It had rained over the weekend heavy thunder storms after weeks for record temperatures and blue skies. A stalking invitation had come out of the blue and a date very soon arranged.
My certificates were on their holidays with the local constabulary being refurbished and I had asked for consideration being given to a Ďopení certificate. However the FEO was due the day before so I was hopeful we would all be sorted.
As it turned out after a few questions and a look in my cabinets he confirmed I had the restrictions lifted and he had my new certificates with him ready for signing. It felt like my birthday I was so pleased to be able to choose where to use a rifle and this was going to help a lot with the farmers who wanted something doing about their problem fox immediately.
Next day with my car loaded with stalking kit I set off to Lincolnshire in bright sunshine. I had a good run over there and ninety minutes later saw me stood on the door step ringing the bell. We sat outside in the sunshine for a while chewing the fat and cooking chilli for tea, then we gathered our kit and set off for the ground about half an hour away. This was where I shot my first buck a while ago.
We arrived and parked up. The first job was to get liberally sprayed with insect repellent and then do the same again. I slipped on my real tree cammo trousers and jacket veil round my neck gloves in my pocket and hat on.
I slipped the rifle out of its sleeve and screwed home the T8 moderator, put in the bolt and loaded 4 home loaded Barnes .270 rounds into the rifle. These are a brass 130g hollow point bullet, so far I have fired many but only two at live quarry, my first buck at 130 yards and a fox at 300 both remained very dead so they are my favoured hunting round.
The Parker Hale is a long rifle especially with the moderator on, itís also heavy and takes some carrying however the moderator makes the .270 much sweeter to shoot and the long barrel gives plenty of time for the powder to burn and the round is fast and flat. But woodland stalking I look at my friends compact Remington 7mm08 and no moderator with envy as its just tucked under his armpit. Forever the optimist I put four more rounds in a bullet pouch, saves then clinking together like a little stalker alarm to the deer. Really they could stay behind as I knew very well.
Binoculars in their harness, cheap off eBay but fantastic, easily available and no bouncing around on your chest, off we set.
We started off along a field boarder towards some woodland, checking the wind direction and the margins with our binoculars. The field to the right was of ripening wheat some still green. We moved into the wood and it was much darker under the full tree canopy and it was very close and humid. I hopped the good spray of insect repellent as we set off I hoped it was adequate. I checked carefully where ever there was a view into the woodland around us. I had the scope turned back to 3 magnification.
My mentor tapped me on the shoulder and we had a word about my stalking technique or somewhat lack of it (see Articles and Write Ups, Walking is not Stalking)
I looked very closely in the gloom not wanting to miss the chance of seeing any deer and particularly any part of a buck that may give me the chance of a shot. I did not want to miss anything and frequently used the binoculars, trying to keep my movements steady and smooth. I had my netting gloves and face veil on I hoped they would help with the midges which were not an apparent problem but there were a huge amount of flies around us all the time.
I was carrying the rifle muzzle down otherwise the moderator tings off twigs like a tinny bell.
Corners were approached with caution, sunny glades checked for deer lying out and the hard earth examined for any sign of slots, there were a few damp patches from the recent storms where new sign would show but there were few signs of new activity. My mentor pointed out a stamping patch where the tops of the plants had been nibbled off just off to the side of the track. I had missed that.
We swapped positions and I followed. Coming out of the woods we glassed the margins and set off down the edge of a field of peas. The pods were formed but the peas inside were still tiny not yet ready for Mr Birds Eye. There are Muntjac on this ground and I scanned the crop for any sign of damage or movement but it all looked very undisturbed however the hedge boardering the field had some obvious Roe sized holes if it that were clear of fresh vegetation and well used.
Moving from the peas into more wheat we moved along the huge tyre tracks of the farm equipment used in these massive Lincolnshire fields. The sun was low on our backs as we made our way along glassing an unplanted scrub patch in a depression. There were continuous cracks in the dry ground wide enough to take your hand easily so the soil was still parched and iron hard despite the heavy recent rain.
We came to the edge of the field and to some more woodland, progressing along the margin looking carefully ahead, behind and into the gloomy woods. Stopping when pigeons announced our presence or at the alarm call of a green woodpecker, just in case a buck popped his head up to take a look around.
We came carefully out of the wood on to the margin of a small field for the area about 130 by 300 yards and kidney shaped. This was where I shot my first deer a few years ago.
Here came a slightly bizarre conversation.
There is a deer out in the field.
I raised my binoculars, Itís not a deer I said. Looking at a sitting deer looking clump of grass.
Yes it is cant you see it.
See those piles of muck by the fence, second different coloured pile of muck from the end in a direct line from here.
Yes, itís not a deer,
Itís turned now back end on to us.
I moved my binoís to the second different colour pile of muck from the opposite end of the long row and there clear as day was a deer.
I canít tell if itís a buck can you he asked.
No I replied
Built like a doe
I was kneeling in a sandy depression, I raised my rifle, and he squeaked it
It turned instantly and ran up the field straight at us, a doe, turned broad side at 100 yards stopped and then moved away towards cover. My mentor said it does not always work like that.
Then a deer running fast broke cover from our right about 30 yards away, out of the wood we had just left, a buck, and hurtled down the field after the doe but between me and my mentor who was leaning to get out of the way, I was bringing my gun back up it would have to be free hand, but then he saw or picked up our scent and he stopped broad side on for the split second that I was not ready to shoot in and was gone back into the wood. This all happened in about 3 seconds.
My mentor was apologetic, I was delighted, in those three seconds I had seen it, identified it as a buck, cleared the shot as safe and been bringing the gun to bear a few more steps and I would have been squeezing the trigger when he stopped.
Previously there has always been as much time as I have needed to think about what I was going to do in advance this was new and valuable lessons learned.
As we walked back in the dark my mentor said mind if I ask you something. When did you last have your eyes tested?