I joined the forum a few months ago and as a novice I donít have much to add on technical stuff or equipment. So I thought Iíd post about how things have been going since I passed my DSC 1 in the summer.
My first introduction to rifles and stalking was a rifle awareness course that I did with Dave Stretton at Donnington Deer Management Services. I took the DSC 1 course shortly after, also at Donnington. As a complete novice I found the course fascinating and I was surprised my the amount of experience of some of the other students. I picked up a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the course.
Having completed the DSC 1 I was a bit unsure of how to proceed. I looked at some accompanied stalking in Scotland and in the south of England. However, I am based in the Midlands and all the stalking seemed to be either a long way away or not aimed at novices. I eventually put a post on the Directory seeking accompanied stalking in Staffs or Derbyshire. Several of the guys on here recommended Mike Dickinson from just north of Ashbourne, so I booked my first stalk about a month ago.
I turned up at Mikeís not knowing what to expect. The first thing to do was a brief shooting test. Mike has built himself an underground range in his back garden. The range consists of two rooms / chambers, linked by two 100 metre long tubes, each about a metre wide. The shooting room has a shooting bench for each tube and there is a CCTV link and a monitor which shows the targets. The target end of the range is a shed at ground level with the target chamber below. A system of pulleys raises and lowers the targets, which means that there is never any need to descend into the target chamber. There is a system of lights which means the targets cannot be lit up when someone is in the shed above the target chamber.
I am not an expert, but the range looks superb to me. There is no wind or rain so its easy to zero or test different loads.
Having done the test we set off to a piece of Mikeís ground. We parked up at the farm and then settled ourselves in a high seat. The seat overlooked an open grassed area with a wood behind. After about 15 minutes we could see a deer moving about in the wood. We willed it to come out, but it stayed put and eventually it got too dark to see. I was delighted to have seen a deer and was at the limit of what I could take in at one go, so I was pleased not to have had to take a shot. There is so much to learn, even daft sounding things like wearing gloves and a hat even when it isnít cold because without them my hair, face and hand stand out.
I went back for my second outing a couple of weeks ago. We went to the same piece of ground, but approached from a different direction. We crept into position settled in a spot on the ground. Walking into the area instead of using a high seat introduced a range of new things to think about. I was a bit noisy and clumsy (as I guess many novices are) but I now have a better idea of the degree of stealth that is required. It is something I will work on in the future.
It was quite a windy night and for a while we kept hearing an animal in the woods to our left. However, we couldnít tell what it was and eventually it got too dark to see from where we were sitting. Mike suggested we move to higher open ground where weíd have a bit more light. As we emerged from a bush we saw what had been making the noise. There was a pricket in perfect sillhouette on the skyline. We set up the sticks and I lined up the rifle, hoping the deer would move downhill and present a safe shot. Unfortunately he carried on grazing, working his way across the skyline. Eventually he dissappeared into the wood where it was too dark to see him.
We returned to the car with me feeling very excited at having lined up the rifle on a deer for the first time. Again, I was not dissappointed to have not taken a shot because it was another steep learning curve.
So, for the future, I have booked another stalk, which may or may not produce my first deer. Either way, Iím sure Iíll enjoy it. I feel like I am making some progress towards my goal of being able to stalk independantly. However, there is still much me me to learn.
Thank you to all of you who have given me advice and help so far. It is much appreciated. If my ramblings have not bored people too much I will post again with another update in due course.