I am lucky enough to have the permission on a small farm next to our village. The farm is about 5 fields wide by 3 fields deep, bordered on two sides by roads, and basically with a hill in the middle of it. So finding deer is one thing, but finding deer in a shootable location is another thing entirely.
There are few deer hefted to the ground itself, but it does tend to attract both roe and muntjac on a pretty regular basis from the surrounding farms. I got the permission because the farmer got fed up with deer bedding down in his fields of rape and messing up the combine. He likes to see them around, though, so he and I are happy to take just two or three roe per season.
Last Wednesday at our village film club the farmer came up to me and said that he'd seen five roe ("those deer with the white bums") come from the neighbouring ground onto the farm earlier that day, so we agreed an outing was probably called for. With work being so hectic I can normally only get out at weekends, but looking at the forecast for last weekend Saturday morning looked a disaster area whilst Sunday looked a lot better. I spoke with the farmer and said I'd go out scouting on Saturday morning but take the rifle with me Sunday.
Saturday 06:30 saw me on the ground. It was blowing a gale and there was (yet more) rain starting to fall. There is a footpath that runs around the perimeter of the permission so, not being sure exactly where the roe might be, I decided to keep to the path. Having walked three sides of the square I finally spied the roe - four does and a very nice looking buck - browsing in some woodland just over the border of the ground. I kept my eyes on them and eventually the oldest doe headed onto my ground, with the other four running away through the wood. Noting that the single doe had headed along a windbreak from the neighbour's ground towards the small coppice at the top of the hill that sits in the middle of my ground, I carried on towards where the farm boundary meets one of the roads. There were the four roe, now standing broadside on in the last of the fields on my permission. If only I'd brought the rifle it would have been "job done". As it was, I kept watching them until all four followed the path of the older doe up the hill into the coppice that sits in the middle of the farm. Well, it could have been a lot worse.....
Arriving onto the ground at 06:15 on a clear and frosty Sunday morning, I made my way to about the only vantage point on the top of the hill that overlooks the small coppice. Waiting there for an hour resulted in nothing, so I kept to the brow of the hill and headed down the windbreak back towards the woods where I had seen the roe grazing on the Saturday. I'd seen roe here in the windbreak back in the Summer, as they treat it as a thoroughfare between the coppice and the neighbouring farm. I found a tree in the windbreak that would not only offer me a spying point looking down to the wood but would also - thanks to a small dip - allow a shot with a suitable backstop. Pausing here for almost an hour sadly resulted in nothing, so with the likelihood of dog walkers, etc appearing I decided to head back to the car.
The farmer was feeding his cattle in the barn, so we had time for a quick chat and to commiserate about the first rule of stalking, this being that "all deer are b*stards"!
As I was working from home today I realised that Monday morning would provide a final window of opportunity to get out this week. I called the farmer and he was fine with my additional visit, so 06:15 found me back on the farm for the third morning on the trot. I followed the same plan as on the Saturday, starting from my vantage point overlooking the central coppice. Again, though, it proved fruitless. After an hour I made my way to the brow of the hill and stood by the same tree. Looking down the windbreak I couldn't see any movement, but with the sun peeking through the clouds I decided there were worse places to be so kept still. Over my right shoulder I could see the traffic making its way to Oxford to start the working week. Looking back down the windbreak a movement caught my eye. Just the other side of a three-strand barbed wire fence a deer was making its way towards me. I kept watching and could see that it was a roe doe. She was now about 50 yards away and browsing her way along the fence line. There were a lot of branches in the way so I shifted my sticks slightly to give me a clearer shot should one become available. Another five yards and she turned and came through the fence and into the windbreak itself. She was now broadside on and fortunately the engine room was framed by three branches. Steadying the rifle on the sticks I pulled the trigger and a leap from the doe showed that the shot was true. She made a dash into the field on the far side and then collapsed. A quick follow up from the dog and then time to carry the doe back to the windbreak to complete the gralloch.
With the doe slung over my shoulder I headed back down to the farmyard. The farmer was again out feeding his cattle, but seeing me approach from a distance he came over and we shook hands; the smiles on our faces being quite a contrast to the day before. The doe had been carrying twins - both bucks - and weighed a shade under 40lbs on the gambrel, so like as not it was the same doe as I'd seen on the Saturday. She's hanging in the chiller now and will be butchered later this week, sharing the venison with the farmer as per our arrangement.
Three mornings out and only one doe to show for it might not seem like a great return, but persistence paid off and it's good to start the working week knowing that the farmer appreciated my efforts.
Sorry about the lack of photos - I'll try to remember next time.