Living in Kent and being a keen stalker (a novice I add) deer are relatively thin on the ground and only appear in small pockets in this county. It has been almost a year now since I passed my level 1 and almost 10 months since I shot my first deer under the Guidance of Sikamalc.
I was itching to get back out again and decided to book a break in Devon with my partner and incorporate a stalk at the end of August. I telephoned IanF to pre-book an accompanied stalk and also booked into their Hunting Lodge.
On arrival we were both warmly greeted by Ian and Jo and shown into the lodge. I was overwhelmed by the vast library of books and DVDs on hunting and stalking which are available to anyone staying. The lodge is extremely cosy and is everything you could possible wish for.
Before I went out on my stalk, I arranged with Ian for a lesson on the range. He first inspected my rifle and adjusted the trigger pull which he confirmed to be very heavy. I was then taken to their own private range where Ian had me shooting my best groups ever. He spent time teaching me different techniques on how to get the best out of shooting from sticks and all the advantages of them over my bipod.
On the eve of the stalk I had a quick briefing before we set off well before the morning dawn. Ian is a natural at making you feel comfortable and at ease. He went on to say that the conditions were perfect with the wind in our favour. After parking the vehicle at the farm we made off at very first light. The landscape in Devon is very dramatic with far reaching views over rolling countryside; it could not have been a better day.
It was not to long into our stalk before we spotted deer but these unfortunately were not bucks. As we moved on Ian was constantly glassing and moving at a very slow pace. His field craft was excellent, having me crawling along at times to keep low of the sky line. My reward was very soon to come however; Ian froze and confirmed that a Roe buck was feeding in kale some 250 yards away. Our approach was not going to be an easy one. All we had was the contours and gradients of the field to hide our silhouettes against and crawling was the only option. At the final stage Ian arranged the sticks for a kneeling shot and as the ground was on a slope I had to lean against him for extra support. Slowly squeezing the trigger and the cross hairs fixed firmly on my target I watched through the scope as the buck bowled over and went straight down. After reloading and waiting the customary period we made our approach and found him stone dead. Ian confirmed a good placement shot that took the heart out. I had now shot my first Roe Buck and I was feeling mighty high. Ian performed the grolloch and encouraged me to participate whilst inspecting the nodes, kidneys, liver ect and making sure all our actions applied with the food hygiene regs it was then back to the chiller-room. The beast had to obviously hang for a few days so in between that time I arranged a reloading lesson. This was very hands on and after making a complete hash of my first round it turned out to be a relatively easy operation once shown. I have all the equipment at home and this has now given me the confidence to load my own.
My next request was to arrange a skinning and butchery demonstration so that I could tackle the one I had just shot on my own. Ian had another carcass available with which he went patiently through the whole process from skinning right the way through to jointing, trimming and finally bagging up and sealing. He told me that tomorrow would be my turn but he himself would not be around as he would be out with another client. (This was the only time I panicked) I entered their well equipped larder where my deer was already hanging and waiting for my arrival. After putting on all the kit and feeling a bit like a “surgeon” I managed to skin and de-bone all the cuts. Not the best I had seen and a far cry from Ian’s but this is when Jo came to the rescue. She turned a pig’s ear into a silk purse. Jo sliced and trimmed everything for me and put all the odd bits through the mincer and neatly packed everything up nicely for me to take home.
On my last day Ian gave me full instructions on what I needed to do with the head when I got home. It wasn’t exactly a trophy but very special to me as it was my first.
Do you remember me saying that I took along my non hunting partner?
Well she thoroughly enjoyed the whole duration of our stay. My stalk was an early morning occasion and I fitted in all the other events around her. We spent every day out together touring the county and we found really nice local restaurants and pubs to eat out in every evening. My partner is actually looking very forward to our next stay there. Did I mention that I even had time to visit both the Sportsman Gun Centres?
This whole experience was a massive learning curve for me and with both Ian and Jo’s wealth of experience on hunting I was indeed in very good hands. They are both a very genuine couple and I highly recommend their services. They offer various packages and I must just add that my partner treated me to all the “add ons” other than the stalk and carcass which I paid for myself.
From one happy man!