When I first started stalking I never thought for a minute about shooting one of each. I just wanted to shoot and prepare my own deer and enjoy the spoils. As time went on a friend got his own ground and between us we had things covered, 4 species! Then a simple thing turns into, hmm I would love to stalk that species and before long you are planning your final sixth species, in my case, CWD! I have never shot a medal although I think my sika may have been close: First Sika and a West Dorset one!!
But my thoughts with the CWD was that by two years old most CWD, in the right areas, are getting up there into the silver/gold rankings so why shoot a young one? So then, as I have done with all my other species, I tried to arrange a swap. It went well and swap arranged, but fell through. Then another, it fell through, one more sounded really promising, 3 years on, I gave up pushing and started to look at a straight bought day out to complete my six!
Looking for a bought day wasn't easy either with prices ranging from 500 to £1200 plus day fees, and it amazed me how many said it is impossible to tell a gold on the hoof, it would have to be dead first, and then try for another if it wasnít, which I was put off as I only had a small budget and one is my lot. As soon as I got in contact with Andy who is also CWD from the site, he said to me the problem is people say they have CWD, but they donít! Ha Ha! Leave it with me till the latter part of the season. So Last week I re-initiated contact with Andy and he said next week, we will get your gold, guaranteed! You WILL see 50 deer and you will know a gold from a silver/bronze/rep by the end of the day as I use a spotter scope. So this week saw me leave home at 4am, to drive to Andyís and then go from there to his ground in Bedfordshire. A good chat on the way revealed a lot about the stalking of CWD and the cons out there. If what he was saying was to materialise we would have to be tripping over them when we got to his ground! And we did, this was the view from the field by the car:
The weather was stunning, after a winter of wind and rain, what a joy to be out with the sunlight in your face soaking up some much needed vitamin D! Andy said on this farm they are out all day in the good weather whereas another estate they are much more nocturnal. So at 8am, in the first field I couldnít believe my eyes when we got around the muck heap and had 10 CWD in front of us. What a fantastic experience and I was in no rush to pull the trigger. None were mature but Andy knew where his mature bucks should be hanging out! So we wondered around, Andy using his Swarovski spotting scope to identify males from females, immature bucks from potential golds. In his mind it was the only way of making the most of your time and not stalking into immatures or females, and secondly making sure you donít pull the trigger twice to get one gold. Andyís thoughts were many an hour are wasted and lots of day fees stalking into the wrong animals. He took me around, showed me young bucks, more does, does with good teeth, a silver medal chinky there for next year. I had at this point completely forgotten I had a rifle on my back I was just enjoying the experience of new ground, new species and good company. Whilst looking at two young bucks, next years golds, this young buck came bounding over and gave me a fantastic opportunity to get up and personal with CWD, before he went off, unharmed!
As we did another sweep of the bottom fields to try and find a gold a client had missed a few days earlier, whom we had not seen in the morning, a group of 14 CWD had come out to feed! With binoculars they were a nondescript group and just looked like young bucks and does but Andy suddenly said look at this one, thereís your gold! It was amazing the detail on through his scope, a bald patch on his neck, two huge tusks, and a bad limp. A short plan later, we came down a hedge and into the same field they were in, but they had moved on, leaving just four behind who were settling down to sleep! Unbelievably, there was my buck! It took a little stalking to get into position without being seen but still a fair distance, we edged closer, with the other 10 from this group now feeding just beneath us in the next door field. I got into a very steady position on the bipod and took a neck shot instantly flipping it over and my final species was complete Andy thinking it will go approx. 220 CIC.
Thinking the day was over we moved a high seat, and then Andy said lets go and try for your doe too! Then you can see the difference between bucks and does in taste! So off we went down the M1 spotting lots more on the way. A short stalk onto a doe lying up and again perfect conditions allowed a head shot and a perfect animal for eating.
Andy, as I said, you have taught so much about CWD and I cannot believe we saw 55 deer including 4 golds and so many bucks that will go gold next year. You have managed to get me something that was seemingly unattainable. I think you are going to be in for a cracker of a year next year with all those up and coming animals. Your management is obviously working, perhaps you should put your cull up as you mentioned from 70 to 90!!
The journey home to North Wales went a lot quicker and I will enjoy boiling this head out tomorrow!