Sadly, due to hectic work commitments, I haven't managed to get out stalking much in the last couple of months. I had a couple of days to take as holiday before Christmas, so I was determined to get out stalking on at least one of the days.
I set of at five fortyfive yesterday morning, wanting to get there a bit before light, but not being familiar with daylight timings etc, I arrived a bit early so parked up the motor, and relaxed contemplating the stalk ahead.
Just as it was breaking light, I moved off. The area I was on was a mixture of fields and a couple of large woods, so I plumped for a gentle stalk around the field margins, before heading into the woods later. Fresh deer slots were everywhere, but nothing was showing as I went slowly from field to field. Eventually the light levels picked up and I slowly made my way into the woods. First I gently moved through a recently brashed corsican pine plantation, where the owner had reported regular deer sightings recently. Unfortunately for me, half the pigeons and pheasants in Dorset had picked the very same plantation for their roost the previous evening, and no matter how silently and slowly I inched along, every footstep seemed to be marked with birds clattering out of the treetops above me. Despite trying my best to not let it bother me, I could feel frustration building, and I guess, unknown to me I had started to quicken my step slightly.I hadnt realised and just as I rounded a slight bend, a combination of me speeding up slightly and relaxing my concentration meant that I walked right into a Roe doe feeding on the side of the ride 15 metres ahead. She caught my movement, and dived into cover with a second animal that was just inside the treeline. Bugger! I mentally told myself off for the momentary lapse of concentration, then carried on.
I left the dark plantation not spotting any more animals, and cut left down a forest track leading back towards the edge of the wood. The way the wind was going meant I could approach a favoured bramble bank without winding any deer that might havebeen present, then afterwards carried on deeper into the wood on another conveniently placed track. I gradually came in view of the bank, and at once spotted an animal stood at around 50 metres away. Game on I thought, and took a more detailed look through the bino's. Young buck, he wont be on his own I though.
I looked around, and as I watched mum joined him from the tree line above.
I watched as the young buck fed on the brambles, with mum moving further down the bank.
I looked long and hard at the pair, trying to spot additional animals nearby, but it was only the two, mum and young buck in view on the bank. I didnt want to orfan the young buck, and since the doe cull isn't that big or demanding to force me to shoot mum, I left the pair feeding and carried on deeper into the wood. I hadn't gone 100 metres further when I glimpsed a deers rear end disappearing into a holly thicket on the edge of a clearing, but as the deer had made cover there was no point in hanging around, so I continued on my way. I crossed into a finger of wood that grows on a high bank. The wind direction indicated a stalk along the left hand side of the bank, and I started making my way around and through the bramble cover halfway up the bank. The deer love couching down in the brambles, and sometimes provide a shot higher up the bank if they burst from cover. So with that in mind I carefully picked an easy path from one bramble clump to the next. Reaching a point where some of the bramble patches were four foot high or more, there was a sudden commotion and one of the bramble patches shook. I both heard and saw the movement and out jumped a sika pricket to my right further up the bank. He knew something wasnt right, but didnt know what, so just stood there on the skyline, sadly offering no prospect of a shot where he stood. I was all the time, willing him to come a bit further down the bank,rifle was up on the sticks, but after a minute or two he just calmly walked slowly over the skyline and gone. All this happed at around twenty yards off to my right, so I didnt get the chance for a picci.
Moving on still further, I spotted another rear end, this time two thirds of the way up the bank on the edge of another clearing.
Don't know if you can see it near the holly tree, roughly in the centre of the picture??
But for those, that can't, binoculars, and camera revealed it to be a buck in hard antler
Now, I also guessed that he wouldnt be on his own, but try as I might I couldn't spot any other animals there. Eventually the buck spotted me mucking around with my camera, and after a long cold stare to finally decide I was bad news, he leaped up the bank and caught the movement of at least three other animals which had been close to the top of the back or actually over it I couldnt decide which. After they had disappeared , I took a path over the bank towards then and caught them (four deer) running down the side of the wood below, before cutting back into the wood about 70 yds further on. As I had more or less reached the end of the wood, I doubled back hoping to intercept the group in one of the hollows out of the wind. I took a path along the top of the bank, so that I might spot movement either side of the bank, and sure enough caught the buck and one doe trotting over the bank and through some trees to my right. they disappeared, and I was guessing the other two deer had gone ahead of them. I was thinking that this stalk wasnt going my way, when over the bank (not 15 metres in front) popped another doe. She spotted me and froze, but then eventually started picking her way down the bank in the direction the other two had gone. I managed to get rifle on sticks, but she picked up speed, and dived into the trees and gone. Double bugger I thought.
Time was pressing on, so I selected a final path which took me out of the wood and back to my vehicle. Just I was leaving the wood, I past the same bramble bank where the young buck and doe had been feeding, and there was a doe laid ot sunning herself in the same spot by the bramble bush without a care in the world. Not knowing for sure, but suspecting her to be the bucks mother, I let her be, and returned to the car empty handed.
The return trip passed without incident, except they were digging up the road, and had set up an 'escorted convey' system past the road works. I spotted the lights, and slowed down eventually coming to a stop right opposite a fresh sika pricket lying beside the road precisely where the traffic lights were. I know it wasn't there when I left the house this morning so realised it must have been hit earlier that morning. It was just too good to leave on the side of the road, so followed by horrific glances from the occupants of the car behind in the queue, I lept out ran across the single lane, and dragged it beck to my jeep, before bundling it into the sadly empty deer box. I turned round and headed on back to my mates larder, where we promptly gutted it , finding it was still hot inside. Brucie bonus, the useable meat will be turned into sausages. yummy!
Time was getting on, so I stayed for an afternoon session, up a highseat. Weather was OK, and one of the farmers had been reporting some deer activity near a favoured highseat (which one or two may recognise). The seat overlooks a corner of field next door to a large wood, and is the favourite spot for both Roe and Sika.The hinds had been spotted coming out, so my mate said to take roe if I wanted, but probably wait until last knockings for the sika.
Off to my right, near to the highseat was a swampy clearing through which the sika like to emerge
And infront of the seat at around 350 metres was another wooden highseat against a tree.The deer constantly try to outfox you on these fields, and it is a bit of a standing joke, that if you man one seat, the deer come out all round the other one. Sure enough, that was the case, and roe came out immediately below the high seat, and stayed there all evening.
In the end four roe were all out under the seat but by that timne the camera had long since given up the ghost due to low light. I held out for the sika hinds, which never arrived, and so ended the day with a blank for all my trouble, but the Brucie bonus which should help boost sausage numbers in the freezer.
One thing......... my vist to the woods revealed huge quantities of grey squirrels, running about everywhere, so I have planed a squirrel session with a friend of mine who has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour, so both he and I are looking forward to that at the end of the week - medical condition allowing.
Thanks for looking