I was lucky enough to be invited out by a true gentleman from another shooting forum to his place down by Bedford and he really was keen to get me my first deer....this is the write up I posted on the other forum but thought you may appreciate the read on here too chaps...
I was late, I dont like being late for things, I said I would be there at 0730 and didn't get there until 8. Flooded bridges and M1 traffic were a right pain I needn't have worried though as unlike all my other stalking trips (none of which resulted in a deer), Colin reassured me that CWD dont come out at the crack of dawn and there was no rush.
After a lovely breakfast of home-made bacon and sausage butties and a chat about the plans for the day over the maps, Colin and I loaded up and headed out to the first spot. The plan was to visit a couple of fields and have a look there but not with the expectation of seeing anything before heading over to where the chances were thought to be a lot better.
After a good chat about fishing or shooting exploits on the way there we arrived at the big field of rape. We pulled into the edge of the field and glassed around looking for a deer, both of us scanning with binos. Nope, nothing out there so we jumped back in the truck, backed out of the field and had travelled only 50yds along the road before Colin jumped on the brakes proclaiming he had seen a deer. We pulled into the edge of the farm yard and I hurried to get my boots and coat on and get the rifle and sticks ready and get my ear defenders on my classic English stalking set up is unmoderated and therefore a little loud! At this point I had not seen the beast I was due to stalk so was taking direction from Colin as to where he had seen it.
We carefully pushed out across the rape, towards the brow of a slight undulation as we were convinced the deer was hunkered down in the dip that we couldnt see. Creeping slowly towards the brow, me having yet to get my first deer feeling my heart pounding in anticipation and primarily nervousness to make sure I dont mess it up and end up with a wounded or injured deer, we reach the brow of the hill...looked down into the dip...nothing!
I will be honest, at this point I was beginning to think Colin was seeing things as he was so eager to help me get my first deer and Colin was even starting to doubt himself or think he had seen a hare instead. He is reaching that age lol!
We trudged back the car, made the rifle safe and Colin suggested we drive around to the corner of the field and approach the same spot with the road to our backs offering more chance of a safe shot so after a very short drive and a bit of a run up to get through some very wet ground we were out the truck and off again. We stalked slowly along the field edge towards the same undulation in the field, glassing the rape as we went and slowing to a snails pace as we reached the crest and once again expecting to see the classic teddy bear head sticking up out of the crops...we reached the crest and...nothing!
Maybe it was a hare but it could just as easily have been a deer.
So, still convinced that there was a deer in this big field, we headed back to the truck and drove back around the spot where Colin first spotted the deer. This track was very wet and waterlogged so we parked up and stalked slowly along the track towards a row of trees, glassing as we went...at pretty much the same time, both Colin and I spotted a sandy coloured shape well to the right of where we had previously been looking.
We decided to make our way around the back of the bank of tree to get into range and position for a safe shot so we crept slowly towards the end of the row of trees to started to go around them, as we got about 60 yds from the trees, a furry head poked up out of the rape about 140yds directly in front of us - a deer that we had not spotted and we assumed to be the one Colin spotted from the car. I have never seen a CWD in the wild, only pictures, at this point the striking thing was how its ears were lit up in the sun (yes, there was at this point an unusual yellow thing in the sky) and how now that I had spotted it, I was amazed not to have seen it earlier.
We decided that this closer deer was to be the one to go for and the best bet was to creep closer using the end tree as cover between him and us. As we crept closer I could see it between a gap in the branches and he was pretty relaxed and unaware of our presence. On reaching the tree Colin suggested using the branches rather than the sticks to keep in cover so I unslung the rifle and got into positionunfortunately I could not get a clear shot without a branch in the way and the last thing I wanted was a branch deflecting the bullet and ending up with a gut shot deer so I was not happy with the shot. We had to go off sticks which meant I had to creep slowly out from behind the tree to get a clear shot...inch by inch I moved to my left, it seemed to take ages...I managed to get my sticks almost in position without banging them together, unslung the rifle and ********! the deer was up and fleeing with surprising speed and agility across the field and down towards and then across the road.
Dammit. A chance lost due to clumsy stalking on my part. The second deer to the right had also evaporated.Colin was right all the long and he had spotted a deer from the road. I was disappointed in not getting a shot off but happy to have seen two deer (which is two more than I saw on my last stalking outing!). I think Colin had been a little too forward thinking as he had already told me which tree we would hang the deer from to gralloch it!
Colin had put me on the deer and the only reason we were no gralloching one was because I failed to get a shot off. Never mind, if I wanted easy shooting I would have gone lamping rabbits.
So we hopped into the truck and drove around to another spot, parked up in the farm yard and walked up towards a small copse, we approached it from the right and intended to move through the wood to hopefully see deer sunning themselves on the south facing slope below the wood. Sadly nothing was there and so Colin made the quick decision to head off to what he knew to be a more productive spot.
