The alarm went off at 3:30am and the first thing to cross my mind was what the hell was I doing! I'd only been in bed 3 hours after a hellish week, the wife wasn't well and neither were my two young children. It was going to land me firmly in the red on the brownie point factor but a day trip down to Dorset had been in the diary for ages and I wasn't one to shirk on my social obligations.
Tim turned up at 4am and we bundled the gear in the my car and headed down with the conversation very much on the subject of the weather and were we going to get away with it. I'd had a call weeks earlier from a relative who has a small wood to say he had some tree work that he could do with getting done and that a landowner friend of his (where i'd recently picked up 750 acres of stalking) had been in touch to say the sika were coming back and they'd like one for the freezer if I would oblige.... oh and by the way.... we think the boar are back so could I pop down and have a look!
We sat in the car at the ground waiting for some semblance of dawn to arrive and were pretty quiet as the wind rocked the car and the rain pelted the windows. On any other day this would be the place to be but I really couldn't see it happening in these conditions so decided to make for the woodland permission a 30 minute drive away. As I've mentioned before this postage stamp permission is only 12 or so acres but is set is a much bigger block so can be hit and miss with the deer but never fails to help you unwind, relax and just enjoy being outside.
Arriving at first light the weather on this side of the hill away from the coast was far different and first thing we heard was a sika whistling which was a good start. Of the two seats at either end of the block one is definitely hotter than the other so, being the stand up gentleman that I am, I offered this to Tim which he tried to accept without a smile creeping across his face.
The whistling stopped as the light got stronger and, with my view limited and seat swaying a bit in the stronger gusts I wondered how long it would be before I heard Tims first shot.
Despite being cynical about my own prospects I remained vigilant and almost jolted in surprise when I saw a dark shape move in front of me. Confirming with the bins it was a dark stag, the hat rack hard to make out as it moved between the trees but a stag to be sure and if he presented I was going to take him. This patch has yielded several hinds and prickets amongst countless roe but I've never seen a stag on it although they undoubtedly use it as several good animals have been seen in the near vicinity. At 80 meters he stopped between two trees and I took my chance at the base of the neck, the shot felt good and I was surprised when he turned away from me and disappeared from view only to reappear 40 yards to the right, walking in an awkward fashion and quivering when he stopped. Having seen how tough these can be I thought it best to end any speculation and put another one into him from which he made another 20 yards before collapsing.
I'm pretty happy with him that's for sure - my first mature sika stag.
The obligatory drag pic with me looking to see if Tim was going to help...no..... can't blame him I suppose!
Being the host I felt a little awkward at hogging the mornings sport but promised to make amends by acting the ghilli for the rest of the day. We walked miles, withstood driving rain and got soaked to the skin but not a sika or boar was to be seen for the rest of the day.
Still... I'm sure we both had a good time - I know my result made the naughty step back home a little easier to bear.