Under the old rules I tried the 'Swap a Stalk' as I have Red, Roe and Sika here and have always fancied trying for the other three species that are commonly stalked in the UK. I must admit to being a bit disappointed as I had two sets of lads come here and due to various things no return swap was possible. Last year I tried again and had Jonathantarhunter and his friend up for the Red Hinds. (See his write up)
So with great excitement and a bit of trepidation I set out on the first Sunday of the month to travel down to Suffolk from Glen Urquhart. What an eye opener the journey was . Coming from an area where three cars in a row is a traffic jam and three houses in a row is a city I was blown away with the amount of buildings and roads even in the rural parts.
After a good night in our digs Jonathan picked us up next morning about 6.30 am and took us to our first area of the week. He set me in a hide at ground level looking out from a wood into a rape field cut in two by a hedge where I was able to look straight down it with good visibility either side. As the light came up the first thing I noticed was traffic noise and houses just beyond the field. That was something I was not at all used to and all week was very aware of close habitation that southern stalkers must have to work round every outing. I was told to expect Muntjac to travel the hedge side and come towards me but some Fallow were in the area too. Just as the light became full a nearby hound kennel started breakfast and a cacophony of howling started up. A minute later I saw a group of a dozen Fallow gallop from a wood near the sound and race towards where I stood, travelling along the hedge rapidly in single file. At 80 meters from my position they started jumping through a gap in the hedge and were moving over the next field. The second to last one hesitated as its pal was slow to clear the gap. Jonathan heard my shot and the strike and like all hosts was relieved at having a guest achieve early success.
Next morning my host took me to a low lying area near to a marshland . Lots of Red sign was visible and I climbed into a small high seat over looking a rough area with a green bank beyond. After a while I was asked to come down and we walked over the long grass beyond. I caught a flash of white tail and there it was, my first Muntjac , sprinting away with the small tail looking ten times as big and twenty times more visible. She stopped briefly enough for me to look at her off the rest but was either rump-on or moving to give the chance of a shot. We carried on for a while before returning to that area as Jonathan said Munties often come back out if not too disturbed. Sure enough there she was. Sitting still with the sun in her face and the wind in mine. Perfect. I could even crawl forward to cover and take the shot off the bi-pod. So now two species down and one to go.
Next night we went back to the spot where I had taken the Fallow to try for Munties again. Luckily Jonathan did say he wanted a Fallow for a friend. Ten minutes after arriving in the hide two fallow came running over the rape field to my front. One big mature buck with a two year old in tow. I got out of the hide and lay down in a cart track and watched them zig- zag over the field towards me . The older buck had a good head but it was well damaged and ragged on one side . I concentrated on the smaller one , and as he slowed up 70 meters from the wood, square on to me, I took him in the base of the neck and he was dead on his feet.
Wednesday saw us at a big estate where a day stalking with the keeper had been arranged. After introductions I went out in the company of a delightful lad who carried a set of home-made tripod sticks for me to shoot off. Never having needed to use sticks in over 40 years of stalking gave me a bit of the jitters but I took to it easily enough and managed to get three Munties that morning and a further two from a high seat that night. My pal Mike also managed to bag his first Muntjac of the trip and got two also that evening.
Thursday- the big day came . An attempt to get a Cwd. A long drive up to Norfolk and passed on to the keeper who put me up a very tall high seat in the dark in a stubble field looking over to a patch of game crop. In the half dark I saw many shapes. Mostly they were hares but then something bigger. Then another , then three more. What a thrill just to see these deer. So different yet still obviously deer. Alas all seemed to be does and the Gator came to pick me up all too soon. Good news though. On his way the keeper had seen an old buck working along a new plantation by a prepared field. He took me over and we quickly found him. He was already moving away and I could see he was very lame. I was taken round the plantation to the next field and left here while the keeper did some more spying. In the distance I saw the buck run along the fence in my direction so lay down and watched him come nearer. I could see how very lame he was and when he stopped his right knee was raised. Again he was square on to me so I was able to give that most killing of shots. When I examined him his knee was indeed very enlarged with arthritis and he had a totally opaque right eye. A good beast to remove.
So that's the end of my adventure to the deep south. I cant thank Jonathan enough for all he did. I met lots of great people and saw some countryside so different to what I have here. On returning I had to say it was good to look out the window at snow-covered mountains again and hear nothing but nature outside but I am amazed at how the deer, especially Reds , have adapted to live with so much human disturbance and indeed thrive. I must finish with the photos I took this morning as I took my lad Angus to meet the school bus. I look forward to hosting the southerers in the early winter and hope they bring a good whisky with them!!!
David PS Now you can see these damn pylons , the construction of which has blighted my life for the last three years, but now how the deer ignore them .