There had been a couple of bucks I had been after especially on my 'weekday' ground. They were animals that I had marked down for culling when on the does or from the proceeding buck season. The first one I tried to catch up was in my 'big wood' (200 acres of mixed woodland up a river valley.)
In the wood there is 2 distinct genetic strains of roe. One's heads are the classic shape and the other groups are tall but very narrow. One buck I shot were touching at the base and I culled an old buck in the wood a couple of years back that would have been a cracker if not so narrow, the pic is in my album.
Anyway all winter I had seen what looked an equally tall buck; but again very narrow, he looked quite old. Not far from him I'd also been seeing a cracking but classic shaped antlered buck that I know was not old. As the wood has no wide (& cuttable) rides or open areas (and the fields are full of damned sheep..) then it means that apart from the rut April is the best time to catch up with the bucks there. (Lucky I did as the rut was a none event for me this year!)
I set off on a dry, still afternoon in early April and started at the northern end of the wood. I bumped a yearling buck quite early on and made a mental note to add one to the cull for this wood as I had seen a couple of other spikers on earlier visits when on the does. I spotted a doe couched up sunning herself and managed to creep past her without her seeing me which is always pleasing. Having stalked 1/2 way through the wood along the river I settled where 2 rides meet.
It's a great spot where the 2 main roe thoroughfares cross and somewhere I had taken a number of beasts over the years. I'd only waited about 10 minutes when - bang on cue the buck walked slowly down the track from left to right (in the picture at the end of the green ride in front) I tend to take the bipod off the rifle for the bucks as most of my shots are from sticks (due to high cover) but I managed to get a good rest on a mossy bank.
The buck was just over 100 yards away but kept stopping to browse and fray behind small branches. Finally, after about 5 minutes he appeared at the cross roads. He was only mooching and a bark from me was enough for him to stop and put his head up looking to where his pseudo challenger lay. Half exhale, hold breath, cross hairs on his chest and a gentle squeeze of the trigger and (with the mod) I heard the round strike with a reasuring thwack/thud. The buck lurched forward, ran about 15 yards then slowed, stumbled and seemed to be near collapsing but out of site. I was confident the shot was true but waited for the usual 5 mins (the only time I miss having given up the fags is that post shot ciggy, a perfect amount of time and helpful for the reflection!)
I approached with rifle at the ready and found the spot where he was when I fired, a good load of pins (end of winter pelage) and some nice bright, frothy blood was a reassuring sight on the bluebell leaves. I followed the blood trail down the bank and could soon see the light under belly of the buck quite quickly. (The rifle is a Browning Xbolt in .243 with S&B 6x24 glass)
After 25 years of stalking and being sure they are down I still feel relieved to find the deer stone dead but then from my first, side view I then thought, oh no I've shot a cracking buck..... but, when I turned the head it revealed he was, indeed very narrow.
The sloping coronets also added to the other signs (gait, teeth, shape...) that he was a good age.
The .243 100 grain Winchester round did the job with good tissue damage in the lungs.
The shot had entered at the right spot (above), with the angle up the ride though I could have aimed a little lower though I noted when I had opened him up (see below) I did so after all the usual checks of course!
He was a decent sized animal and took a bit of folding up to get in the roe sack. I was thankful I had shot him near the top of the valley so it made the haul out to the vehicle a lot less sweaty. Back at the truck I reflected on a day that had gone to plan, it is so not often the case with stalking but that only makes days like that day sweeter. It is always a bit of a shame to shoot a mature buck in the spring when his antlers aren't fully coloured and he is still in his winter coat but as mentioned earlier it is one of only too small windows I get to stalk the bucks in this particular wood.
I have been lucky enough to manage the deer on the estate (where I live bang in the middle!) for 7 years now and with selective culling have seen an increase in antler quality, carcase weights and fecundity (more twins) I have only shot 3 biggish bucks on the ground but all of them have been old (one very, again in my gallery on the wall) and with this buck I had the added fact that he had an undesirable trait in his narrowness of head.
I'm glad to say as I sit and write this in the wind and rain in December refelcting on a sunny April day I have seen the really promising (would be silver medal already I believe) buck a number of times this year in the wood. For this part of the world his head is quite exceptional and he is a joy to see. There is also another 6 pointer even younger (I think) coming on in the same wood but he's very elusive and I hope to get a better look at him when on the does. I just need some snow or frost to get the cover down before he casts!
Apologies for the poor quality photos, whenever I need it the camera is sat at home and all I have is the mobile phone with me!
All the best