I was invited by my host to stalk red stags in Suffolk for a weekend. After I checked in at my accommodation my host met me. The weather was atrocious when we left to go to the stalking ground – there was a strong wind and it was raining heavily. My host briefed me as to where we would be stalking. The high seat that we were headed for overlooked some scrub land and a very large area of heath land – the idea was that if we saw a stag in the distance we would stalk it from there. Before we reached the high seat I heard my first red stag roar. An incredible sound. And as there were no fences stopping it moving somewhere else, it was my first true wild red stag.
By the time we got to the high seat and it was obvious that there was a lot of activity. My host started using a caller, to which the stags responded by coming close to the edge of the scrub, but unfortunately not showing themselves. We then glassed a hind with spiker in the distance and not long after that we glassed a very large red stag on the heath. Like the hind, he was at the better end of three hundred meters away and he didn’t hang around. It was obvious he was on a mission, as he did not even respond to the caller. We also heard stags roar in another patch of scrub near the far boundary. By that time, it was dark and we called it a day. It was an amazing experience and I was on an absolute high. On the way back to where I was staying, my host discussed the strategy for the following morning and agreed to meet at six am.
The next morning it was still raining but fortunately the wind had dropped. I dressed appropriately for the weather and conditions on the heath – the only problem was that I don’t own a pair of wellies and had to borrow my missus’s purple ones, much to the amusement of my host. We headed off back to the stalking ground and by the time we arrived it had stopped raining. We headed to the opposite end of the heath and sat on the top of a WW2 pillbox that had been covered with soil to blend it in with the natural landscape. It it was so quiet that you could hear the rabbits running around the heath! We had been sitting there a while, having a whispered conversation, when we suddenly heard a stag thrashing his antlers in the scrub nearby – well, that certainly got the heart rate up. My host then used the caller but there was no response. A few moments later we heard what I could only describe as a clash of titans as two stags locked antlers, and by this time the adrenalin was really pumping.
After a while the fighting stopped and the roaring started, incredibly close in the scrub. And yet it was still too dark to see properly through the scope, so we just had to hope they would stick around till it was light enough to take a shot if one presented itself. All the while my host was mimicking the stag's roars, but they seemed to move further off into the scrub. But suddenly there seemed to be serious interest in the caller from the stag that had obviously won the clash of titans. My host then warned me to get ready it was moving in our direction, and fast, and as the rifle was already on the stick it was just a matter of adjusting my aim. While the winner was still nearby but out of sight, constantly roaring and sounding more and more aggressive, I heard my host say “There’s another nice stag skirting the scrub”. I soon spotted the animal my host had seen and he gave the caller another go. Suddenly I lost sight of the stag and I started to panic and asked my host if he could still see the animal. He pointed straight ahead and said “It’s heading straight for us!” I quickly picked the stag up in the scope. All this time there was still the roaring going on in the scrub a short distance away and heading our way rather fast. I put the cross hairs on the stag in the open and the moment it stopped moving I squeezed the trigger and heard a satisfying thump of and the stag dropped as if it was poleaxed.
The beast was less than 5o meters away. My host’s first thoughts were that I had missed, as he had not heard the strike or seen the animal drop, as it was still fairly dark, with the sun was just rising behind the rain clouds. Even after the shot the stag in the scrub continued to roar aggressively and after a while moved away, still roaring. It was an absolutely incredible feeling walking up to the stag that I had shot and I was really pleased that it was a magnificent ten pointer. After the obligatory photos were taken, we had a walk around the edge of the scrub to see if we could find the other stags, as there had been at least two other animals involved in the roaring and fighting. All, however, was quiet. We then grolloched the animal and were surprised that the stomach was full. We then loaded the beast and set off home for a well-deserved cup of coffee. After that we headed for the game dealers and discovered that the stag weighed in at a light 95kg and was very lean, also not what you’d expect for a stag in mid-rut. After the head was skinned out we found what we thought was the reason for the stag’s unusual condition, as we found an “11th” point embedded behind its right eye, a wound that the skin had completely healed over but that might have ruled it out from competing with animals on top form.
We arrived back at the stalking ground at about 1530 for our afternoon stalk, and after the morning’s adventure it felt like you could cut the atmosphere with a knife, we expected the stags to start roaring at any moment. We decided against sitting in the high seat that we had been in the evening before. We stalked around the edge of the scrub, and my host suggested that I have a go with the caller but my performance left a lot to be desired! In fact, I had to agree with my host’s comment that my attempt sounded like a cow lowing. I returned the caller to my host, and after a while we spotted a magnificent 12 pointer who was completely relaxed and did not even respond to the caller when we were about 250 meters away. However, he offered no shot due to the height of the vegetation. The galling thing was that had we chose to sit in the high seat we would have been within 100 meters of the stag and he probably would have offered a shot. We decided to try stalk to the seat which was about 400meters away as we had to take the long way round to get there. But by the time we were up in the seat the stag had completely disappeared. I was not too disappointed as the morning stalk would definitely have been the more memorable of the two. We sat there for the rest of the day without seeing or hearing anything. As we were headed back to the van we heard the only roar of the evening, near where I had shot my stag.
The next day, my host picked me up at 6am but once again the weather was atrocious and it was raining heavily. We arrived at the ground and sat on the pillbox getting seriously wet. The only animal we saw was a really nice stag at a distance. Very soon afterwards we called it a day as it was starting to become difficult to see through the scope.
I would like to extend my thanks to my host for a wonderful stalk and his hospitality.