A few weeks ago the farmer asked me how many deer had been taken off one of my shoots. The deer, all Muntjac, used to be a major problem on this particular field and you would regularly see four or five deer on it at a time. As I hadnít taken any for about a year I decided I better take a look.
Last weekend I went for a reccy, and to see how the squirrels were doing.
During my visit I saw seven foxes and six deer, but no squirrels.
So this weekend I got all set for a full day out.
I arrived at the field around 11:30, and there were already two deer out grazing.
I gathered and donned my gear and was out of the truck and hurrying through the adjoining wood in minutes, which would give me problems later but needs must.
I had to cover three hundred metres to get where I would have a safe and clear shot.
The going is not easy, and I was constantly on the lookout for other deer, so with the move a few paces, look everywhere it took me thirty minutes to reach the vantage point I had selected.
When I got there the deer were nowhere to be seen, but I always find that sit and wait and they will come back, and sure enough fifteen minutes later they were out.
They were an old doe and what was probably her most recent daughter, under a year old.
They were still a long way off, and I would have a wait whilst they moved down field toward me.
Thirty minutes watching, then as they got to where I wanted them, they decided it was time they werenít here anymore and off they hopped.
I decided to take their temporary absence to move to a better vantage point, where I would have far more opportunities to take a shot. I hadnít been able to get to it earlier as it would have meant being in full view of the deer during my approach.
I cautiously lifted the rifle from its makeshift rest, and eased myself out of my vantage point.
My years of shooting the Muntjac on this site have taught me to look all around before moving.
I slowly looked fully left then right with my eyes, before fixing my eyes then turning my head, then moving my eyes again.
I had a cock pheasant perched in a shrub about six metres away but he wasnít alarmed.
I was half way around when I saw the head of a fox a little over ten metres away staring at me with interest.
Keeping eyes locked on him I eased the rifle into a left handed shooting position, I was still pretty much lying down at this time, and he started to move away, but he was in no hurry, only moving a few metres before stopping for a look back. When he moved off again I managed to get in the aim, and as soon as he stopped again I squeezed of a round and he fell on the spot. I was using 60grn V Max so I would have been surprised if he had gone anywhere.
After the shot I looked around for any other signs of activity but nothing was about, so I went and retrieved him.
A dog fox in excellent condition with a beautiful coat. If it hadnít been for the large exit hole I would probably have taken him home to be mounted, or at least use the hide for something. I realised that I had seen him the week before with a bird in his mouth, and with a vixen in tow.
After taking his photo I stalked toward the vantage point I had been intending to attain.
Another fifteen minutes of move, look, move, look.
I was almost there when that dark shape in the shadows twenty five metres away caught eye. With no sticks, I had left them in the truck in my haste, I had to find a suitable rest whilst I waited for the shape to become a deer.
I shuffled to the nearest low branch, got comfy and waited.
Ten minutes later the shape became a young buck with pedicles but no antlers, must be under a year old. He browsed on for few minutes more until I could see his neck and shoulder, at which point I squeezed the trigger and he dropped on the spot.
The shot had hit exactly where I wanted it to and taken out his lower neck.
I left him where he was and completed my stalk to get on the first two deer.
It didnít take long to reach the spot and I wasted no time in getting comfy with the rifle set ready for when they came back out.
Within twenty minutes the young doe was back out, but this time she was far off, and sticking to the hedge line.
She browsed and grazed but all the time she was heading in the right direction for me, so I was behind the sight and tracking her.
I had to move the rifle a few times due to braches in my LOS, and during one of these I think she clocked me as she became alert and started to hurry. I had just got the rifle on a rest, by this time she was in the best place for a shot at a little under 100 metres, when she stopped moving but was staring straight at me. I let the shot go and heard the unmistakable pop of a gut shot, I was not at all happy with myself. Her reaction to the shot was correct, which was probably down to the V Max doing its job shredding everything inside, which proved to be the case.
As I played it back in my mind later I realised she had turned as I had taken the shot.
