Seeing as there is a snow theme going on ( I wonder why?) I thought to add to the entertainment.
As I was off work yesterday I had planned on putting up a high seat and the light fall of snow overnight gave me to think that it might be interesting to have a wee walk around and see where the deer were moving. While I'm no Red Indian tracker I was pretty certain I could pick up a few deer tracks in the snow. I took the rifle along more out of habit than with any real intention of shooting something and was pleased to find that apart from deer, foxes, woodcock and hares I was the first on the ground:
The whole world looked almost as if it had been transformed into black and white, though if you look closely you can just about see some green in the trees in the photo above.
I went to work on the high seat cleaning a tree and nipping off a few branches that might obstruct the view. There is a slight catch in putting a high seat up in the snow and that is that all the snow falls off the branches you are working on and, by some miracle of modern science, manages to make its way down your neck even with your hood up. After a while at the high seat I was relatively happy and so left it in place and headed for some lunch sitting on the back of the car with my little Crusader stove going for tea. To be honest all in the world was looking pretty good:
After lunch I decided to take a bit of a walk in the woods to see if I could cut any deer tracks as I'd been a bit disappointed by the number I hadn't seen as I drove around. What I did see though was lots of fox tracks. In fact it looked to me like a fox had walked around the whole area of track that I drove. I suspect that it was a different fox in different areas and this just gave the impression that I had a marathon running fox in the area.
Although the snow wasn't crisp or hard frozen it was noisy to walk on and made that loud creak sound you get with snow that is only just below freezing. It must be said that once into the trees and on my way it created something of a surreal atmosphere and turned woods I know quite well into a different planet:
Even a drainage ditch had some character about it:
Despite legging it around a bit I wasn't seeing much evidence of deer activity at all, which is what I had expected, and I didn't have high hopes of putting the rifle to use. When you consider that the snow had been down for 24 hours to only cross a handful of sets of slots for quite a few miles walking didn't give me hope that I was in the ideal place to wait for deer, the maths shows that I could wait quite a few years before something would happen past.
In the evening there was an area that I'd decided to take a wander along as I knew deer often moved back and forth across the track. With it being cold and my having recently had a sort of flu thing from which I hadn't fully recovered I didn't want a long drag, in fact I didn't want any drag at all. I parked the car and got some tea on the go while the light started to fade and at just about sunset I set off from the car for a look. I hadn't gone 20 yards when I spotted a group of 3 deer in the trees at the edge of the track. They were very nervous and were clearly not keen to cross the track, perhaps they knew that they would stand out like a sore thumb against the white snow. I guessed the range to be about 200 yards and managed to get into a position for a prone shot off the bipod and then all I could do was lie in the snow and wait while the deer stood behind the branches of a tree. Closing the distance wasn't an option as the snow was creaking like a haunted house every time I put a foot down and, just like the deer, I was going to stand out like a sore thumb if I moved. Eventually a hind stepped clear of the branches and looked to be nearly broadside on and I took the shot.
Now, I've been very pleased with the performance of the 150 grain Nosler Partitions I've been using in my 308W and on occasions they have been putting chest shot sika straight down, something I've not seen with other loads. However that wasn't to be this time and I saw the hind run across the track into a relatively new plantation that could, at best, be described as a jungle. Isn't snow a wonderful thing. I knew she was well hit and was certain she wouldn't go far but sika are very strange animals and often make 150 yards with nothing left in the chest cavity but mush. With the light failing and my being certain she was hit hard I decided that a quick follow up made sense to take best advantage of the remaining day light. Sika will run until they drop whether you follow them up or not.
There wasn't a single sign of blood at the site of the strike, not even with the help of the snow, and the only evidence of a hit was some long dark single hairs lying here and there. To be honest there was no way I'd ever have seen the few hairs on normal vegetation but on the snow they were clear as day. So I started and followed the trail, from the way the snow was cleared off the tops of all the clumps of purple moor grass it looked like my hind didn't have two working legs at the front and after about 10 yards or so there were a few small drops of blood, again I'm pretty certain that I'd have been lucky to have seen them on the normal vegetation. After about 30 yards of weaving through 12 foot high Christmas trees the trail seemed to run out. I came back to the last clear trail and went again and still it seemed that I was losing the trail somewhere. The only thing I could conclude was that the hind must be somewhere in the immediate area and after some crawling about I found her under the branches of one of the wee Christmas trees, stone cold dead. Without the snow it would have been a long hard search and even with the snow I walked past her a few times before I crawled under the trees to spot her.
She was a good hind and very heavy with a lot of fat in her and even gralloched she didn't look like all the air had been let out of her as most deer do. I'm not one for dead deer photos, as they are all pretty much the same, but on the other hand it is the end result of a hard day's work: