched them gallop down the bank, across the base of the valley, crossing the ride and then stopping on the bank opposite. Rifle up on sticks for a shot,I found them in the scope, range 100 metres or so, only there was no way through the mass of little twigs in the way.It looked clear enough by sight, but through the scope the web of thin twigs became visible. It didn’t seem like it was going to be my morning. The deer started moving again and eventually ran off through the trees higher up the bank. I turned back to where they had come from and glassed the area below which in turn lead onto the grassy bank still lower down. (I was now in the beginnings of the second wood above the grassy bank looking down towards the valley bottom) I spotted a movement, which proved to be a doe feeding in the trees about 60 metres below. I watched, and after making a positive ID, I got the rifle on the sticks – thinking GAME ON.
I watched the doe feeding and then she went behind a group of three large trees and remained hidden behind these trees for what seemed like ages. Eventually, She stepped forwards revealing her head, neck and front shoulder, in a little gap between tree’s She had stopped and was feeding on some ivy. So I picked my moment and I fired at the lower neck as she stretched her head out for the next mouthful. She went straight down in her tracks.
I waited to see if any more deer were with her before picking my way slowly towards the spot where she was. I could see she was dead, and she had been standing just inside the tree line overlooking the rough grass bank, and as I approached there was a flurry of movement on the bank ahead. There was at least four roe feeding on the grass and two – a buck and a doe ran from left to right and then stopped about 70 metres below. I hastily got the rifle up on the sticks with my back braced against a convenient tree for added support and both deer ran across for another 20 metres or so, before stopping again. I was on the doe and as she was broadside looking back at the buck,range about 70 metres. I fired. The pair raced off through the bramble out of sight. No2 down I hoped , so I waited 5 minutes and slowly picked my way out of the wood to the point of impact. Lots of winter hair and blood, a good hit, so I followed the deer rack through the bramble and there she was about 30 metres away. Good heart shot. Two mature Roe does in the bag in the space of 5 minutes.
With both deer emptied out and a couple of ravens overhead waiting for lunch, I radioed my mate and waited to be picked up, then onto another downland area. My friend said that had seen deer, but none had resulted in a shot. So two in the bag so far.
We arrived at the next area, which was a large open downland area comprising of massive fields of wheat stubble, rape and corn surrounded by little close cropped hedges for cover. The biting wind and the sunshine meant that the deer were laid up against the hedges suning themselves. We passed two pairs against hedges on the drive up to the parking place, however decided not to go for these as the background was not great and/or the wind was wrong for an approach.
After we parked the car, we noticed a group of roe laid down the hedge of the field opposite, the group comprising two bucks and four does, had found a little sun trap out of the wind and were taking full advantage of a little mid morning siesta time to chew the cud. I was duly sent after this group, and my mate went a couple of fields further round to an area where he knew the roe often gathered .
I went back one field so as not to be skylined during my initial approach and noticed a pair of roe laid up in the field beyond mine. They both intently watched me walking parallel to them without getting up, and eventually I moved out of their sight and reached the offside (shadow side) of the hedge the big target group were laid up on. The hedge went down hill for about 150 metres, then following the contours of the ground started to climb up for another 150 metres or so . The hedge itself wasn’t entirely straight, as it had several bits that jutted out into the field , and as it had been recently trimmed it was only about three to four foot tall in places with a few large open gaps in places .
As I slowly made my way on the downward bit of the hedge I realised that I didn’t know exactly where the group were. Sure I had seen them from the vehicle, and again when I set off, but by the time I had reached this point I had lost my bearings slightly, and for all I knew the deer could have been 50 metres or 150 metres in front, I just couldnt be sure.
