Some of you may have seen my post in the Opportunities section asking for a stalk on the 6th of May, to celebrate another year of my life and to see if we could get my best mate his 1st deer. .
Richard (aka Devon Deer Stalker) contacted me with the option of guided stalking for one and a high seat for the other. Although I've shot a few deer, I still consider myself a novice and asked Richard if he'd mine both of us coming on the guided stalk, recognising the fact that it may reduce the chances of us both being successful. Richard was more than happy to agree. We agreed on a 0430 start.
The day before the stalk Richard mailed to suggest 0445, something I was more than happy to agree to (15mins more in bed is always welcome).
So Alex and I set off at 0300 on the Monday and thanks to a trouble free journey arrived at Richards just before the 0445 meet time.
Introductions made we chambered in to Richards truck and made the short journey to the farm we would be stalking. On the trip there we discussed what Alex and I were after. It was agreed that the priority would be on getting Alex his 1st buck up to a 4 pointer. If a 6 pointer were to show then I'd take the shot. I think poor Richard must have thought he'd ended up with a couple of likely lads as I'd been fortunate enough to get a new stalking suit for my birthday and had treated myself to a new pair of boots (to replace some stolen from outside my house). I must have looked like I'd just robbed a gun shop.
We arrived on the ground just before 5 and after a quick safety brief and a test of the quad sticks we set off.
The 1st part of the stalk was down a hedge line towards a new plantation sat on the top of the edge of a valley. Richard said he'd seen a couple of bucks moving in the valley in the last few weeks so we were all on high alert. We moved to the edge of the plantation and scanned with the bins but there was nothing showing.
We moved on to the edge of the valley and began a slow stalk along the edge, scanning the bottom and the other side, but again nothing was seen. At the far end of the valley a team of twitches were beginning yo setup, however we were some way off.
We carried on along the ridge and out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement on the opposite side, I swung the binos over in time to see 2 Roe deer disappear over the brow. They must have been tucked up in the undergrowth and either us or the twitches had spooked them.
We continued round the valley and then dropped down into it towards the woodland at the bottom. Richard let us know that we'd be making a slow stalk through the wood before climbing back up to the fields on the other side of the valley. To cut a long story shorter, the stalk took us through some stunning woodland but unfortunately the closest we got to a deer was just after we climbed out into the field on the other side of the valley, and it sensed us before we saw it and bounded down through the wood.
We came back to the side of the valley where I'd seen the 2 deer and began glassing the valley. "Contact" whispered Richard, and he pointed out a buck on the opposite side of the valley. He was slowly moving down the slope, we watched him for a minute and it became clear that if we didn't find a shooting position soonish we would miss the opportunity. Richard led us quickly to the edge of the slope and setup the rifle on the bipod. A quick glance through the binos confirmed it as a nice 4 pointer so Alex settled in behind the rifle. The change in perspective meant it took him a while to locate the buck, partially as it was hidden by the top of a tree. After a few minutes it had worked it's way in to the open, but was now at undesirable angle with its arse towards us. A quick bark by Richard caught it's attention, and it presented a nice broadside shot. Now I've not had the heart to ask Alex what happened next but there was a huge cracking of the report and then through the binos I could see a startled buck begin to trot and twist away. It was soon clear that it had been a clean miss, with the buck more confused and annoyed than anything else. We watched it for a few more minutes to see if another shot was possible but none presented itself. To Richards credit he was the epitome of dignity and told Alex not to beat himself up about it (he had an hour and a half in the car with me for that).
The 2nd half of the stalk was through the other half of the farm and despite seeing plenty of signs of both Red and Roe we didn't see another deer. Richard suggested we knock it on the head but would check another farm on the way back, just in case. Unfortunately when we got to the farm the fog which had not been more than sporadic mist until then had turned to pea soup, so we headed back.
A huge thank you to Richard for a fantastic morning in some stunning countryside, for putting us on to a deer and imparting some knowledge to 2 keen but novice stalkers.
I'll certainly be making another booking to see if I can get my 6pt.