I was taken out for my first stalk at the weekend in west sussex - I thought I might share thoughts & observations...
At the range beforehand
- am left handed and the two estate rifles are both right handed, so the grip throws my hand so far forwards that the front of the trigger guard sits where the trigger should feel - definitely need that FAC through so I can get a proper leftie stock
- .243 was a sako 75 with laminate stock and mod firing 100 grain. Recoil was no different to a 12b and certainly less than i expected. Found I couldn't hold my eye on the target as shot was taken (recoil or flinching??)
- .308 was a remington without mod firing 150 grain. This thing HURT!!! Will be interesting to see how much a mod on a .308 brings the kick down, but also seemed to be a lighter rifle than the sako, so may be a few things at play here
- I tried out tri-sticks at about 80m. I found that key to getting a stable aim was to plant feet sideways across line of fire. Initially i had them in line with line of fire, and therefore in line with the rifle resting on the sticks, and this made for a wobbly setup
- groupings and aim were 2inch groups and obviously persuaded my mentor I'm not a loonie as we then headed off to his permission (with the .243)
- stalked across / around various fields and woodland and then headed for a highseat in a lone tree in the middle of a field, about 160m downwind of the field / woodland edge and facing west
- first impression of deer - bl**dy difficult to get close to. Am sure I have been much closer to deer when out walking in woods, or maybe its the way that fallow herd together?
- spent a lot of time trying to pick up the subtleties of not making so much noise (no vocal chords when whispering, silent use of bolt & car doors, picking feet up, and yes - making sure mobile phone was turned off!)
- saw a few fallow, but nothing within range or that presented a safe shot
- sunset was about 8.45, and at about 8.15 we headed to the highseat. deer were already in the field upwind of the seat, so getting to the highseat was a thigh burning slow motion creep to keep out of sight.
- getting into the highchair earned another tip from my mentor - climb at the speed of a three toed sloth, and keep feet as close to hands as possible. apparently makes me look less recognisable as a human if I am a blob
- spotted a fallow pricket grazing in the field, mentor ranged it at 143m, but no safe shot as was either end on, or blocked by a doe feeding with it. Eventually the doe moved on and at 8.45 I had a side on clear shot. And the damn thing sat down....
- 9.10 and it was getting so gloomy that with the naked eye, the deer at the back of the field were disappearing into the darkness of the woodland backdrop. This is my first experience of using optics in anger, and they are absolutely incredible in terms of their light gathering. I have leica 10x42 trinovid bins, and the scope was a swarovski 8*56 and both enabled me to see not only the deer standing in the grass, but also the ears of the pricket still sitting down. This meant that I did have a sighting problem when changing from bins to scope (as quietly as possible) as had to use scope to search the darkness for the target once he was up again. But stand up he did, mentor confirmed it was safe to shoot and I squeezed the trigger.
- Again I didn't see the bullet hit and then I couldn't find the deer in my sights. In my search of the ground where he had stood I forgot to reload, but mentor assured me he had dropped where he stood.
- We gave it 10 mins or so and then approached the area and sure enough, one dead pricket. Overwhelming feeling was a sense of relief at not having balls'd up the shot.
I watched the gralloch (so much to learn, but I will have a go next time), and shot was in on 5th rib, out between 5th&6th, having taken out the top of the heart and some lung tissue. Liver also appeared to have some bullet damage to the thin end, but not sure if that is odd as still learning deer physiology.
Deer carcass now hanging in the chiller (courtesy of mentor) and am picking up this weekend to teach myself carcass butchery. Larder weight was about 40kg, but apparently will be a couple of kg lighter after a week in the chiller
All in, a great evening out on my first deer stalk, and huge thanks to Richard Whiteley (my mentor)