After driving through the big metal gate and parking up at the side of an old pole barn we made ready again and set off along the hedge which curled around the right in the distance. Plenty of deer slots around along the hedgerow so all looking positive here. We continued to chat as we walked along, this is not stealthy woodland stalking as the beasts are laid down in the middle of open fields. As we turned and headed right down the hedge, through which a stream, or in recent conditions a torrent was running. More talk about fishing and then suddenly the other side of the hedge we see the back end of a deer vanishing quickly across the field. Right, less fishing chat and more stalking concentration!
After turning to watch the fleeing deer to see where it had gone, we turned back to our direction of travel only to see two golden ears, a pair of black eyes and a button nose looking straight at us about 65yds to our right with a perfect backstop "theres your shot, take it!" Colin whispered. I got the sticks set up, rifle of on top, lined up, squeezed...BOOM!
Now at this point I would love to have written that I had just shot my first deer. I hadn't. I had clean missed over its head. I had got a touch of buck fever, rushed and overlooked that I was zeroed (only the day before so I knew I was zeroed) 1" high at 100yds. The deer ran up the field and out of sight behind the hedge. Looking on the bright side, at least it was a clean miss so no wounded beast.
Rather disappointed in myself, Colin did his best to console me telling me that all stalkers have missed due to buck fever! So now two opportunities wasted by me.
We continued up along the hedgerow, me even more alert and amazed how we came across a deer in an open field without having spotted him earlier, reaching the top and turning right along the field edge.
"DEER!" I tried to whisper but it came out louder due to having ear defenders on...the other side of the hedge sat in the brown cover crop was a CWD looking straight at us...sadly this was not Colins land so all we could do was watch as it got up followed by a second we had not spotted and bounced across the field, then turned to look at us from the other side of the cover crop.
We turned back towards the truck and Colin explained that the field on the far side of the road was his and was also one of the most productive spots. Carefully glassing the field we were in now that I had learnt how well they can hide where you wouldnt imagine that they could. We spotted a pair of deer lay down on the slop of the opposite field and these were to be our target. We crossed the main road and reaching the other side there was some cover in which I could re-load and get settled. There was a bridge over the small ditch which had a metal railing on the right hand side and as the deer were still a long way out I chose to rest on this for stability rather than the less stable sticks. We spent a couple of minutes watching them through a combination of binos and me looking through my scope, the right hand deer was quartering away from us but ever so slightly closer, the left hand animal was a bit further away but lying at 90 degrees to us. I was reluctant to take the right hand animal as the chance of catching the guts and the round travelling the length of the animal was just too great from this range. We considered stalking a bit closer but I decided the stable platform I had was better than the sticks only 20yds closer.
I warned Colin I was going to take the shot so he could wedge his fingers firmly in his ears, tried to relax and control my breathing....lined up on the boiler room, squeezed, BOOM!
The deer flopped backwards and kicked.
"Shes down!" says Colin, "Well done!"
I chambered a second round as soon as I had climbed the stile and looked back up towards my first ever deer which at this point had stood up! I fumbled to get the sticks in position for the second shot and as I squeezed off the second round she turned and ran up the hill with the second animal in pursuit. The deer ran off as if nothing was wrong at all, neither Colin nor I could understand the shot reaction, we were both convinced it was a dead deer but now it had run off.
My main concern at this point was doing everything possible to find what we thought was a wounded animal. The deer had run up the field and over the crest out of sight, turning slightly to the right. We set off up the sticky slippery hill at a fast pace, no longer concerned about stalking or scaring off other deer, wanting to get to the ditch at the top which we couldnt see and to make sure we could end any possible suffering. We went via the spot where the deer were sat and could not find any sign of blood or hair but still did not want to assume a miss as at this point not only was I increasingly out of breath from trying to get up the hill as quickly as possible, I was upset that I may have wounded a beast that we may not find.
We reached the hedge and the ditch at the top of the slop and searched along its length as we turned right. No sign of anything, no movement and no noises. Maybe I did miss? But this point carrying on stalking was not what I wanted to do; I wanted to make sure that we could be as sure as possible that there was not an animal suffering. We carried on along the top of the hedge, both out a breath and me especially disheartened.
As we turned right back towards the downslope I caught a shape in the open field out of the corner of my eye, raised the binos and there were the two deer, they had run just over the brow of the hill and lay down again. I was initially elated that I hadnt wounded one after all but then that made me doubt either my rifle being zeroed or my shooting abilities. At this point we could not see whether one was wounded. We stopped and watched them.
A gas gun in an adjoining field goes off...both deer raised their heads, got up and trotted down the slope and away to our left. We stood still and watched, neither deer appeared to be injured and I was praying that they would stop and give me another chance. They did. The both lay down about 220yds away from us, straight down the field. We were stood above them on the brow of the hill, silhouetted and with no cover. There was a very good backstop in the dip behind them but getting in range was going to be tough.
Slowly we set off, slithering down the slope, stopping to observe them and freezing every time they lifted their heads or looked in our direction.
