My first Roe
I posted this on another forum last year but thought it may be of some small interest to the membership here.
Thank you for taking the time to read it.
I thought I would put finger to keyboard to type up a short report on the weekend’s excursion after Roe, to be my very first, with the very excellent Messrs IanF and Artemis.
The story started at a BBQ hosted by that equally fine fellow Fallowbuck to celebrate Littlebuck’s christening. T’was a fine feast; food, drink, food, song, food, banter, food, a little bit of personal abuse, food and as is the way at any party where shooting folk are present, lots of plotting!
An early start was called for, as a soft city-bred bon viveur I was somewhat perturbed. Strange then, that at the allotted hour I found myself awake, wide awake, five minutes before my alarm went off. I looked out of the window into the field and woods of the misty dark of a Devon morning with the ghost of a smile on my lips, at home I’ll risk being late to court for a few extra minutes sleep, here sleep was a thief that would rob you of the quiet magic of the pre-dawn, that feeling of contentment and the thrilling edge of purposeful wakefulness when all around you mere mortals slumber on, dreaming of things which, in this twilight world, are suddenly meaningless to me.
I cannot speak for other hunters, but for me, a large portion of the pleasure of our endeavour is to be found in the little rituals we adopt, or invent, for ourselves preparing for, carrying on with and enjoying the fruits of our labours.
Myself I find that the shower with just water, not bothering to shave, the lacing of the boots and the final motion of the zipping up one’s hunting jacket concentrate the mind, are as purposeful and as much a part of the peripheral pleasures of hunting as the “snick-snick” of a rifle bolt closing on chambered round before the stalk.
Waiting there dressed and with kettle on the boil Ian knocks on the door and enters with what appears to be mild surprise at my readiness to go, I can hardly blame him one of my less endearing habits is haggling over wake up times with hosts.
A cup of coffee and a biscuit later we are in Ian’s Landrover driving down twisting lanes in the dark to get to a farm nearby where I stalk my first Roebuck. At the time I was not to know that Ian has not shot over this particular patch for a year. I did not know this at the time and Ian being far too modest to let me know this has left me astounded by his unassuming generosity. I am so incredibly grateful for the generosity shown to me by Ian and Jo in all regards over the weekend. One really could not wish for finer hosts, or better people, than I found on in my regrettably short stay at their house.
The drive was an education in itself; I had never been to this part of the world with its hills and valleys, little blocks of old woodland here and there where the ground made it impossible to get tractor and plough. As the advancing predawn tinted the eastern sky shades of blue and grey, the receding mists revealed an undulating mosaic of a vista, one that would have on its own repaid the effort made to witness it. I was content.
We chatted on the way down about the differences between Roe and Fallow deer, Ian is extremely knowledgeable about all British deer species and the talk was an order of magnitude more illuminating than the rather dry tack of the books I have read on the subject. We arrived in the farmyard about half an hour before dawn and switching the engine off waited for the world to settle down and to have a good look around. This was a new idea for me as all my stalking so far has been deep in the woods, where one parks on the edge and stalks in, or sits up on a high seat in the corner of a field. The vantage point offered by our parking place allowed us to survey fields for miles along the sides of the valley. Armed with a spotting scope and Ian with his Leica binos we glassed a field to below and in front of us. The fields’ bona fide residents were sheep, the field next to us had a group of perhaps half a dozen freshly shorn rams trying to work out what we were and in any event if we were about to muscle in on their harem. Next to them, immediately in front of us, was a field of planted Kale where I noticed two small dark mounds in and amongst the crop. I suppose it didn’t register until one of the mounds moved that I was looking at deer. I let out a hushed yelp and whispered to Ian “is that a Roe?” He glassed them carefully and bade me look again and see if I thought there was a buck down there. I looked again through the 30x scope and after a moment confidently declared that there appeared to be two does browsing their way towards the far end of the…...
I trailed off; it appeared that one of the does had four ears! Frantically searching through my admittedly meagre mental database of deer trivia I suddenly realised that there is only one sort of doe with four ears, a buck! I said something that rhymes with “buck”, or more accurately “bucking hell, that’s a bucking shooter isn’t it?”, Ian favoured me that sort of heartening smile that a kindly man is wont to greet the yapping of litter of puppies. Noting once again the emotional rollercoaster that is stalking we got out of the car and readied arms.
I am not one to get hung up on the precise technical details of rifles and scopes, all the ones I have used so far have simply worked. The rifle I borrowed from Ian merits some comment however as I had not used or seen for sale a M-series Tikka. I now know that this is because once a fellow acquires one, he does not want to let it go! A purposeful beast of stainless steel durability and synthetic stocked stability in 30-06, it inspired confidence from the moment I picked it up. The trigger, as I had discovered from dry firing it the night before, was a dream; it broke like a rod of glass and at about 2 pounds pull was as perfect as a stalking rifle’s could be. I was handed some shooting sticks, which incidentally I had never used in anger before, and we pondered the route for the stalk.
