I was lucky enough to be introduced to David last weekend and thought I’d post a quick write up of a successful but very, very cold evening.
Having started stalking just before Xmas and done my DSC1 at the Stalking School (Moray Outfitting on SD) I’ve been out whenever I can – a couple of paid stalks, larder training with Glynn at Holkham Hall (a brilliant experience) and as an observer/spare pair of hands with Munty1 and his syndicate.
Anyway, on Saturday afternoon we set out in Dave’s truck (which spookily has no rear door handles on the inside) with two other stalkers and the dogs in the back. The weather had been bright and not too cold during the day so I was dressed in a shirt, fleece and jacket.
In retrospect, that was a big mistake.
The arrangement was that I’d sit and watch Dave and then help fetch and carry if necessary. So when we arrived at the site, Dave sent me off to a seat on the edge of the woods – promising he’d join me when he’d put the other guys in place.
For the next hour I sat and watched the usual cavalcade of rabbits, hares, pheasants and pigeons that would never come within a hundred yards of me if I was standing on the ground with a shotgun. I also saw eight red kites come in and roost on the tree in front of me.
By the time Dave arrived about an hour later I was really, really wishing I’d put on an extra layer or three. And by the time he’d sat down and put up the hood on his very warm looking coat, I was starting to get worried.
Whispered conversation helped distract me from the onset of hypothermia as we chatted about the usual newbie stuff (what calibre to buy, how new shooters do better on the DSC1 range test etc.) as well as work, family (can wives be converted to stalking?) and mass grallochings at Holkham.
At about ten past six, worried that hypothermia was just round the corner, I asked Dave when he thought we might pack up. He cheerfully informed me that a combination of experience and a truck full of dogs meant that we could stay out later than normal mortals – but thankfully that probably only meant another 20 minutes or so.
At this point, having shoved my hands in my armpits and decided I could probably tough it out, I looked left and saw a slight movement on the edge of the woods.
‘What’s that?’ I whispered.
Dave swung his binoculars up and answered ‘Muntjac’.
That made me happy. In all the stalking I’d done so far, it always seemed to be the experienced stalkers who saw the deer first while I struggled to lock on to them even when they were pointed out. But things then got rather more exciting because Dave slid the gun over to me and said ‘It’s all zeroed. Off you go’.
I really hadn’t expected to shoot – which I think helped. I had no time to get nervous or over-think things. I just stuck the crosshairs where I knew they should be and squeezed the trigger.
The deer dropped pretty much on the spot but we waited a couple of minutes before climbing down. It was at this point that I started shivering – probably a combination of cold and adrenaline – and by the time we hit the floor I was really shaking.
As we approached the doe, Dave gave a running commentary on what, how and where we should be doing things which was brilliant. The deer was well and truly dead so Dave began to do something complicated looking with tendons and feet that turned its legs into a carrying handle. He looked like he could have done it blindfolded – which was just as well because I was now shuddering so much that the torch I was holding was flapping around like some kind of disco light.
Carrying the animal back to the truck was welcome exercise and started to warm me up a bit – although Dave had to do the last hundred yards or so – and I was very glad to get back to the handle-less but warm confines of the back seat.
Back at the clubhouse, I started the gralloch but was grateful when Dave took over and it became a demonstration rather than a practice – especially given the state of the carcase. Despite having shot it through the chest (a little low, said Dave, but it worked fine) there was rumen content in the body cavity – which Dave explained was probably due to a combination of hitting the oesophagus and pressure from the shock.
With the deer safely in the larder, I said thanks again to Dave (who by now was up to his elbows in other people’s deer) and headed home – happy and no longer fatally cold.
Thanks again to Dave for a great evening. If you ever get the chance to go out with him then grab it. I enjoyed myself enormously and learned a great deal – and not just to wrap up warm.