I am suffering from the dreaded post holiday blues.
There is only 1 man to blame for this. David Brown of Mellness Forest.
David has restored my faith in human nature for sure. He kindly invited me up to his ground for a look round after I asked if he had managed to get a swap sorted out for some Fallow, Muntjac and CWD.
I really couldn't refuse this kindest of offers and asked if I could bring a friend along who had missed our usual October trip due to having an Op to rid him of his Prostate Cancer.
The 10 hour drive from deepest Suffolk slipped by and we arrived in the half light and met David at his fabulous cabin. After a quick chat we went up to get settled into the holiday cabin situated in the woods just up the track from Davids own house.
David popped up to see us within the first hour and beckoned us outside, to my amazement there were 2 Sika stood within 80 yards of the lodge!
Drams were poured and a plan was made for the morning.
At 07:45 an ever enthusiastic David met us and was ready to get going. I was to head off to stalk some birch scrub and David was taking Jim to the hill for a go at the hinds. As we drove up to the upper reaches of the ground there were deer everywhere, this was very encouraging.
I had been out for 3-4 minutes when I spotted my first hinds, these canny beasts saw me before I could bring the rifle to my shoulder and were away, buggers.
I stalked around to an elevated position overlooking some broken ground and Birch scrub and within 2 minutes of settling for a spy the most magnificent Sika stag strode across a gap in the scrub some 400 yards off, he had bleached white antlers from his pedicles to his tips and was as black as coal! This excited me immensly, even though he was out of season and not on the list! He wasn't to be seen again that day. I stalked carefully through this whole area until 11:00 and came to within easy shooting distance of 15 stags, which was to be expected when I was after hinds of course!
I returned to the lodge around 12:00 for lunch to be greeted by a beaming Jim and a very happy David, Jim had taken 2 hinds at good distance and was delighted. After a quick break for lunch David and I left Jim overlooking a good location and we went for a stalk across the hill. We hadn't seen much for 45 minutes or so when I spotted 3 hinds feeding in a low upwind of our position, a quick glass for any others in the locality and David sent me forwards on my own for what appeared to be a dead cert! How wrong can you be sometimes, within 80-100yards of stalking/crawling I noticed a hind watching me from well above the others, I stopped, considered my options, tried to crawl 15 feet to the nearest point for a good rest and they were gone.........and of course they took the others with them!!
We headed back to our starting point with the intent of catching some hinds leaving a large block of forestry pre dark, but the deer were ahead of us and were already just out of the trees when we returned. A stalk tight to the forest edge brought us a little closer to the group than we had planned, as I reached the last tree I could clearly see them not more than 50-60 yards through a gap in the branches. The shot offered was not the best but there was no option to move, I took a freehand shot at the only hind standing free and pulled it straight over the top of her back! Immeadiately I could see that the deer were going to bolt right and probably stand after a short run behind a small hill, I made a dash to my right to secure a good rest and safe firing point, sure enough the deer appeared out from the other side and stopped as expected. The first shot was good and I chambered another round quickly, the second was also spot on, both deer did the text book 40 yard front leg raised dash and dropped dead, I was relieved I must admit!
I gralloched the 2 beasts as David went off for the Landrover, on his return we plucked a couple of geese that he had shot earlier that week and discussed the usual deer bits and pieces as there was still plenty of light and we didn't want to disturb Jim too early!
We loaded up and returned to a rather stiff legged and empty handed Jim.
The second day was a complete change in the weather altogether, very windy with squally showers made stalking pretty awkward, Jim secured a 3rd hind in the forestry block whilst I froze and got soaked out in the Birch!
The 3rd day was different again, a mild dry day with a steady wind looked very promising. Jim was off to stalk a small woodland block on his own and myself and David were heading to a different forestry block. To access this block we had to cut through the centre of the Birch scrub in which the Sika stag had been seen on the first day. We were barely 100 yards into the block when Davids Lab Mhari started winding heavily, at the same time I spotted 7-8 hinds up ahead, we kept moving forwards and as I glanced to my left the big old Sika stag stood not more than 140 yards off with a smaller stag in tow, typical!
We left the Sika to it and progressed into the forestry block.
We stalked meticulously through for an hour or so not seeing a thing, this was tense stuff in such thick cover. We came to a track which would lead to an area of better ground up and away to our right, as we walked we rounded a corner and stood between a 360 excavator and a dump truck was a red hind, would you believe it, of all the ground we had covered the first deer we see is stood between 2 bits of equipment!!
The shot was actually a safe one as the immeadiate background was a steep earthen bank, the deer lunged forwards and was dead to the shot.
We had a trip out in the evening which drew a blank but this was no matter. We had had a truly wonderful time in the company of a very experienced stalker and a true gentleman. We were very grateful for the use of the lodge and the kindness extended to us from Davids wife Laurna and son Angus.
A better place to experience stalking with a true gent may well exist, but I am yet to find it.