I woke up at 2am this morning, eagerly anticipating my third stalk and my first morning outing. The following is what I recollect through the fog of tiredness now rolling over me...
Met at 5.45 am on edge of the local village, surise due at 7:03am in west kent. 6am: Walked over fields down through woods and into a hollow behind an oak stump on edge of woods. Field slopes gently down south into a small valley with stream (110m), rising woodland behind. At the bottom, one large bushy tree with a hollow nearby that mentor advises to be a favourite with prickets. To the west, valley opens out into large grassland fields with mature oaks in. Very light breeze coming up the valley and into woods through us. Set up rifle on the oak stump with bench rest bags pointing south towards hollow and relax back into the oak stump hollow with bins out 6:15
Mentor can see deer in the distance but my bins would not focus – after 10 mins realised they had fogged up as had them in the house overnight! A collection of does / fawns move along the valley, some only 20m away. One group has a couple of prickets, but they are so close we do not have a chance to act
Does and fawn come out of woods behind us – doe picks up scent / sound and barks for fawn, goes back, barks again, and fawn emerges, both legging it
Mentor spots a large black fallow stag, he has seen previously, at about 400m approaching valley from the oak field – offers it for cull if the shot permits. It appears to spot a couple of prickets closer to the valley and approaching from the NW, and appears interested in following them. Black Buck arrives behind the the large bushy tree, and comes out to the left of it where three does also show themselves right on the edge of nettle fields / edge of the woodland. No clear shot, and deer move into the dark woods.
Mentor spots a solitary pricket 40m to the left along the bank up on its legs knocking acorns out of the lower oak branches. Watch for a few minutes but no clear shot as mostly arse / ¾ arse on to us with head up in the branches or down on the ground feeding. Moves slowly away into the woods.
A few minutes later we see a large buck on the edge of the trees, 30m further to the left. Also browsing / knocking out the acorns. Eventually have a clear H&L shot and take it. Deer arches up / backward and runs forward into cover, mentor noticed the gait looked a little wrong.
10 minutes and we are down to the woodland edges looking for traces of blood. I hear the buck 25m away in a nettle bed – a faint but hoarse rasping. Mentor leads me around to approach from upwind and he drops knife into base of neck and cuts to bleed it out. We retreat to fetch the truck.
On return, it is clear that I had shot the deer in the lower shoulder…
Previous (and only) pricket was shot whilst feeding on ground, and shoulders were therefore apparently further back on its body. So aiming just behind foreleg line took out H&L, but only just, and had made mental note to move point of aim slightly forward the next time. This time I had aimed in line with foreleg and 1/3 up. I hadn’t compensated for the downhill angle (despite mentor advising this earlier when we arrived at the stump), and the entry wound was on the lower shoulder, exit wound was low on the chest on other side, just in front of the other foreleg, so I really do need to make that offset and aim up to the mid-point. On inspecting the organs, one side of the heart had taken a hole / shrapnel and I guess was ultimately the reason it only went 25m or so. Did the fact that it was still (barely) alive when we found it make any sense given that it had lost half it’s heart?
It is now hanging in the mentor's larder fridge for a week or so. Couldn't take it home as my fridge is only 6' tall and this beast is 7' from gambrel to end of neck (and no chance of getting any help from the with with lifting it). It is hanging next to a 62kg buck taken earlier in the week and my carcass is a close match in size.
Am knackered, excited, relieved, and curious as to why it was still alive with this injury...