A few weeks back I was taking the rifle for a little walk. I had no real intention of shooting anything but was just doing some scouting around. I was meandering along the tree line looking down onto some rough open ground and then the edge of a replanting that is about 10 years old. For the most part I was interested to see where the deer were moving in and out of the tree line but some movement caught my eye on the open ground below me and when I got the binos up there were two wee sika spikers having a bit of a scrap. I'd no intention of shooting them but decided to watch the show and they scrapped away in front of me for some time. I'd noticed a grey patch among the heather beyond them which I thought was a hind browsing with her head down but it didn't move and I decided it was just a bit of old wood.
After a while I moved around a little bit to keep the fighting spikers in view, though to be honest they were more sparring than fighting for real, and on doing this I studied the grey patch again. After some further consideration I concluded that it was just possible that the twigs sticking up above the heather by the grey patch were antlers and this seemed to warrant further investigation, so I watched some more and sure enough the twigs would move about. After a little while I decided that there was a stag behind the heather and the grey patch formed some part of its hind quarters.
As I watched the owner of the twigs started moving his head about quite a lot and eventually he lifted it so the antlers were in full view. As he was an 8 point sika, if a small one, I put the rifle on the sticks in case there was the chance of a shot. The stag put his head on his flank, closed the one eye I could see, and went to sleep.
The positive side to this behaviour was that it gave me some time to consider if I could extract from this rather remote and difficult spot, and to consider the distance to the stag, and to consider that if he ran into the replanting there was no chance of a recovery. I concluded that a neck shot was the only option and that I needed him to stand up.
The stag, clearly, had reached other conclusions relating to his need for 8 hours a night and while it wasn't exactly night time he seemed keen to get as many hours as he could right then and there. For a while, mostly while I was doing the considering detailed above, this was all well and good but, truth be told, after some considerable time it started to wear a bit thin. Not only was the whole sleeping thing wearing thin but in due course I started to get cold plus the ground was rough and my position uncomfortable and it became clear that if I got the shakes from the tricky position or the shivers from the cold I was never going to pull off a neck shot.
Based on the fact that I was approaching a "now or never" point in our relationship I thought to see if I could attract his attention in a manner that might cause him to stand up to take a good look at me. It will come as no shock to you to discover that my attempts were a failure. I tried a few whistles and even a few shouts but sleeping beauty was well on his way to his 8 hours and he wasn't quitting for no shouting and whistling.
At this point I launched my secret weapon - a sika call. I gave a good blow on this at an ear splitting level and up came the head and looked straight at me. However, he still seemed too lazy to stand up and when I say the head came up what I mean is that the antlers, ears and eyes appeared above the heather. Clearly my cammo was working as he elected to get his head down and catch another nap. On the positive side of the equation I could still see his hind quarters so I always had the option of shooting him in the tail, unconventional perhaps but an option none the less.
What also became clear was that my stag friend wasn't going to slowly stand up, present a neck shot and go down like a sack of coal. Once my harassment got too much for him he was going to spring from his bed and vanish into the replanting in less time than it takes to drop my sika call and get my eye to the scope. This left the head shot. Was I going to shoot an 8 point sika in the head? Of course I was.
And so it came to pass that the little 8 point sika heard my sika call, popped his eyes above the heather for one last time and found himself getting rather more rest than the 8 hours he seemed to be aiming for.
The extraction was a true nightmare and thanks must go to Jonny who pitched in on my side and helped me out in about 100 ways.
Now, of course, the question on all your lips is "did he destroy the head?" and the honest answer is that I blew it to kingdom come and back but a bloke I know stuck it together and I think it makes a wonderful trophy as the glue and the hole between the eyes will always remind me of a sleepy sika stag, a reluctant head shot and a nightmare extraction.
As an extra bonus the butcher recovered the bullet from the neck. It was a Nosler Partition and to be honest I would have expected an exit but I was above the stag by quite a bit to the angle was down and I don't know how far down the neck the bullet was, or if it had broken any bones in the neck. Either way I think the photos demonstrate ideal Partition performance with good expansion, the front core blown off and the rear intact.
The head, now it's stuck together:
Some views of the recovered bullet: