We had been after a decent buck for sometime but one way or another events conspired against us. A buck might be seen on the ground but once I arrived from Wales it had disappeared or the cattle had moved into the field, on another occasion we saw a nice buck just as it moved onto the neighbour’s ground. On one evening we saw four or five bucks, but none of them on the cull plan, the next time out not a single deer on the ground - but that’s stalking! Dan (AKA Sir-Lamp-Alot) was getting frustrated as he knew the deer were there, we were just not having any luck with them.
I have about a 4 hour drive to the ground although I often visit relatives who live much closer and normally outings with Dan were tied in with a trip to see those relatives but a week ago the phone rang and Dan said “how fast can you get down here mate? I’ve seen a cracking buck last night, absolutely massive, but the bucks are getting narkey and pushing each other around, he might leave the ground any time so there’s no time to lose.” The weather was also an issue with the recent rain and winds and more forecast but we felt that Friday offered a reasonable chance and was worth a go.
So yesterday afternoon found me heading south to Wiltshire in the holiday traffic, fortunately mostly going the other way, listening to the traffic news and trying to navigate round problems and amazingly arriving at Dan’s bang on the 6pm target. We didn’t waste any time and headed straight out for the farm. Parking up we glassed the near fields, nothing out yet but the wind was just right, the rain clouds were distant, and I said to Dan that I had a good feeling about it after three blank sessions.
The big buck had been seen towards the far end of the ground so we worked our way slowly though the fields, one by one, seeing loads of hares but no sign of a deer. Then as we approached the area the big boy had been seen in I saw a buck lying in long grass just over the boundary on the neighbour’s ground. He seemed very content and a peek through the binos showed him to be a nice 4 pointer, promising but definitely one for the future, we quietly moved on a few paces then Dan got very excited. “There’s another buck lying in there, he’s massive but he’s not the one we’re lookinng for, and he’s a malform.” We had a close look and could see two very long tines on the right and a couple on the left, then he turned his head to reveal that what we thought was a twig behind him was actually part of the head. “Definite medal mate” said Dan "but he looks settled and we could wait a long time for him to get up and maybe come this way.”
After some debate and discussion we decided to move on quietly before they spooked and have a look for another buck and then, if we saw nothing, maybe come back to see if the malform had come onto his ground. We stalked on round the boundary and came across another group of deer grazing in another neighbour’s field but feeding towards us, five in total, including two bucks, one of which was nice one but again a youngster and best left for a season.
We moved on and the next field revealed just a doe so with the light going we decided the best plan was to go back and see if the malform had moved. It took a long walk to get downwind of the field we hoped he might be in but as we approached, looking through the hedge, I could see a deer grazing a long way down the field and Dan confirmed it was the big buck. I couldn’t see the 4 pointer but Dan soon spotted him lying down in long grass between us and the big buck. This was going to be tricky!
Rifle prepared and sticks ready we moved up very slowly, the ground was wet, squelchy and noisy and any moment we thought that the small buck would spook. Luck was with us and we got to the hedge with both deer still settled. I carefully got into a shooting position but the buck was grazing away from us, moving left then right and then directly away. Dan reckoned it was about 160 yards so to get a better rest we used both his sticks and mine. I wasn’t happy as the deer kept moving and I was finding it hard to get a steady aim. Finally the deer turned sideways, I got a steady aim and squeezed the trigger – “click” bloody misfire! I couldn’t believe it, Dan calmly said, “reload” and took the dud round. The deer had moved again so we had another wait whilst I got settled and waited for the deer to turn broadside. All the time the range was increasing but it eventually went broadside again, I picked a point about 2" high to allow for the range that was now getting close to 180 yards and I had a steady aim so I squeezed the trigger again. This time there was no mistake and the deer lurched forward at the shot. “He’s hit!” said Dan and then “he’s down!” Then “he’s up again, reload.” Then, “no he’s down again and he’s not getting up!”
When we got to him he turned out to be a major malform with two long tines on the right with a small brow tine than Dan felt would be counted, on the left he had a long main tine and behind it two that seemed partially fused together and on the back point there was a slight split into two small times making him a 7 pointer and with his massive coronets Dan felt he should make a silver but it was hard to say. I had hit him at the right height but about 1.5" too far back but a good shot nonetheless and my longest off sticks.
Dan gralloched him and commented on his size as we put him in the roe sack. He headed back to fetch the car and I carried the deer and the gear along the field edge to the track to wait for him. We did the photos and then headed for the game dealer to get him in the chiller. The buck weighed in at 46lbs in the jacket making him the largest that Dan could remember from his ground.
Once we got back to Dan's, taken a few photos and said goodbye, I headed back for Wales on roads that were now empty and I sailed home in well under 4 hours taking 30 minutes off the original satnav estimate. I nearly collected a muntie buck sauntering across the road a few miles from Dan’s but just missed him and otherwise had a trouble free trip that seemed to pass very quickly as I relived the stalk over and over again to the backdrop of Pink Floyd - Pulse.
I’ve really got to give Dan a lot of credit, he is a total gentleman, you seldom meet a stalker who is as patient, fair and honest as Dan and on top of that he’s a great bloke and good company. Thanks Dan!
That's Dan's gold medal next to it for comparison. I can't wait to get him measured now.