Finally managed to get out for my first go at the bucks this year on my permission in Hampshire.
The first evening I got out and saw six deer, five does and a small four pointer still in velvet. The next morning I was out and about at first light and managed to catch up with the four pointer I saw the previous eveing and his sibling. As my shooting is a hobby and not done as a business or through necessity I let him go as I choose not to shoot them in velvet.
On my walk back home I caught sight of some movement way acros the field in a dip in the landscape where a narrow wood, a small stream and a couple of hedges converge. Sure enough, it was a buck, but I couldn't tell what sort of head he was sporting as he was against some bracken and blackthorn. I made a small detour to get me closer and to gain a safe shooting position should the chance of a shot come about. When I got into position I could see he was a four pointer and he was clean of velvet. He was in no hurry to move as it had been a cold night and a surprisingly hard frost so he just enjoyed the early morning sun (as did I).
After watching him for about half an hour he just melted back from whence he came and I saw no more of him.
That afternoon I was back out again, it had been very sunny with the occasional April shower and as I walked across the fields I could see two does out feeding. They didn't interfere with my chosen route and I ended up alongside a wood. As I looked through the trees, I was suddenly aware the colour had changed from blue to black. The sound of thunder reached me and I knew a soaking was imminent.
In the wood I was alongside I knew there was a treehouse so I made straight for it, just in time as the heavens opened. I sat there for just over an hour as the rain lashed down and the thunder rolled around the sky. Finally it pushed through and I was left with the warm sunshine again.
I made my way out of the wood and took a left to wait in a gateway which overlooked a narrow field with a wood on one side and hedgerows on the other with another large wood on the boundary. It was really warm again and I was optimistic of seeing something emerge from cover to dry off in the sun.
Nothing showed. I moved off and took a slow walk back along the way I had come. Down in the corner of the field where I had seen the four pointer that morning I saw a distinctive shape. Yep, he was back again, not in the coner of the field but slightly out in the next field and across the stream. I watched him for a bit and he was making his way in my general direction, feeding and browsing on the bushes that lined the afore mentioned stream. My intended stalk was off as the sun had come round and despite me having a large wood behind me to hide my shape I would be fully lit up in the bright light. My only other alternative was to walk down the edge of the wood on the other side of the field. Not ideal as the wind would be unfavourable.
Anyway, I disappeared below the rise of the field and reappeared against the wood. All was well, the buck was still there unconcerned so I started the slow walk down the edge of the trees to get into position.
Suddenly some movement in my peripheral vision stopped me in my tracks. A doe, a yearling and another buck were racing down the field from behind me, from where I had been just ten minutes before. I watched the new arrivals and assessed the buck. He was a six pointer and was also clean.
They stopped about 50m shy of my original buck and the doe and yearling started feeding. The buck took a look around and saw the first buck who was still unaware of these new arrivals, he was happy browsing and after a couple of minutes he crossed the stream and was in the same field as the new buck.
Now things got interesting. They looked at each other and approached. Then followed a series of strutting walks, pawing at the ground and thrashing their antlers in the long grass and bushes. Eventually they got their heads down and went for each other. This was all about 120m away from me. I was quite fascinated and the thoughtof a shot had vanished from my mind as for the next half an hour the two bucks fought it out between themselves crossing and re-crossing the stream as they both strove to drive the other off. Nothing doing. Both animals were evenly matched in terms of body weight and they got their heads together on six occasions, locking antlers and falling on their sides twice.
Meanwhile, the doe and yearling had slowly been making their way in my direction and were now only about 60m away. The bucks moved apart, neither one seeming to gain the upper hand and it seemed as though the boundary line had been established and they were both happy to leave it at that.
The four pointer moved away into the next field and the chance of a shot went with him as there was no safe back stop. The six pointer started grazing and after ten minutes he decided to join up with his doe and follower. They had moved another 10m closer to me and the buck trotted across to them. He was below me and gave me the chance of a safe shot. I slowly brought the rifle up onto the sticks, found the buck through the scope and when he presented a broadside shot, rolled the safety off.
At the shot, he lurched forward and stood still. A couple of steps forward, a couple to the side and then he sat on his haunches and rolled over, kicked for a few seconds and lay still. The doe and yearling started at the shot, went across to their fallen companion, sniffed and then continued to feed. I left them to it for a bit and looked around for my empty cartridge in the long grass. When I looked up, unbelieveably they were still there, despite me not being exactly discreet in looking for the spent brass. When I found it I made off towards my buck, they both saw me and carried on feeding. It was only when I had approached to within 20m did they decide to run off.
My buck was dead, the shot had gone in just behind the shoulder and exited slightly further back. The exit wound was showing the bullet had taken out the lungs so I was content with my bullet placement.
I dragged him towards the edge of the field, took a couple of pics and gralloched him.
It was nice to get the first one in the bag but for me, the highlight of my outing was the great display of two bucks fighting. I have never been lucky enough to see this before and even if I hadn't shot a buck, it wouldn't have been a wasted trip.