Giving her a few minutes to expire I went and retrieved the buck I shot earlier.
I hocked him and hung him off a branch for the grallock.
Grallock done I looked around, and a flash of movement caught my eye, I picked up the rifle and was waiting to clearly ID the movement when the second smallest Muntjac I have ever seen appeared a few metres away from me where it stopped and just stared. I still had the front cover on or I would have shot it as all deer area pest to this farmer, but as I moved it turned and hopped off, not in any hurry stopping every few hops to look back at me.
I went and retrieved the doe I shot earlier.
I found she had dropped with a few metres of where she was shot, but she had managed to cross a drain on her travels, which resulted in a boot full of water for me (I normally put my wellies on but I had been in a hurry) and get into some mature blackthorn.
I did the grallock but as the shot had punctured the rumen, as well as shredding the liver, I had to cut away a lot of ribs, which took the edge off my knife. Normally this is not a problem, as I run the blade over the DC4, but as with the willies and the sticks it was back in the truck.
When I had her and the buck cooling in the air I thought I should go and get the fox, for a group photo, as it had been a productive few hours out.
I slung the rifle onto my shoulder, turned around and, there was something looking at me though a break in the shrubs.
By the way it was moving I thought it was another fox. I backed up to get to a branch I could lean on, and then it became clear that it was a small doe.
By this time I was wondering where all these young deer had come from, but this wood has a plentiful supply of food, and apart from the last few weeks the temperature has been very mild for the last few years so I clearly need to revise the cull plan.
The doe decided to move away, and as I didnít have a clear shot I let her go. I watched where she was going and, as she seemed not to be in any hurry, I decided to follow her.
I tracked her on a parallel path for fifty yards before she turned away, at which point I was near where I had left the fox I had shot earlier, so I continued toward the fox.
I got within twenty metres of the fox and thought I would give it a few minutes watching a well used track.
Rifle set in some tree branches I was ready for the wait, all three minutes of it.
Two deer were browsing their way along the track, but they were still little more than dark shapes at this time.
With their current path there are only two places where I would have a clear shot from my vantage point.
They passed the first one without stopping, but at least I could ID them properly now. They were another yearling buck, if there is such a thing with Munties, and a smaller buck.
They disappeared from view, which I expected, and they had to travel forty metres before I would see them again, so I repositioned the rifle ready for when they emerged and stood still.
It took a while, and only the larger of the two came back into view.
It stopped briefly but there was a branch in the way, so I looked ahead for the next clear shot.
I found around five yards further on I would get a very brief chance at a clear shot, but it would be tight.
My LOS was through a V where a tree had grown two distinct trunks from an early age. The window was little more than 300mm wide. After that he would be hidden until he left the wood.
I lined up on the V, the shot would have to be quick and there would be no warning.
It seemed like an age until he reappeared then, as if by the power of thought, he stopped right where I wanted him too. I dropped him cleanly, another lower neck shot at close to fifty metres.
I turned to look for the other deer, but no matter where I scanned he was not showing.
Around ten minutes later I caught sight of his rump as he was moving back in the direction where I had originally seen him. He wasnít hurrying but neither did he offer s clear shot.
I went and checked the buck, and grallocked him at the spot.
I gathered him and the fox and returned to where the other two were still hanging.
A group photo was taken.
Figuring three was enough for one day, I decided to head back to the truck, now comes the next problem, the Roe sack was also still in the truck.
I slung the rifle across my back, worked out the best balance of deer (all three were hocked so they had nice carrying handles) and set off back along the obstacle course to the truck.
By the time I had walked the 250 metres back to the truck my forearms and shoulders were feeling it.
I ran the knife across the DC4, trimmed off the legs with the now sharp blade, loaded them into the larder tray and headed off to see if the farmer wanted any of the venison.
Itís going to be a long weekend as I need to take at least another three so that at least it looks like I am making an effort to get the numbers down, but if they keep on showing like they were today I donít think I will have a problem.
Thanks for reading.