Well I wasnt quite sure what would happen, or how much it would cost but I have now had my first day out. I chose a local estate stalk day- I thought the cost was comparitely high at £175 for the day plus £1.25/pound for the deer but it meant I could be there in 20 mins so no real petrol or b&b cost to add. No joining fees either, and it included the estate rifle. If in the unlikely event we dont get one I would be welcome back at a reduced cost of £100 for a follow up.
I was apprehensive about the range test as I had only fired a .22lr up to this point, but I thought my technique was good so would chance it. If I couldnt put 3 in the target 10cms from 100yards prone then I wouldnt be allowed to shoot but would still go out on a stalk and the pro stalker would take the shot.
I agreed and we moved up the estate to a suitable field. I got down with an unmoderated .270win with bipod. All of my shots were in the zone, slightly right grouped. The recoil was expected but still suprised me when it came. I asked if I could try off sticks as I had never done that and missed by around 8 inches from 75 yards pulling the shot low. I also tried with the trigger pre-set and didnt like that one bit, you almost just think about shooting and its gone. This meant I would only take a shot prone or braced against a solid object, high seat or similar. I was advised to try and take the shot through the shoulder blade rather than heart to be sure of a non runner if I wanted the meat, if it was for the estate they insist neck shots only to get more meat.I am booked for my dsc in May so have got some sticks and will practice my technique over the next few months. I have never tried fallow before so I wanted the meat but was also not willing to take a neck shot anway so that sealed the decision.
Just as we were about to leave some horseriders came up and advised us of a fawn that was down around 300 yards from us. We went to inspect and found it with a damaged leg from being trapped in a fence just lying there. The estate stalker advised it needed a dispatch, approached from downwind and ended it with a shot to the back of the head. We collected the car and drove to the larder where he showed me how to gralloch and the damaged meat around the leg which would be removed. it was estimated at 4 months old.
We stopped for a quick lunch then out to some woods for a stalk. Now this is not what i expected, I thought it was more like a hunt. Look for signs and follow them. What we did was stick to the main rides and walk around seeing if we could find one along a margin. That seems more like a very slow walk with possible chance encounters to me.We did see hoof prints and droppings but still stuck to the plan. The stalker said if we follow them into cover it would be unlikely we would get a shot and they would just move off. We did not see any deer, stopped off on a high seat for 15 minutes and still no sightings. My guide was still pretty confident we would see some by close of play, it was around 4pm.
As we were on the top of a cold hill he suggested we move down into warmer woods and try another high seat, 10 minutes later we were driving towards our destination when i spotted around 7 just 30 meters ahead. There had been logging machinery in the area so they were not put off by the car and just walked a little into the woods. We got out and he told me to get forwards into a shoot position and he would pass the rifle over when I was ready. I moved in and got onto my knees then indicated i was on for a shot. As he came forwards and passed the rifle over the lead deer spooked and they were off. But we were in the right place at least. We stayed on foot and moved towards the high seat, around another 10 minute walk, seeing another 2 small herds but only as they moved away having seen us first.
Into the high seat at 4.30, light stating to fade and me thinking its been an interesting day but looking unlikely.Finally around 4.45 a deer came onto the ride, I took the scope cover off and asked if it was suitable. Just its head and shoulders showing. Given the ok I took aim and waited to see if it would come out further. Another 2 steps and then it put its head down to graze. I flicked off the safety and squeezed. The recoil bounced the gun up and i looked down the ride. NOTHING.
I turned to the guide who was grinning, 'well done, it died on the spot, good shot'
I looked back. Nothing.
'where is it then' Apparently it reared up and fell back into the woods. We waited 5 minutes then went to see. Just as asked I shot into the shoulder blade, had nicked the aorta and the bullet had gone out through the opposite shoulder. Only a small one around 50 lbs but my first and I was most concerned about a clean kill rather than how much meat I would get. I guess it can be minced or stewed anyway. We hung it and made a field gralloch then removed the head, inspected the lymph and took it back to the larder.
It has now been hanging for a week and tomorrow i collect it, I have never butchered a deer before so am looking forward to this, and have knives and saw ready. I am even planning on tanning the skin to see how it comes up. The kidneys and liver are already in my freezer for later, the hooves are in my shed ready to boil down. They will stink, and i will fill some old shotgun cases with cotton wool balls dipped in it then hang them from a tree on my syndicate land, we have a fox issue that needs to be sorted before they breed and i am told this is irresistable to them.
I'll let you know how that goes.