For the last three years I have organised a shoot for members of the Stalking Directory and their guests with the objective of raising money for the H4H charity. Each year I have been approached by site members such as Sikamalc, BenC and Roedinator bearing gifts in the form of stalking days as prizes for the event which have been used as star prizes for a prize draw. The idea of using them for the draw rather than shooting prizes is so that site members who are unable to attend the shoot can still be involved in the fund raising and have an equal chance to win a day’s stalking, in fact some site members from outside the U.K. purchase draw tickets including those from Canada, Sweden and Ireland. This year for the third year in succession Roedinator very kindly donated another stalking day and against all odds my ticket was the first to be drawn out. I say against all odds because my track record with lotteries and raffles isn’t good, in fact she who must be obeyed is convinced that any lottery number I ever pick will never come up on a Saturday and so far (as always) she has been totally correct. This year however my number was drawn from the hat first. I didn’t realise at first that it was my ticket but I knew that it had to be someone present at the shoot because the number wasn’t on the list of numbers held for those unable to attend the shoot. My initial reaction was to re-donate the prize but I was overruled on this with a shouts of “you bought tickets just like everyone else, you take it” and having very much enjoyed the hospitality of a couple of previous stalks with Roedinator I didn’t need much more encouragement to willingly accept the prize.
Work and other commitments by both of us delayed me from accepting the invitation to stalk until last weekend when I went down to Roedinator’s home in Somerset. The plan was that I should arrive on Saturday afternoon we would stalk that evening and both morning and evening stalks the following day. Roedinator had it in his mind that at sometime over the weekend we would look for a particular buck that I had seen on a previous visit some months before which had developed in my mind’s eye since last being seen into some sort of gold medal monster buck but would in reality probably turn out to be struggling to make bronze, but who cares it’s the anticipation of the stalk that counts. It’s only about an hour and a quarter from my home down to Roedinator’s and Saturday was a bright and sunny day so a very pleasant journey through a very pretty part of our wonderful country. My first job on arrival was to have a look at the litter of pups that Roedinator’s GWP had recently given birth to. I was under strict instructions to take photographs of the pups by “she who must be obeyed” (SWMBE) and the apprentices (daughters). What a wonderful sight with pups and bitch Elle all doing well. Motherhood seems to suit Elle well because considering that she had 12 pups she was looking remarkably fit and well. She greeted me and seemed only too happy to show off her pups, what a good mother and good natured dog she is. I was under clear instructions not to get too engrossed with the pups because we weren’t having another hell dog in the house, I already have a very active 8month old GWP pup that apparently gives the rest of the family grief if I am not around but behaves himself when I am at home and working.
After a good old chin wag and refreshments we set off that evening to stalk around an area of Roedinator’s ground that he hadn’t had chance to get around for some weeks because of work. The wind was tricky with little or no movement at all initially but after a short time a steady constant breeze picked up and Roedinator planned and amended the stalk accordingly. There have been a lot of farming changes on his ground in recent months with much of the ground ploughed up or given over to maize where the roe seem to have taken up permanent residence. We covered a fair bit of ground that evening seeing no sign of deer whatsoever until finally just before last light we spotted a young buck accompanied by a doe half way up the edge of a maize field. Both appeared to be ready to disappear back into the maize but hadn’t spotted us at the bottom of the field probably some 70 -80 yards away. The buck just wouldn’t present himself for a shot and at Roedinator’s suggestion I moved forward slightly so that light brush between us and the deer wouldn’t interfere with the shot when I finally decided to pull the trigger. At long last the buck presented a shot but with his head and fore legs just into the crop. I held back slightly so as not to shoot through the standing maize but overcompensated and the shot went further back than I had intended none the less the buck went down and we both heard the thwack from the .308w hitting the buck. As a matter of course I cycled the action in preparation for a follow up if necessary having called the shot as too far back but it wasn’t required. Now for the hard part gralloching and recovering the deer to the truck. I unloaded my rifle took my jacket off and dug out my gloves and new unblooded EKA swing blade knife but I was too late Roedinator was already doing the business, as always the perfect host. With the gralloch completed we then had a carry of about 600 yards or so to the truck. Driving around a field boundary on the drive back to Roedinator’s place we saw another three young roe does in the trucks headlights. They were coming out of the maize and disappeared back into the maize as we got closer. So a total of only five deer seen that evening and we shot the only buck amongst them.
Sunday morning saw a change in the weather but a start at just before first light saw us in the woods just as the sun was rising. Roedinator had a plan that should have worked well but unfortunately he hadn’t shared it with the deer so they refused to play. I was positioned in a free standing high seat on the edge of a small copse overlooking a small valley and several large open fields surrounded by various woods. Previous occupiers of this vantage point had reported seeing up to 19 roe at any one time on the banks immediately in front of this seat, and on a previous visit I too had watched two does for a considerable length of time from this seat. Almost as soon as I sat in the seat the weather took a bit of a downwards spiral with a cold lazy wind starting to blow and light at first precipitation. I had made the mistake of only wearing my light jacket and left my warm coat in the van. The plan was for Roedinator to walk the distant boundaries which if he moved anything should come towards the centre of the shoot where I would be waiting. Off he set explaining his route before he left which would be far out of my line of sight and mentioning that he would return in an hour and a bit. Well I think he underestimated the length of the boundary because by the time he returned it was over two hours later but he did see one young cull buck which he shot at exactly 08.00hrs. I know because I noted the time and the general direction of the sound of the shot. Little did I realise how far away he was at that time. The drizzle started to become colder and colder and even more penetrating so much so that I had climbed down from the high seat and was sheltering from the rain and wind under the tree behind the free standing high seat. By the time Roedinator had worked his way back to me I had become quite chilled, he by contrast had worked up quite a head of steam stalking the boundaries and was sweating profusely and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen a single deer. We finished the morning by stalking our way back to the truck through a plantation that normally holds a number of deer but once again not a sign of anything. It certainly looks like the roe had debunked to their seasonal homes in the maize crops of the surrounding fields for the time being. So after collecting the buck that Roedinator had shot on the other side of the estate so conveniently that we could drive straight up to it, it was back to Roedinator’s and a wonderful breakfast cooked by Mrs Roedinator and to plan the evening stalk when we would reacquaint ourselves with the buck that had grown so much more each time I thought of him.
We rested for an hour or so but at this point the rain started to become heavier and heavier and the forecast suggested that it was at least in for the day. In actual fact the weather eventually got much worst and resulted in flooding in the immediate region but before than I decided to chicken out and draw sticks. I just had a feeling that the evening stalk would have been fruitless, deer surely can’t be as daft as us and know when to hunker down and wait the weather out. Though I called time early I had a great weekend and Roedinator and his family are fantastic hosts and I am extremely grateful for their generosity and hospitality. I now have a buck hanging in the garage which will be butchered in the next day or so and my pup is absolutely over the moon with a deer leg to chew in the garden and a number in the freezer.
Incidentally I was out with the pup last night when my eldest daughter who had just come in from work phoned me and said she had just met my friend Stanley. “Who’s Stanley” I asked, “your friend hanging in the garage” she said. I then asked how the roe buck became “Stanley”. Her reply was that if she didn’t give it a name it freaked her out, go figure that one. On my return home I relayed the story to my younger daughter who then replied “Oh Becki don’t be so silly, his name is Danny”. Kids I ask you it must be something in the water!