The roe was in the depression of the valley about 300 yards away from us and 20-30 yards away from a little wooded patch set out on its own from the edge of a main wood just behind it. The wind was in our favour, a gentle breeze blowing in our faces but the problem was that we had no reasonable angle of approach. The most direct route was down hill straight across the field with the rams to the edge of the fence that separated the fields. From there the buck would have been only 60 or so yards away.
Our problem was solved when the Buck decided to thrash the branches on the verges of the little copse. With the undulations of the ground we could only see the tops of his antlers and with the obvious corollary that he could not see us we began a highly improbable “stalk” straight across the middle of a field being trailed by a gaggle of testosterone addled sheep.
The buck was moving around and at one point it disappeared behind a mound for a moment only to have doe emerge from where we thought the buck was going to. A moment of panic ensued, with Ian who only had the benefit of 8x binos from the car, asking me if I was sure the doe had four ears and my protestations in the affirmative leading to far too much movement for my part. Amazingly the doe and fawn at the far end of the field carried on browsing and when the buck appeared again on the fringe of the little copse all was well again.
Slooowly the rifle was un-slung and went onto the sticks. The sun was starting to peek over the tops of the trees directly behind the copse where the buck was now browsing. I had the buck’s head in the ‘scope and was able to watch the fascinating behaviour of feeding Roebuck. It was a magic wee thing and would eat a bit, hear some noise, freeze, look around in a panic, wait a bit and then go back to feeding. Every so often just to break things up it would attack a low branch or scrape a small tree. The upshot of this was that I was only offered a head or base of the neck shot for about twenty minutes. I don’t want to get into the politics of head shooting, far from it, so it will suffice for me to say that I was not prepared to take the shots offered at 70 yards off sticks.
The sun rose inexorably higher as the minutes stretched into hours and the sight picture became whiter and whiter as the waiting went on. Finally and for no apparent reason the buck began to amble to the left, browsing on the kale as is went. It crossed a gap in the depression and presented a broadside shot for a few seconds as it did, Ian whispered “take him” but I’m afraid to say that I had not been looking at anything but the buck through the scope and by the time I realised that I had a shot he moved to a oblique quartering away position that would have ruined a lot of meat had I taken the shot.
Cursing my buck fever I concentrated fully now, tracking the buck with crosshairs and with what I judged to be about half pressure on the trigger. Fair Artemis () must have been smiling down upon me that day because the buck turned 180 degrees and took a few steps back towards the copse before stopping, quartering slightly towards me, clearly broadside. The sun had almost cleared the trees by now and in the white mist of the ocular I found his shoulder and finished the trigger squeeze.
The rifle barked and through the scope I saw the buck stagger, fall, regain it’s feet and fall once more. Ian was saying “Reload! Reload!” into my ear as I put on the autopilot that I have discovered takes over just after I have shot a living creature. The autopilot reloaded, watched the place where the buck had dropped, now out of sight because of the gradient, unloaded the rifle and had a cigarette with shaking hands. That rush is the result of an hours worth of restrained emotion and it is quite special, as Ian says it is time to hang up one’s rifle when one doesn’t feel it anymore.
We approached it after a few minutes and found it quite dead, the shot having gone a little farther back than I thought, taking out the lungs and the liver. The 30-06 is wonderful round, it destroyed the back of the lungs, obliterated the liver leaving half of it between the ribs and hide on the exit side yet cause very little bruising. As for recoil, what recoil? I didn’t feel a thing, I didn’t lose the sight picture and in fact can’t even remember if there was a bang or not! In the heat of the moment I don’t think I would felt the recoil of a 700 nitro express!
We gutted it and bagged it up for the game dealer.
It was a fine roe buck, around three years old with 6 good point, fine pearling and lovely dark bosses. It was my first trophy and possibly shall remain my finest for the significance it has to me.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Ian and Jo for their kindness, generosity and company over the weekend. I am irredeemably in their debt and am incredibly fortunate to have the pleasure of calling them my friends.
I cannot recommend their stalking and company enough!
Nice story Amir,
Pleased you had a great time. The buck also looks nice.
The trophy is actually a little better than perhaps the photos show, I'll see if I can find a picture somewhere and post it up.
What a great stalk and i think your face says a thousand words.
Well done to you both.
In my defense I had a very tough paper round.
I confess that Ian's tash was the inspiration for my own, that Kare-vida bloke also may have had something to do with it.....
I have acquired a casual belief that stalkers have, need, moustaches when I went to the Devon game fair and noted that everyone on the BDS stand seemed to have a tash of one description or another.
That settled it as far as i'm concerned.
It's going soon mate, the GF hates it
There is only so long I can live like a monk......
nice write up, and pics 8)