There are worse ways to spend a Thursday in October....
I'd booked a day in the Lake District out after a cull stag last Thursday, and despite the weather being pretty awful on Tuesday, the forecast for later in the week was quite promising, so my hopes were high. And anyway, let's face it, a bad day's shooting beats a good day's working every time!
Thursday rolled around, and it was case of "Blimey! The weather bods seem to have actually got it right for once!" - it looked like it was going to be a lovely autumnal day, and the distinct absence of rain clouds as we rattled up the M6 did nothing but increase my optimism for the day ahead.
Upon arrival, it was a quick case of check equipment, stick a few sweeties in my pocket and head out....and within 1/4 mile was I glad I'd not put a fleece on under my jacket!! How warm?? It wasn't long before my shirt was steaming nicely under my jacket.
Initially we did a brief 30min stalk up a small wood before heading further up the hill just in case a suitable beast was mooching around, but nothing showed - have to say that I was glad of the cooler environment though, especially as there was no cooling breeze to speak of. We reached the far end of the wood and skirted up the hillside to a valley, wooded on the far side, from which we could hear a roaring; we sat down and glassed the far bank (approx 300yds away), and spied a group of 9 hinds. After a few minutes more, we spotted the noisy chap making all the racket - a pretty impressive 10-pointer, shouting away. Not what I was after, so we watched him awhile, and then looped back round the top of the valley to stalk the wood beside the stream back down to bring us back to the quad for a spot of lunch - and a cool drink..!!
After a bite to eat - and having your butties in the sun on the hill was a jolly pleasant way to have your lunch, especially if like me you're normally stuck in front of your computer ramming a quick bite in whilst still working - we struck out upwards, and almost immediately spotted a suitable cull male skulking out of some bracken towards a small strip of trees. We decided to give him a try, but he just seemed to have vanished into thin air - how do they do that?!?
So - we continued up the hill, and despite covering a lot of ground, only spotted 3 hinds during the remainder of the afternoon. By the time it was almost 4 o'clock, we had almost come back round to where we'd left the car, and I was thinking "A blank day, but never mind; you don't get guarantees...". Literally just as we'd decided to return to the vehicle, I glanced over my shoulder to see a distinctly deer-shaped thing loping off the bank into a small stand of trees around 450yds from where we were stood. Up went 2 sets of bins, and we spotted 2 smal spikes atop his head; perfect!
The breeze that had appeared by now was coming from behind us; not ideal, but at a slight angle, so we thought we may not get winded as we stalked in closer - especially as this was going to be the last chance for the day....
As we got to within 200yds, he stood up from the position that he had lain down in amongst the trees, obviously deciding that something wasn't quite right, but without barreling off; by good fortune, there was a slab of rock amongst the bracken that mean that I could lie down and see over the bracken-tops, so I dropped the bipod and slipped forward; "He's broadside" was whispered to me, but I wasn't quite quick enough to get eye to scope, as I'd had to shift my bins from my chest where they were contacting the rock edge. By this time, he'd shifted behind some trees, so I thought "that's it, chance gone"....until he stepped out again, and paused. I put the cross on his chest, squeezed the trigger, and watched him react as though he'd been hard hit, and then vanish from view. I immediately cycled another round, and kept the area under view for another 5 minutes or so, but there was no sign of him taking off anywhere, although I couldn't see a body either. We cautiously moved forward, ready just in case he jumped up and decided to take off - and found him in a slight depression 3yds from where he'd been stood when I shot him. We range-found the distance at 230yds from where he'd been stood to where I'd been lain down. Pretty good end to the day!!
(Apologies for the blood round the nose on the photo; it must have reappeared immediately after having given the first lot a wipe away)