I had another good stalk this morning at Holkham with Glyn.
Started at 05:15 with a sit in a high seat, nothing showed but it was nice to hear the dawn chorus and see the birds and rabbits wake up on a lovely clear morning.
After about three quarters of an hour we got down and drove to the southern end of the estate, to stalk through the woods into a light northerly breeze.
Saw several muntjac, but none shootable, either they spotted us, or the backstop was unsafe. It was brightening quickly, though still gloomy inside the wood.
Then Glyn spotted a fine roebuck down a narrow ride in the woods. Too good for me to shoot, but I put the rifle on the sticks and watched it through the sight anyway, aiming carefully and mentally thinking "bang" at the right moment. Then another one stepped out into the ride, just in front. Four points, still in velvet, this was a suitable beast. It looked pretty close, maybe 50 yards. I didn't bother to check with my rangefinder binoculars, which would have meant lowering the rifle.
I couldn't shoot whilst the other buck was behind it. After a few moments the first buck slowly wandered away down the ride, then eventually exited off to one side. At last I could shoot. By now the target buck had sensed something was up, but he stayed broadside on, looking straight at us.
I shot briskly, but not in a rush. It seemed to freeze for a couple of seconds, than ran off into the wood. Not surprising, as it was alert to us.
Glyn asked what I thought of the shot. I confirmed I was confident. He agreed.
We slowly walked down the ride to where we thought it had been. No signs. On we went, further and further. We were sure we had long passed the spot, but still had not seen any signs of blood or fur ("paint and pins"). We were just about to backtrack when we found a large splatter of frothy red blood and lung tissue in the middle of the ride, nearly a foot in diameter, and the faint signs of a blood trail.
Glyn relaxed and said he was sure it was dead. I ranged back to the firing point, it was 149 yards !! Somehow the narrow ride between the trees had fooled us into thinking it was much closer.
The faint trail petered out, we cast about a bit, then Glyn spotted it a few yards away, piled up near another large puddle of blood. It had run perhaps 20 yards.
My first roebuck
Shot straight through the chest, 6 ribs forward of the diaphragm so a little behind the heart which was still intact.
I had used Glyn's 30-06 with 165 grain Gameking bullet, so some damage to liver and rumen was not a surprise.
I performed my first full suspended field gralloch using a convenient tree and a length of cord, with helpful guidance from Glyn. My EKA swingblade worked well as usual, this is now deer #10 gralloched and at least five skinned and butchered, and it is still razor sharp.
Despite the substantial exit wound the chest was still full of blood, explaining the lack of much trail.
We had just finished cleaning up and filled the roe sack when Glyn suddenly dashed off into the wood. I ran after him, wondering what was going on, when I realised he had heard one of the keepers approaching on his quad bike up a nearby path. He just managed to catch him, and after a quick chat persuaded him to take the deer back to the 4x4 so we could carry on stalking unburdened.
On we marched. I admit my mind was spinning with the previous events, but after a while I calmed down and began to concentrate again on the stalk. It was not long before Glyn again touched my arm and pointed out a muntjac doe slowly moving amongst the trees, perhaps 75 yards away. I quickly got the rifle up on the sticks, and as soon as the deer settled for a moment I shot. It was quartering away, and I had to visualise shooting through the far shoulder to be sure of placing the bullet far enough back. It flopped on the spot, with just a couple of reflex kicks. I resigned myself to losing a fair chunk of the carcasse, based on previous experience with 75 grain .243 rounds. Surely the 30-06 would have smashed it to pieces ?
Glyn told me to reload and wind the sight down to minimum magnification. We waited a short while, then approached. I was only a few yards away when suddenly a small deer ran away from the site. My heart fell, surely I couldn't have messed up this shot ?
Immediately Glyn gestured for me to hand over the rifle and sticks, then he dashed off further into the wood at a rapid trot, set up the rifle, and, after a long pause, shot.
I followed as he walked over to his target. A small muntjac fawn lay there, shot very humanely.
It looked much smaller than I remembered. . Glyn sensed my puzzlement, and was amused to point out my splendid doe lying where I had shot it . He had spotted the young fawn beforehand, and was keen to shoot it too in case it was still dependent.
I prepared for my second gralloch of the morning. It went smoothly and I learnt more anatomy, this being my first mature female deer. Despite my worries the 30-06 had not smashed the carcasse, if anything there seemed to be less damage than I would expect from the .243. The shot was good, through the heart and out of the far shoulder, as intended.
The large doe was in superb condition, fat as butter, udder full of milk so still suckling the fawn, and also had a well developed fetus. Muntjac really can breed continuously, and this one had obviously survived the winter in superb condition, no doubt making good use of the pheasant feeders. Glyn had made a good call in shooting the fawn.
We weren't finished stalking, but by now I was too relaxed. We bounced another muntjac due to my inattention, but I didn't care, this had been a great morning.