So to Hertfordshire for the cull weekend. I was looking forward to meeting like minded people, picking their brains and gaining more experience with my new rifle. I was immediately impressed with the welcome and setup at the club, but you don’t want to hear about briefings, catering equipment, cakes and log burners do you?….. you want to hear about shooting, right?
I lacked a little confidence in my new rifle, so Ian had allowed some extra time on the club’s range. Ian helped me to select a preferred round from the four that I had brought along. Norma 139gn SP 6.5 X 55 it was to be. After 3 quick shots and a very good group, I had renewed confidence and was ready for my outing.
Trevor drove myself and Charlie to an outlying piece of ground, in persistent rain. On the way a coin was tossed to decide who got which seat, and I won. My choice was a covered high seat or a free-stander in open ground. I opted for the covered option, after a dignified period of contemplation and masked delight. Installing myself in the ‘wendy house’ overlooking the beet top, beans and carrots, the situation looked promising, especially for Muntjac. However Trevor had warned me how close the public footpath was and how the land next door belonged to an unsupportive neighbour.
The skies darkened further, mist rolled in, and I hunkered down against the cold wind in my cosy seat. My thoughts went out to Charlie in his seat, but only briefly as I became distracted by a Star Bar and a steaming cup of coffee on the bench next to me . Visibility was dropping rapidly and conditions were fast becoming unshootable; I thought that our chances were gone. Just then, 4 young fallow came sprinting in to the feeding ground. A friend of mine would describe their approach as “Coming in on rails”. Immediately the group had their heads down feeding, in a close bunch.
Remembering a conversation with another stalker from earlier, I looked to see if there was a mature doe that I could take first, but none seemed to fit the bill. I decided instead to try and take the front doe, in hope of then picking off the hindmost, thereby pinching the other two, but the deer were too close together to risk any shot.
After 5 minutes I was still waiting for a shot to present when a power tool started up in a nearby house. This spooked the deer and they seemed close to flight. The second most deer, a buck, suddenly presented a broadside shot with a clear backstop. I swung the rifle round, placed my illuminated reticule on the chest and squeezed the trigger.
There was the sound of good contact and I immediately reloaded. The deer appeared to sway slightly, almost stunned for a moment, but then quickly gathered itself and ran into open ground, prompting the rest to do the same. The deer swung round in a broad arc and started to head towards me. I thought I’d seen a jet of blood, but as it ran past me in apparently good order I started to doubt my eyes. And my shot.
I began to rehearse what I would say back at base “I was sure the shot was OK, it sounded good. It wasn’t a gut shot. I swear”.
As I finished this thought I saw my quarry stumble slightly, then slow, then stop. Right on the boundary. He laid down on the footpath, in a rather orderly fashion, seeming to rest at first. Then his head lolled and he fell on his side. I waited for a few more seconds, but he clearly still had life in him and I could hear the gurgle of his lungs. I felt that I could not shoot again as the deer was partially over the boundary.
I grabbed my knife and jumped down to finish the deer off. Only when I arrived at the deer did I realise that I was unsure of how to do this. I really was stumped. Realising that the only wrong decision was to not make a decision, I selected stabbing the beast in the chest, guessing that where one would normally bleed a deer carcass would be effective. Mercifully, this appeared to do the trick. It was my first lesson of many on the weekend, a gap in knowledge that I made sure to correct at the earliest opportunity.
I dragged the deer to the foot of the high seat as quickly as possible. Reviewing the shot, the placement looked good, exactly where I had aimed. Although the heart was missed, the lungs were destroyed and bullet expansion seemed good, all with negligible meat damage. However, if the deer had run straight for cover it would have penetrated quite some distance and I might have been facing a difficult retrieve in ever darkening conditions.
There was much to be learnt from the experience, much to ponder, but the new rifle had claimed its first fallow.
Herts weekend Mar 2013 - Friday night fallow - The Stalking Directory Photo Gallery
Thanks for reading. I know that this would have been less painful as a video.