Last Saturday afternoon found me heading north from Hertfordshire to Warwickshire to a friends for a crack at a cull roe buck but more likely fallow or muntjac buck stalking. Julian is apart from my brother my best and longest friend out there. We met at university in 1995 and 17 years on we are still the best of friends. We have always enjoyed good success together on my ground, though in our younger years the mornings could sometimes be somewhat blurry eyed due to late nights and too much whiskey!
Roberta was working this weekend and had our sat nav in her car so I borrowed my father’s as I’d never been to the clay pigeon shooting ground that Julian works at part time as a instructor and that’s where I was meeting him. For some reason the sat nav thought it would be fun to lead me up the garden path with 2 miles to go, it took me up a lane and then asked me to drive into the ditch on my left, through a hedge and into a field of young rape! Sodding modern technology! I phone Julian who gives me directions to a nearby pub and I meet him there. We pile my kit into Julian’s vehicle and head off to his stalking ground.
This piece of ground that Julian has permission to stalk over is around 300 acres in size and the owner without knowing it has created the most stunningly perfect deer habitat that anyone could wish to do so. It’s around 20 year old mixed plantation of oak, beech, hornbeam, hazel, birch, ash, willow, scots pine and a few more cut into blocks by lovely open grassed rides. In there are maybe 10 open areas with small ponds dug and the earth from each pond has been used to create mounds nearby. It really is a beautiful place to stalk deer and there are plenty of deer there too! A very good head of fallow, good numbers of muntjac and now in the last few years a small population of roe. It was a young roe buck that I had driven up for, Julian had a good buck on the ground and a nice 4 point there too so the yearling that was showing this year was in Julian’s cull plan.
As time had gotten away with us we decided to head for highseats that evening and then stalk the ground in the morning, Julian walked me to one of the clearings, pointed out a highseat, wished me luck and headed off to his own chosen seat. The seat that I was in was where the young roe had been seen over the last few weeks. It was over looking some long grass that had a small amount of saplings starting to encroach it from the main plantation. A pond 80 yards to my left and a ride that ran from the pond across me and then to my right which then headed away from me to where I could see for maybe 200yds along it.
Nothing showed that evening but I could hear a fallow buck grunting behind me and to my left and another buck over to my right. Julian picked me up at dark and we headed on to the pub for a quick pint. We then called into the local Chinese and grabbed a takeaway and headed for Julian’s where his lovely wife Emma and young daughter Poppy were waiting to say hello. After a few beers and a couple of scotches it was off to bed with thoughts of what the morning might bring.
The morning brought fog and a frost which Julian blamed me for as the last time I stayed with him it was foggy too, I personally thought that was unfair but Julian was adamant it was my fault. As we drove to the stalking ground I reminded Julian of a fact, I’d never shot a deer on ground that he has permission on, never even had the opportunity of a shot! Once again this was added to the list of things that I was at fault for!
After parking the vehicle we checked the wind direction and planned our route. The fog wasn’t as thick as it first looked and the frost wasn’t that hard. As the light started to come up the plantation looked a magical wonderland, a joy to any stalkers eye. We started off and had only gone around 100yds when that spine tingling sound of a fallow buck grunting came ringing through the fog to us, Julian looked back at me and smiled but we didn’t say a word, we didn’t need too. We carried on carefully for another 100yds, as we neared the clearing where I’d sat the night before we glassed the edge of the tree line and Julian whispered that he could see a roe but was unsure as to what sex it was. I moved up alongside him and soon picked out the roe, as it moved its head its neck got a little thinker and a set of spikes grew out of its head! It was the young buck we were looking for but my movement had caught its eye. The three of us froze trapped in each other’s gaze, we needed 10yds to get to one of those mounds and get on the bipod but it had a dark mass of trees right behind it just ready to slip back into and that’s just what it did. Never mind we might meet up with him round one of the next corners. An interesting thing happened while we were glassing that roe, we had a fallow buck grunting to our left and a muntjac buck barking behind and to our right, three species of deer all within our ear shot or vision.
After maybe 200yds of stalking Julian again spotted movement off to our left and two fallow doe’s moved silently thought some ash and hazel 50 yards away, we stopped to glass them and behind them in another small clearing a fallow pricket and sorrel came into view and then disappeared again before we could get the sticks up but the pricket was heading in the same direction as the doe’s which if they carried on their route might bring them out ahead of us.
We gave it 2 minutes and then carried on just in time for one of the doe’s to cross the ride into a small opening some 70yds in front. Bin’s up and there’s the pricket behind her, Julian splits the sticks and moves back, as I place the rifle on the sticks the pricket comes into view and then turns to trot after the doe. A whistle from Julian and the pricket pauses at 80yds, I place the crosshairs on the back of his neck and the .243 barked. The pricket slumps into the grass and the doe in front pronks away.
We take a few quick photos and bleed the beast. Some way off there is another fallow buck grunting so we now turn our attention in his direction. The sun is just starting to break through and the other wildlife is waking up. Many small song birds are warming up in the trees, coots and moorhen's can be seen around the ponds. We come to another pond, the ground then drops away a little to then rise again onto a big mound that looks over a bigger clearing. A slight movement catches our eye as three roe, a doe and two kids comes from our left to our right only 30yds in front, they then double back to head in the same direction as we are heading. We give them 5 minutes and then carry on. All the time there is grunting coming from ahead of us.
As we stalk on the rides get narrower and the plantation thicker either side of us. The sun has now burnt off most of the fog. Once again the ride widens but this time not into an open area with a pond but a thinly planted section. We slowly glass the scene in front of us. I’ve gone from right to left with the bin’s and start heading back to the right when at about knee height and 70yds in front a set of eyes and ears are staring back at me! As I look a little more a set of brow tines come into view as well. I tell Julian that I can see a buck, he sets the sticks up in front of me and again moves off.
With Julian’s movement the buck gets to his feet facing us at a slight angle, I’ve had time to get ready on the sticks. There’s a clear gap through the trees and a 100gr from my .243 is heading into his chest. At the shot he doubles up from the impact and moves off heading away from us and out of sight. Julian has the bloody cheek to mutter something about needing a bigger calibre! 30 yards from where we last saw him he lays dead from a lovely top of heart/lung shot. I remind Julian of his comments from a few moments before.
Once again we stop for a few photos and to bleed the buck.
We now start to head back to the vehicle and quad bike so we can collect the 2 beasts but we have a 15 minute walk and I pass a comment that a muntjac buck would be nice for the table! A 100yds on I spot movement to my right and there’s a muntjac doe looking at us, she moves off and there’s some movement behind her, a young buck is following her! Again Julian splits the sticks but they keep on moving, we back track 10yds and get the sticks ready again. This time the buck offers a shot, the crosshairs settle on his chest and I squeeze the trigger.
With number 3 in the bag we do head for the quad bike and start our way back round to collect them. After ribbing Julian on the way there the boy put on one hell of a show! I may have shot more in a day before but never in such company or with such life long memories. That was something special not for the number of deer shot but for whom I was with and the things we experienced. We have had some awesome times together but that racks as number one for me, thank you my friend.