I went for my first stalk last night - after reds not too far from Ashbourne in Derbyshire.
Myself and a mate met up with Mike Dickinson (a committee member of the NGO deer section and contact of Stone) at about 6pm at Mikes place, then drove out to the ground about 30 minutes away.
Mike directed my mate to a ridge overlooking a wooded gully, while we went 700+ yards in the other direction.
We stalked along a well used deer track, huge slots everywhere, loads of sign and the omens looked good.
The weather that had been raining on and off all day decided to be kind to us, sunshine, the visibility was good and the wind was in our favour.
About 10 minutes in to the stalk we glassed a young buck heading towards my mate, stopping to eat and moving on (he kept looking over to us but the distance reassured him that we weren't a threat).
Mike and I carried on along the deer track, no mean feat as it was quite slippy under foot at times and it snaked along the side of a steep ridge. After another careful 30 minutes we found our way to a good position over looking a deer thoroughfare, with the possibility of 3 entry points for them to come into our sights and settled down to see what came by.
There was lots of animal life around, rabbit and hare below us - badgers 10ft further up the ridge behind us, it was nice being in a lovely spot with a bit of sun keeping the chilly wind at bay.
We kept looking over to where we'd seen the pricket and noticed a hind not too far from the same spot, but moving away from my friends position - we kept our fingers crossed for him to get a chance at the male, and hoped to hear a shot ring out at some point.
We waited patiently for some time, and as the sun started to settle behind the high ridge in front of us we started to feel the chilly wind (note to self, warmer clothes next time and don't leave the gloves in the car, doh!). This was the time of day we really expected some activity and my full focus was on the ground in front and below us.
It was now we heard a shot - Mike said he heard the impact too, hopefully my friend had taken the pricket, but it could just as well have been a fox. We gave it a few minutes and tried to ring my mate, but he had no signal.
The sun disappeared and my first stalk was over (or so I thought), and we started making our way back along the deer track to the car, accompanied by the sounds of the local farmer arguing with his cattle, and I do mean an actual debate! Stone will know who I mean, it was quite entertaining.
After climbing up the ridge we were able to call my friend and he confirmed he'd had a shot, it was a big stag he said. We thought it was the excitement of the moment and probably the pricket we'd seen - Mike confirmed the position of the deer with him and we made our way over.
It had been a 250m shot, with a .243 and the animal had dropped like a stone, unfortunately it decided to slip down a steep gully and into some trees and scrub at the bottom. Mike called a friend of his in an adjoining farm and he came along with his Kubota to help with the extraction.
As we arrived the stag was still out of site, so we made our way into the cover.
Well, it was bloody huge! - a good 16 stones in weight, maybe more. Interestingly it had really big antlers, as thick as your arm and in velvet too. My friend had bled it, so Mike got stuck in and showed me the Gralloch.
On inspecting the stag it was noticed that its testicles were under developed, and this lack of testosterone had possibly been the cause of its unusual antlers, they were not new growth and the stag had obviously not shed them for some time. Mike checked the teeth, with the top set virtually worn away - and the age was estimated at about 12 years.
So an unusual animal, the largest my friend had shot to date by some margin and he was very happy - Mike and I were just as pleased, for myself I was absolutely delighted for my friend and to have been involved.
The 4 of us struggled to get him in the Kubota but managed in the end, and then made our way back to the car, loaded him on a trailer and headed back to Mikes place.
On cleaning the stag we found the entry and exit wounds - the bullet had hit, gone through a couple of ribs, travelled through a lung and then back out the same side of the ribcage and embedded in the top muscle of the front leg, but it had certainly done its job.
Mike now showed me the rest of the carcass preparation and had me de- hoof a leg!
I haven't got the photo's yet, but will post them as soon as I can, it was a monster!
I canít wait to go out again, shame the reds finish in a couple of days Ė but im going to try and get some Roe buck and Muntie stalking in - asap, ive definitely got the bug!