I was out with Mike of Jelen Deer Services on one of his bits of land in Hampshire yesterday evening.
It has been a while since I went out with Mike and was looking forward to the trip and I wasn't to be disappointed.
I met Mike at his office around 2pm and had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a couple of his other clients.
After a briefing and kit check it was off to the grounds
Mike dropped me off at a large field on the edge of some woods and told me of the lie of the land, boundaries and such.
Then he left to take the other guys to their relevant patch.
I stalked around the edge of this big field, feck it got warm despite the time of year.
After quite a while I reached a big beech tree where Mike had set up a high seat near to where fallow usually exit the woods.
I got up into the seat and settled in for what I thought would be a long wait.
I was wrong, barely 10 minutes later I spied a young muntjac buck in cover only 20 yards or so away, he kept in deep cover just mooching around nibbling bits of fodder here and there.
It woke me up no mistake, and got the first-sighting jitters out of the way.
I must have watched him for 15 minutes or so - though it did seem longer - when something made me look up.
I glassed along the woodland edge and saw what definitely looked like the nose of a fallow just sticking out of a bit of a hedge.
I saw the nose ease back into the foliage, to slowly edge back out just a few seconds later.
She kept this up for a bit, then a second nose poked out, and this nose was a bit bigger and darker than the first, but still just noses, not anything like a target.
I glanced back down to look for the muntie and he was now only a few yards away right in the brambles at the foot of the high seat, I could have killed him with a spear but didn't want to shoot him cos I wanted the fallow.
I checked for the fallow, but they seemed to have gone, maybe I should have shot the muntie?
Nah, the nose came back out just as the sun dipped to the horizon, and sure enough out came the first doe.
She looked young, and was still light in coat with her spots showing up well in the evening light.
I watched her start to feed and checked the hedge line again, sure enough there was another head sticking out, clocking everything in sight and sniffing away like a good one.
I showed remarkable patience, well for me anyway, and waited to see if the older girl would come out.
She did and close behind her was what looked like a decent sized follower.
For what seemed like ever I watched the three of them, it was probably only 3 or 4 minutes though.
The two older deer were feeding away happily but what looked like the follower seemed uneasy and it turned back to the woods.
The older doe seemed about to follow it so I thought "now or never", but she changed her mind and went back out to carry on feeding.
This was good cos I hadn't missed the chance and now she was head-down, 125 yds away, neither of the other two near her, plenty of backstop.
I squeezed off a shot, bang-thump, and I saw her stagger forward a couple of steps, her back-end dropped to the ground as she rolled onto her left side before kickin her last quickly.
I watched the other two duck back in the woods.
I waited for 10 minutes or so, and was glad I did.
One of the others was barking softly and I could hear it rusling the leaves and rattling the hazel coppice a bit as it was making up its mind about what to do.
Then it came straight out of the hedge-line, high stepping in that stiff-legged way of a wary animal.
But, it headed straight for where the first doe was lying, stopping about 10 feet or so from it.
As soon as it halted I shot at it too.
Bang-thump again, but as you would expect from an animal which had been excited previously, it turned and ran but was obviously hit hard.
I heard it crash into the woods and a short bit of crashing about and things went quiet.
I got onto the radio and let Mike know what had happened, he had come to the field and had parked up near the gate in the far corner and had actually seen the first animal drop.
We agreed to wait for another few minutes in case any more showed up, but I was also keen to follow up on the second animal - just in case, you never know.
I got down from the high seat and went over to the first doe just to be sure, she was of course safely dead, but she was my reference point for the second animal
There was the evidence close by, a nice big splash mark and a heavy trail leading to the wood edge.
I went into the hazel coppice behind a bit of beech hedge and turned on my head torch anticipating a bit of a search, in fact I radioed Mike to have the dog ready, very reassuring having a good tracking dog like Del to hand.
Del wasn't needed though, my guess was correct, the second doe was stuck in the first bit of coppice which she had run into - she took a bit of untangling.
I radioed Mike to tell him the good news and he came over in the pick-up.
We headed to a nearby dead pit and Mike did the gralloch for me - thanks MIke - and he can certainly do that job quick and clean plus he has all the kit including a sling which makes it dead easy to lift a dead fallow into the pick up. These fallow were heavy, the habitat must really suit them.
Del did the usual dog stuff, worried at the carcass a bit, sniffed at things, generally got in the way for a bit then cleared off to chew on a a discarded bit of leg - before returning to puke on the sling - yep, typical daft lab.
Back at the larder we caught up with the other guy, Myles (hope I spelt that correctly mate?) who had taken a nice fallow buck.
We sorted out the cull records, cleaned the carcasses and hung them up in the larder - all nice and proper.
So, a good night was had by all and all fixed up well.
Mike and the others at Jelen Deer Services have a right good set up down there now, big comfortable office, store, shop and a big clean larder.
I can heartily recommend them to you for a bit of stalking.
One last thing, all the best to Mike's missus and him - they're expecting a baby who should arrive in the coming week, I hope all goes well and to hear of the good news in due course
Best to all