I had two mates out over the last couple of days trying for a shot at a Sika stag.
With the wind swinging round to the East here it gets harder to get into some of the good bits but conversely, it also means access to other areas where a Westerly prevents access.
Anyway, Steve went and sat in a high seat right on top of the open hill against a single tree that looks onto a corner of a block of Sitka, leaving Allan to sit watching a field a lot of deer have been coming to. There are large numbers of deer and sign in this area, droppings, hefting, wallows etc...
Steve gets a shot at a stag late last night as it comes out the Sitka from about 60yds away. The strike is good and the deer is knocked over, but it gets back up and runs off into the trees. He checks the shot site and finds a piece of liver but hardly any blood whatsoever. He feels he may have pulled the shot slightly but not enough to miss the lung area completely but everything at the locus suggests its a bit far back. When I meet up with him it is now pitch dark and after discussing the circumstances decide to return in the morning to look for it for fear of pushing it further and further away.
Back 14hrs later and he takes me to where he marked the strike. We find a small piece of muscle tissue but no liver, but given the time passed that could easily have been taken by a bird or other animal.
Whisky is put on the tracking collar and lead and marks the sign well, two small drops of meaty blood. She then shows a lot of excitement and wants to track away from where Steve said he saw it run, clearly on hot scent from other deer that have been there overnight. She is brought back to the shot site and encouraged to follow it again but this time she shoots off in the other direction! A third time back at the site and this time she locks onto it when realising that this is the one she has to follow.
She tracks to an old rabbit netting fence with a large hole in it and clearly wants to go through. Other than the beginning of the track there is no other sign now. We continue into the Sitka and she is very locked into the track she is on pulling at a strong pace. Because of the thickness of the Sitka I am never upright and at times on my hands and knees which is slowing her down and making it difficult to read her speed and whether she is continuing on the correct track or distracted with a hot scent. This area of Sitka is literally covered in deer crap, deer runs and wallows. She continues for about 100m and stops and indicates a small amount of blood which is a bit worrying given the liver found earlier. Another 30m or so she stops and has a good sniff at the foot of a tree but I cannot see any sign nor does she indicate however, it is very dark under the canopy. She continues on for another 200m or so and tracks straight through two wallows.
She tracks for a total of about 600m and as I am now struggling to get through the stuff and holding her back. I begin to suspect her speed is down to her loosing the original track and now possiblyon a hot one. She actually stopped herself and looked back at me here, again suggesting her loss of the track. I had marked the blood we saw a good distance back with a rubber glove and was considering going back to it to put her on it again as I was convinced she had strayed, and without any sign found to back her up over so long a distance that sealed the decision.
I took her off the collar and began to struggle down towards the road about 30m away allowing her to range a bit. When I got to the edge of the wood I called for her. She came running towards me but stopped about 5m short just staring at me. I told her to 'come here' but she just turned and ran straight away from me. I knew she must have found something as that's not normal behaviour. She then barked a couple of times, and in front of me I see her standing next to the dead stag! Then she really went off on one, barking continually at it. It was stiff, cold and had obviously died shortly after being shot last night.
As can be seen from the photos, the exit hole is a bit far back but the entrance hole was spot on but perhaps a wee bit high. The bloo had pored out of him where he lay but just back from where he lay there was hardly any roundabout. Both lungs were badly damaged and the liver was smashed to bits. From the position of the bullet holes the blood had been pooling in the body cavity meaning none found on the track except what was mentioned earlier. Any lung material appeared to have been blown back through the diaphragm without exiting and the stomach was completely undamaged. When Steve gralloched it there was literally pints of blood in the bottom of the chest.
It's hard to believe that a deer, even one as tough as a Sika stag can run what we estimate to be at least 600m with that kind of damage and leave so little sign along the way.
The photos show the exit hole on the ribs and the damage to the organs. The entrance was good but the stag must have been standing at more of an angle than Steve originally thought.
This is a relatively clear bit of the wood compared to where most of the track occurred but even then it was a bit dark for some of the photos.
I was pleased with what she had done but so angry with myself for beginning to doubt her as another few metres further on and she would have been straight to it. Another lesson learned.