I am new to stalking, and at the tender age of 68 I am doing my DSC1 with a mentor,Tony, a local stalker who has trained several others over the years.
I don't know if it is the same in other areas, but I am told that this route to qualification here is now stopped, and I am in fact the last candidate to be allowed to do it. In future only official courses will be acceptable. I know the mentoring system is open to abuse, but I think it is a pity, as I am certainly picking up a lot of practical information.
Anyway, on to the real reason for this post.
Over the last couple of months we have been out a few times, and despite seeing quite a lot of deer, bucks have been very scarce. In fact I have only had two chances at a shot, and the first time I was just too slow in setting up and missed the opportunity.There are no signs of the rut immediately around where I live, but on Saturday Tony rang to say that the owner of one of his permissions a little further south had reported a lot of activity. We arrived about 8.00pm in a heavy shower. It had been like this all day with downpours and sunny spells.
Almost immediately after the rain we saw a couple of does in a neighbouring field, and then a buck came trotting towards them. They disappeared behind the hedge and we set off up the hedgerow to get to their field. As we crept round a corner we came face to face with a very young doe who obviously didn't know what to make of us and just stood staring.
Tony told me to move cautiously towards her to make her run. She did, and sure enough the buck appeared and chased her, but straight through the hedge. We moved into the field, and as the deer seemed to be following a circular route we decided to wait and see if they returned. We stood under a tree and I set up the rifle on my sticks and waited.After a few minutes Tony gave a few fawn squeaks on his caller and shortly after, a doe came through the hedge with the buck in close attendance. He obligingly stopped about 80 - 100 metres away and I sighted on him. My first deer.
I don't know if it was first night nerves, but my shot was poor, a bit too far back. The buck sprang into the air then just stood there. After a few moments he lay down, and Tony said he was hit in the stomach. I felt as if I had been hit in the stomach too. We didn't want to approach for fear of making him run, but I decided to finish him off despite the probable head damage, as I'm not interested in trophies and felt I had caused him enough suffering. Fortunately my second shot was good, in the back of the head, and that was it.
He was a nice buck of about five years.
The graloch was, as expected, messy and I felt very deflated, instead of the expected excitement. My mentor said that these things happen and that at least I had finished him quickly, but it certainly took the edge off the moment.
So there you have it. I have now been blooded as it were, and look forward to my next stalk, resolved to do better.