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I had a guest out from the SD over the weekend. On Saturday Morning we spied a group of big stags out on the hill and another large stag holding about 20 hinds a bit further on. As we had been sat in a high seat waiting for the freezing mist to clear for about 2 hours, I thought if nothing else the walk up to them would at least warm us up!
We managed to get into hinds that were below the stags we had seen along the edge of the sitka, only 60yds in front, and a stag was also there. We could not get a clear shot because of the ground between us and if we stood up to use sticks the hinds would have seen us. At that the stag lay down. However, before we could move a hind jumped out from the bracken at our side and chirped, lifting about 30 hinds and calves from the cover and the stag, all now running off away from us along the edge of the trees. Steve (fallowmoor) threw himself forward onto a mound and I told him to get ready as the whistle may just stop him long enough for a shot. It did, only for a couple of seconds. He made it out to about 200yds and stepped into the shade below the trees in thick bracken. However, Steve managed to shoot. I could not see the stag at all because of the light so had no idea where he had been struck or the reaction. Steve was confident and the noise that came back suggested a good hit, but as the ground is wet and mossy I have heard misses before that sounded quite positive. I walked forward and asked Steve to direct me onto where he thought he had been. There was no sign and the bracken now turning brown meant it was very difficult to see blood against it. Because I had lent my trailer for the stags to my brother in law, I had left the dog at home as Steve's wife needed the space in the back of the Landy and no room for the dog box as well as a tray for the deer but as we were back out that evening it was not a concern as if there had been any need the dog would have been back out later, which was now looking exactly like what was going to happen.
We gave it a good look but could find no sign of the shot site. After 20mins or so I suggested going to get the dog and starting again later. On the way back to the car Steve tells me to stand still and asks me what was sticking on the back of my trouser leg. It was the tiniest speck of bloody matter. More like a spot of meat to me honest. At least I now knew it had been hit and that we had been in the right area of bracken bed.
6hrs on and we are back. I sent Steve and his wife to sit in another seat whilst I went with the HS, now coming up for 11months old.
I sat her down and began a search of the bracken. After 5mins somehow I was able to spot dried blood covering a leaf. A wee bit further in and I see some blood spots that were still wet on the moss but still no positive sign of where it had been standing when struck. Now it looked a bit more encouraging. I popped the tracking collar and lead onto her and took her to the site of the blood. She immediately started to sniff at bracken stalks that I could see also had splatter on them, then nose to the ground and straight through the bracken. There were spots of blood every few yards but very hard to see against the covering of needles. She then goes under the canopy of sitka, so I am now trying to keep up with her on hands and knees and not blind myself! She stopped often along the track to give a proper sniff of blood spots before carrying on. The stag had not taken a direct straight route and a couple of times I began to wonder if she had come off the track as the footfall of deer in this area is significant and must be distracting for a young inexperienced dog. However, first lesson taught was always trust the dog!!!!
About 120yds in I see the stag lying dead. The shot was good and low in the chest, taking off the top of the heart. Very small exit hole. That said, I would have expect to see a lot more blood from that shot. 30-06 with 175grn bullets. The dog has never seen a freshly shot beast before, having only been trained on live deer tracks, skin and scent shoes with no blood yet introduced. She did a bit of jumping about it to start with and a bit of sniffing and licking. She then sat patiently while I gralloched. She hadn't made any sound when she had found it but as it was now flopping about a bit whilst being dragged she barked at it, which to be honest was the highlight of the whole event for me!
She has turned out to be a well built dog with a lovely temperament. The stag weighed in at just over 100lbs and it does not dwarf her. Not big for the estate but a nice young 8 pointer nonetheless.
Steve was happy for me to write this up for him as he is now heading back home, but has asked to come back ASAP, as the bug of sika stalking has taken hold of him. We sat out this morning but only saw hinds however, we were treated to a stag calling continuously for about 45mins! None stop, every 15 seconds it would call. I have never heard one as vocal for so long before. Quite an experience.
This was his first sika and also the last to complete all 6 species for him.