Well I didn't pick the best week for my first ever stalking trip. I'm a new hunter who used to shoot many years ago but primarily archery though did some rifle shooting and a fair bit of pistol, back when we were allowed to. Currently have my FAC application in. I arranged, after reading good reviews on here, to go out with Ian Farrington, of Farrington Deer Services, as they're one of my closest operators down here in Devon. I exchanged several emails with Ian ahead of time and he was very good at tailoring a couple of days to the things I needed and wanted to go through.
Arriving at Ian's place on Wednesday in the pouring rain, we sat with a coffee and talked through my shooting background, why I was taking it up again (now have a farm with woodland and deer) and the things we'd cover over the next two days. Looking outside at the pouring rain and gale force winds, we decided it would be best to do some indoor work first
Into Ian's workshop with a 15 range and time to get acquainted with his .22lr. We went over basic riflemanship, some shooting theory and then the use of twin sticks. I'd only ever shot off sticks once before, last week when I cut a couple of hazel sticks from the wood and tied them together. Ian uses a pair of extendable sticks and it soon became very apparent just how useful they were, being able to give you a solid position whether sitting, kneeling or standing. We practiced smoothly getting in to shooting positions and then shooting at targets. Really interesting and enlightening experience and one that has changed how I think about using a rifle.
The wind and rain were dying down a bit so, after a bite of lunch, it was off to a nearby field where Ian has a target set at 100m to try out a CF rifle, something I've only shot a few times before. Again, he gave me great, simple instructions on how to shoot and I managed a better grouping of shots than I would have expected along with learning the concept of calling your shots and realising how much information you gather without really noticing when you're looking through a scope. Again, enlightening and very useful.
Despite the weather we decided to try an evening stalk and went out to a field near some woodland to wait and see if anything would come out from cover but, being more sensible than perhaps we were, the deer staying tucked up out of sight and we retired after dark. However, it was again good to learn about how much is visible through binoculars and scopes as darkness falls. Good glass really is worth the money
Ian has very comfortable accomodation available and, after dinner at a local pub, it was off to bed for an early start the next morning.
5am. It's never going to be easy getting up that early but, like a kid about to go on holiday, it's made easier with something to look forward to. Into the car and Ian hands me a travel mug of coffee, ever the perfect host. We drove out into Dorset to a permission he has and went through a few stalking procedures on the way. Buttoned up and with a rifle over my shoulder, we started off for our stalk.
I've never walked that carefully anywhere I think, and it was a revelation to travel quietly and slowly taking in everything around you, instead of just walking along. A very conscious way to see the world. The weather had died down and it was a glorious morning, stopping to glass the fields and woods, with the sunlight making the place glow, it was a real pleasure to be out and about. Unfortunately, there weren't many deer around and it was only towards the end of the stalk that we saw any and unfortunately they saw us first and were off through the woods before we could even get rifle to sticks. We crossed fields, went through woods and a range of different terrains, all the way Ian was quietly imparting knowledge and advice as we went.
Back at the car we'd not made a kill but, to be honest, I didn't really mind at all. This, to me, was about learning the basics, about how to go about stalking safely, how to move, look and observe. I know I'll be doing this many more times in the years to come but that the knowledge I gained over the past couple of days will stand me in good stead on each one of them.
Into Bridport for breakfast and more conversations then back to pick up my things and head home. A thoroughly enjoyable trip and one I would heartily recommend to anyone looking for some guided stalking in that part of the world.
Oh and once home I went and pulled the card from the trail camera down in our wood and found footage of half a dozen roe and a rather fabulous roe buck, now all I need is the nice man who's interviewing me on Monday to approve my application and next season I'll hopefully be putting it all in to practice at home.