The gas gun again - they both looked straight at us, we froze and I thought we were done for. Minutes seemed like hours and typically I had frozen holding my binos to my eyes and my arm was starting to shake but I darent move. Relief, they both put their heads down, they had no idea we were there.
We slithered closer "this is going to be the best chance" says Colin, we were still about 190 yds away and based on my two misses from earlier I wasn't confident to take my first deer at that range standing off sticks.
"ok," says Colin, "let's count 25 more paces then decide, we wont get any closer".
I started counting...1...2...3...slither...5........25.
"What do you think?"
"I reckon I can take one from here" I said, probably sounding more confident than I felt.
The left hand deer was once again broadside to us but sat down, the right at an angle so once again too much risk of a gut shot.
I readied the sticks as slowly as I could, unslung the rifle and rest it on the sticks, adjusted the sticks again and tried to stable my footing as much as possible. "Relax" I whispered to myself, knowing my rifle was putting down cloverleaf groups only the day before at 100yds I knew that the only reason for a miss was me. I decided a neck shot was the safest option at this range (about 160yds) too high and its a clean miss and in the position she was sat, too low and it will hit the boiler room which was obscured by winter rape.
Breath in....breathe out...breathe in...exhale slowly and squeeze....BOOM!
A puff of golden hair and the deer flopped backwards, definitely dead this time.
I (sort of) whispered as I chambered a second round just in case. The second deer had run to the left and as we approached the downed beast it stopped to look at us offered a perfect standing broadside shot as I raised the sticks for the second animal it fled but I wasnt too upset as I had my first deer! A little leg kicking from nerves, no eye reaction but we slit the throat anyway to let it bleed out. I was elated, after the couple of misses, the concern of a wounded beast I had my first ever deer, dead on the spot with no suffering.
Now, before I came down for the outing with Colin, I did a lot of reading about CWD stalking and Colin had a couple of posts about it as well. I cant remember where I read it, but I remember reading someone saying that they are little deer the size of a springer spanielwell whoever is was that said they must have a very very overweight dogthis deer was heavy! We estimated about 60lbs and it was jolly hard work dragging it down the hill Colin did most of the dragging to be fair and I only dragged it the last bit when he went to get the truckI was shocked at the weight of the thing.
Photos taken, phone call made to warn the wife she has some butchery to do this week and Colin unzipped her and had the guts out in a flash (well he is a pro).
I know Colin had been feeling under pressure all morning to get me my first deer, I didnt want him to and was just happy to be out, but I knew he was. Colin was now able to relax as we had what we came for and I was over the moon.
Colin was keen to try a new permission he had picked up and wanted to get on some pigeons as the farmer was having problems, so now the pressure was off we headed over there. The farmer said we could take a deer if we saw one so I took the .243 as well as a shotgun. We had a pleasant walk around, got rained on a bit, watching a lot of pigeons dropping in on the rape. We walked off the pigeons and then waited under a big tree for them to come back. They didnt. So we had a bit more of a walk, took a long shot at a pigeon and an even longer one at a crow with Colin on the HMR. I had imagined plenty of CWD around this farm, now that I had seen then I saw leaves, bushes, mounds of earth all of which looked like deer! We then decided we were carrying too much kit and to head back to the successful field for the last hour of daylight.
This time we drove into the field as we were less concerned about scaring off any deer present. We drove along the edge of the hedgerow not expecting much as we glassed the field at pretty much exactly the same time we both spotted another straw coloured, button nosed, and furry eared shape lay down in the rape. Colin slowly reversed us back where had come to get behind the brow of the hill to enable me to get kitted out of sight of the beast.
I felt a lot more confident this time with one under my belt the pressure was off and I knew I was capable of longish shots I was able to get within about 120yds of the deer, just over the brow of the hill and it had no idea I was there.
Sticks down, rifle mounted, relax, breathe, BOOM!
A second CWD fell to the .243, chest shot this time as I had the angle. Second round immediately chambered but I was confident it wouldnt be needed. By the time I had skipped up the slope through the mud (which was a lot easier than last time) it was very dead, boiler room shot both lungs gone small entry hole and a larger exit but minimal meat damage as I missed the shoulder and the loin and just took out a few ribs.
"You can bloody carry that one!" Colin grinned!
We ( = Colin) gralloched and immediately skinned the freshly shot beast and being so fresh the skin came off really easily (well Colin made it look easy!) and then skinned the earlier animal which was only slightly tougher to skin. I am amazed at how much fat these animals carry compared to all other deer I have dealt with almost like lamb the amount they carry and as Colin said (in his professional capacity) no need to add pork to get some fat into this meat to make burgers.
So, in conclusion to what has turned out to be a longer write up than I thought it would, I had a fantastic day with fantastic company and I am eternally grateful to Colin for giving me the opportunity to get my first deer an experience I will never forget. To get two is a bonus. Thank you Colin.
DISCLAIMER: Colin and I are both mad keen fisherman, as such no responsibility can be taken for any form of perceived inaccuracy of size, distance or weight.
Some photos from my phone and will upload some from the camera later.
My first ever deer
My second ever deer