It was impossible to spot them laid down from the offside of the hedge, so I picked a gap and crawled through. Once on their side, I glassed up and down the hedge – nothing in sight.At that point |I heard a shot from the fields further on together with a heavy impact, so I guessed it was no.3 in the bag. I continued very very slowly so as not to spook the group too early, and as the sun had started to soften the ground the going was far less crunchy than it had been earlier. I moved about another 50 metres, glassing as I went before I saw a pale roe neck next to an outcrop of hedge about 60 metres further on. Up went the bino’s and the pale neck proved to belong to a doe laid down facing my way. Hmmm this was going to be difficult, as pretty soon I would be in full view of her as I made my way closer. Another issue was the further up the hedge I got the more the background became marginal.- It was already not safe for a laid down bipod shot, so I figured my best would be a shot off the sticks as the group got to their feet? I wasn’t sure how things would pan out? Eventually I covered another 30 metres or so,pressed tightly against the hedge and realised that a head shot off the sticks was now a possibility, and probably the best plan. I got the rifle up on the sticks and edged sideways into the field until all the undergrowth was out of the way. Range was about 25 metres and I could see that she was looking straight at me, in fact the does eyes were just starting to widen in horror as realised what I was. I fired and she slumped down with a some involuntary kicking. The rest of the roe immediately dashed out into the field and skylined themselves and stood there milling around, bums fared out in alarm. Eventually the bigger buck slowly picked his way back down the hedge and sniffed the air to try and work out why the other doe wasn’t on her feet. The buck hung around for quite a while and at one point the rest of the group started to move down towards me , and I hoped for the opportunity of a second doe out of the group, however eventually the buck ran off taking the rest of the group with him. No 4 in the bag. The 105 grain .243 bullet had entered just above the nose, travelled lengthways through the base of the skull.
I dragged my doe back to the car, and after meeting up with my mate we then had a short drive round a couple of fields to retrieve the other roe doe which had been stashed under the hedge away from the ravens.
Four in the bag before midday.
My mate did make an attempt at the two deer laid up against the hedge,which I had seen as I had stalked into my group, however their position meant that a close approach was necessary in order for a shot off the sticks into the bank of the hedge. Unfortunately the gappy hedge meant that he was spotted and the doe and doe youngster exited stage left at some speed. Next stop was the other side of the same estate for a stalk through one of the larger woods for roe and Fallow, but although a number of roe were seen nothing presented a shot.
Back to base to hang the four up in the larder, and a well earned bite to eat.
In the afternoon, I was sent to a new highseat on a woodland edge overlooking a ploughed field and some large stewardship margins where the sika and roe congregate. The unusual wind and the afternoon sunshine meant that the Sika would gather on the woodland bank next to the field, and sure enough there were nine Sika, out on the bank as we approached. There is a deep ditch running around the field, so that was the chosen route into the seat so as not to betray my position to the assembled animals. I nearly did it, however a couple of the sika caught my movement as I climbed into the seat and lead the group back into the trees.BUGGER I thought, and I waited to see what developed.
I didn’t have to wait long for action. Hard to my right, out of the very corner of the field a couple of roe does emerged and fed slowly along the margin. I had been advised not to shoot at the roe and wait for the sika to show in numbers, so I took a couple of photographs of the feeding Roe instead. (I remembered my camera in the afternoon, but didn’t have it for most of the morning). Eventually the sika re-appeared on the edge of the wood, however they were really cautious, and waited amongst the trees for a long while before very slowly hopping the ditch and emerging out onto the field.
Range from the highseat was around the 160 metres marks and I was reluctant to start shooting at that point, preferring to wait for them to feed a little closer in the hope of a one-two before they all disappeared. I took a few pictures of the sika hinds gathering, and all of a sudden became aware of a Sika Hind emerging form the wood in the corner exactly the same place as the pair of roe had come from. As I watched, she was joined by a second animal, and after what seemed like ages, the pair jumped the ditch and stood at the corner of the field, and started to feed. GAME ON !
Where they stood they were slightly obscured by the low hanging twigs of a silver birch tree between me and the corner, so once the rifle was up and ready I had to wait for a bit for the deer to move away from the twigs. I had it in my mind to go for a one-two on mum and youngster. Eventually I picked my moment and aimed at the neck of the large hind. Again she stretched it out feeding and as I fired she collapsed in her tracks dead. The youngster pronked out into the field, and came about 20 metres closer to the seat. It kept looking back at mum, so very slowly I reloaded and took a neck shot on that animal too, which again collapsed in its tracks. No’s 5 and 6 in the bag.
Immediately after the shot the main group of sika remained standing looking in my direction about 200 metres range. I toyed with the idea of trying for a third animal but the light was fading fast and as I was thinking the group bunched up and eventually cleared the field.I was glad as it kind of made the decision for me, and I think a third animal would have been pushing things too far. Shortly after that another shot rang out and my mate added No. 7 to the bag in the form of a roe doe at last knockings.
Eventually the light faded to dark and I climbed down from the seat to gather up my two, The Sika hind was enormous, and after larder preparation the carcass tipped the scales at 86lbs – head and feet off.
Great day out thanks to my mate and it’s a great feeling when it all goes right.
Here are some of the pictures
First is a shot of the Roe doe my mate tried to stalk into on the downs, she spotted his approach and leapt to he feet, I took a quick couple of shots before she ran off