A wee while ago, having the wife and kids away for a Saturday night would have made me think about sitting up late drinking beer and watching movies. Now it makes me think about an early night and getting up at 4:30 on Sunday to chase deer round Ayrshire. This year Davie (6pointer) has been helping me with the deer chasing bit and I was back out with him on Sunday at an Ayrshire farm we've stalked a few times. There has always been plenty deer seen and I've had some cracking stalks and learned loads but no success so far due to canny deer, a miss from me and some inconvenient boundaries.
There has been one big, agressive, dominant buck we've seen several times and bumped twice when I've been there. He's also avoided a bullet on several other occassions and Davie is keen he go as he's holding a big territory and probably reducing the number of bucks on the ground as a result. Obviously I wasn't going to complain so we came up with a plan for the stalk. The ground is a broad expanse of hillside topped with a plateau that runs up to a dense line of forestry at the top. The main block of forestry also has a spur of planting extending down across the plateau effectively splitting it into a left and right half. The wind was a strong westerly blowing across the ground from right to left so we cut along the bottom of the hillside below the plateau and stalked up along a dry stone wall at the extreme left edge. Here we sat down and started to glass.
After about 10 minutes I spotted a buck looking out from the far treeline and we both agreed this was the big buck we were after. He had no idea we were there but was extremely cautious and spent a good 20 minutes watching and moving up and down the treeline before he eventually jumped the fence and moved into the open. He was probably about 175 metres away at this point and we didn't even put the sticks up to have a look as there was no way I was trying for him at that range off sticks (even quad-sticks!). The hope was he'd feed towards us and offer a shot once he'd moved further onto the plateau. Unfortunately he hadn't moved more than 5 yards closer when the strong wind brought in some horrible rain which he obviously didn't fancy as he turned around and retreated to the cover of the trees...
We didn't have that option though and sat tight hoping it would pass over. It didn't... We sat it out for another hour but the rain kept up and the buck stayed in the trees before disappearing after a bit. During that hour we saw another decent buck who also preferred the shelter of the trees and then a third smaller one was spotted approaching from our left but sticking tight to the trees again. Eventually we decided to move on before we froze to death and quietly dropped back down the hill to make our way along and have a look at the other side of the hill.
Inevitably, the Eastward side was getting hammered by the wind and although the rain had lessened a bit it was wild and not where any self-respecting deer was going to be, which was probably why we'd seen them all hugging the trees on the other side...
One of us had the bright idea that if we followed the treeline from where we were back towards the other side then although we'd risk bumping anything holed up in the trees ahead of us, we'd at least have the shelter from the wind for a last look round there before calling it a day. We made our way round to the corner of the treeline and stopped to have a look through the bins. Davie immediately spotted a buck right at the top of the open plateau! It was almost certainly the 3rd, smaller buck we'd spotted before that had continued its way along the trees and then just ventured out into the open as the rain had eased off. We made for a small rise that would still leave us nearly 200 metres away but offer a prone shot.
Davie whipped out the two bits of kindling and rubber band he prefers to a proper bi-pod and I got the rifle down and settled myself for a look through the scope. I would not have expected to be taking a shot at that range but Davie reassured me there was no significant drop to worry about between the 100m zero and out to 200m, and in the prone position I had a really steady sight picture though the scope. Also felt really calm with none of the adrenalin buzz I've sometimes had before. Davie confirmed he had the buck in view to watch the shot reaction and to shoot if I was comfortable... A deep breath, safety off, scope on his shoulder, fire. As I got the sight picture back and reloaded I could see the buck dropping where he'd stood and make one roll down the slope where he was still.
Davie walked to the beast and then waved me over. He'd dragged it 20 yards from the shot site and we let Ria do her thing, which she did beautifully going straight to the site of the shot and then finding the dragged buck in good time, earning herself a kidney midday through my amateurish gralloch. I was delighted to see the shot was bang on and he was a craking looking young 5 (6 at a push!) point buck.
So another great day out, 3rd buck in the bag and many more lessons learned. Not least that persistence pays off and skin is waterproof so best to stick at it!