After a prolonged spell at university, filled with exams at this time of year, I couldn't wait to get home and finally get out on a warm summers morning. Many an hour had been wasted sitting in my room daydreaming of stalking around my ground, rather than probably knuckling down and getting some serious revision done... Anything other than doing work though eh?
After getting home last Friday, I decided that there could be no better way to start the next day than a 4 am stalk around my ground in North Suffolk. It hadn't been touched in around 3 months, and the last successful stalk had been a while before that!! The ground contains fallow, muntjac and roe, the latter of which I find to be especially elusive. With kit checked the night before, I looked forward to the morning to come.
The morning of Saturday the 15th June broke and at around 4:15, I was at my ground. It was fairly warm and muggy and I had limited layers on (something which the mosquitoes really took a liking too!). I loaded the 243 and began a slow walk from my car towards the main wood (named the Thatchers Wood, due to the hazel coppiced for broaches) in order to begin my normal route around. The area of land that I have is not particularly easy to stalk. Wide open fields and very few wooded areas make it a great challenge. There is also very few hills, but a good number of wide grass margins and a few hay fields with scrubby areas, which the deer like. I have found that patients and very slow stalking is the order of the day, if any success is to be had. I currently have no highseats, so a foot stalk is the only option.
As I got around halfway down the track, the heavens opened. And I mean torrential rain. I took shelter under an overgrown bush and moved when the shower got lighter or had a natural break. I already had doubt creeping into my mind if I would even see deer in this weather, but I continued none the less. I made my way down one side of the wood, stopping ever few yards and glassing the ground ahead, before making my way over a small bridge to the back of the wood, which extends out into a large scrub style field, which has been left for many years for regeneration. I took shelter in the top right hand corner as another rain shower broke. Great. Soaking wet and not much to show for it so far!! I took a photo as I waited just to show the kind of view I had.
As I waited for the rain to stop again, I noticed a small shape bobbing around further down the field. I slowly raised the binos, and to my surprise, a roe doe was moving down the field. Almost jumping around, I remained as still as I could in order to remain unseen. The doe gradually moved up the field, until she was around 25 m away from me. Although she didn't seem to see me, she was sniffing the air, and looking around as if there was something else in the area. For around 20 minutes I watched her movements, it was incredible to watch, but suddenly she took off. Not quickly, but fairly briskly across the breadth of the meadow. I thought this was slightly strange, so I remained where I was and followed her with the glass. For a second, I thought I saw two deer chasing one another, but I dismissed this as I thought I was wishing something to be there that wasn't. I was still pleased, for me just seeing deer on my ground is pleasure enough, and this close was a bonus.
I gradually made my way down the back of the wood, watching all the time the doe as she moved. But I soon realized she wasn't alone. As i slowly scanned left, I saw him. A buck. No, couldn't be. Look again. Yes, a buck. 6 pointer. Try to remain calm... I had bumped a buck a few months before on the other side of the farm, but this one looked slightly different, different head on him. This was the best opportunity I had got to get onto a roe buck, and I had never grassed one before. Not with a guide or anything. I watched him move lazily along the thick hedge in the bottom left hand edge of the field, but kept loosing him. The doe was less inconspicuous, and remained in clear sight for most of the time.
I eventually got the furthest edge of the wood, and by this time I had lost sight of both the buck and doe. I peered around the furthest part of the wood, back up along a wheat field that borders the other edge of the wood. And to my surprise, I saw three fallow moving along the boundary. Now bearing in mind I had been after the fallow a few times over the winter, it was good to see them moving around. A calf with mother, and a lighter colored young buck could be seen. A great morning so far!!
After what seemed like an age deciding my best course of action, I moved down towards the bottom of the meadow, along the edge I last saw the roe. Moving extremely slowly, I began to make progress. Then, as if to appear out of nowhere. I saw the unmistakable antlers of a roe buck slowly raise up out of the long grass. ****. Bugger. I may have screwed the pooch on this one. I set my sticks as quick as I could and got up on the rifle. Then he bolted, but not as far as I had expected. After multiple barks and calls he stopped near the bottom of the meadow and turned back to look. The only shot on due to the high grass was a neck shot. The vitals were covered, but I was confident that the 75 grain Norma rounds would drop him. He remained still for only a what only could have been seconds, but that enough. I brought the crosshairs to his neck, steadied my breathing and squeezed the trigger. She shot looked good, the thwack of the impact confirmed this, and he dropped on the spot. After waiting for ten minutes, I made my way over to the buck.
I could barely contain my excitement! My first buck on my own ground! He was a beaut, nice 6 pointer. Looked to be going back, with large coronets and some pearling and I thought he was around 5 years old or more. The gralloch showed no signs of disease and the carcass was thick with a health amount of fat. I will remember this morning for a long time, it was fantastic experience and one to treasure. Im not sure if the pictures do it justice, I will post pictures of the skull mount when I get round to it.