Last year Dave (223) offered up a day out for a youngster, and as Charlie - my 15 year old son - had just obtained his FAC, I dropped his name in to the hat.....and out it came!
After various calls and texts, we settled on last Saturday - and Dave very kindly suggested that I should bring a rifle too, as I could sit in a different high seat whilst he took Charlie out to another area.
Saturday rolled around, rifle zeros were checked earlier in the week, and the alarms were set for 2.00am to allow us to get down from home to meet Dave at his house before heading off to his ground to be settled into highseats well before sunup. Funnily enough, the M6 was quite quiet at that time of the day....
We met Dave just after 4, and transferred our gear into his pickup before setting off, closing car doors VERY quietly...along the way, we had chat about the layout of the ground, arcs of fire, general do's and don'ts, etc - and I let Dave know that I'd given Charlie a good long 'safety talk' in the truck on the way down, but Charlie was quite clear - whatever Dave said goes, 1st time every time. (And even allowing for bias - he is my lad, after all - I regard Charlie as a safety conscious shot. Nonetheless, I always have that chat with him whenever we go out - it HAS to stick.)
I bundled out of the pickup and headed off to a seat in a large oak tree facing a small wooded valley with small crest around 8-90 yards in front of me and a rising hill further behind, hoping that fallow would appear from the valley and cross in front of me heading back towards the larger wood directly behind me. Dave & Charlie headed off to their seat - and we waited....
As the wind got up, I realised that in my excitement, I'd left my fleece in the car. Boy, did I regret that as the bitterly cold wind whipped me . Note to self: don't do that again. I huddled up, stopped my teeth from chattering, and scoured the gloom, trying to pick out any movement in the darkness.... As the day dawned, visibility obviously improved; the f***in temperature didn't though!!. With no sign of fallow moving in their vicinity, Dave let me know that they would stalk on foot along a wooded area, and come around to scoop me up. No deer spotted - but we all agreed that it was time for a hearty brekkie anyway! As we walked back to the truck we chatted and spotted lots of sign of deer, it just so happened that they were elsewhere that morning.
After a substantial fry-up at a local café - and I do mean substantial (!) - we bought a box of clays, scooped up the shotguns (Dave's, plus 2 that I'd brought down), a few of Dave's rifles, and headed off to a nearby farm for a spot of informal lead-slinging followed by a dash of claybusting. There were 3 of us in the truck - and 3 shotguns plus 5 rifles; must have seemed like we were ready to undertake some kinda military coup! Clays in general aren't really my thing, but a friendly and relaxed couple of mates and a trap thing is entirely different, and between us we got through around 170 cartridges, using both the 12b o/u and the 20b s/s - plenty of laughs along the way, mostly - if I'm honest, directed at Charlie and his inability to grasp when to shout 'pull'! (...and the afternoon's entertainment was topped off watching Dave and the farmer's kids career around a muddy field on his monkey-bike.....our very own SD Evel Kneivel?? )
Back to Dave's and after a quick cleanout of the guns, it was time to hop into the trick and head out again for the evening. I opted to return to the highseat I'd been in that morning (wearing a few more layers this time.....), Dave and Charlie were into a double seat on the other side of the large wood.
Despite squinting for all I was worth and willing the fallow to show, unfortunately neither of us spotted a deer - but as far as I'm concerned, that's hunting; sometimes you see stuff, sometimes you don't!
We regrouped and made our way back to the truck in the darkness, and then headed back up the m6 - with Charlie falling asleep almost before I'd reached the end of Dave's road .
We both really enjoyed our day, and so a huge thanks to Dave; he is a top bloke - even if we did nearly fall out over who was going to pay for breakfast..... Anyone who spends time with him will have a good time, and he was genuinely disappointed that the fallow didn't show for us - but again, that's just how it is sometimes. Charlie learnt more about stalking in the company of a knowledgeable individual, and importantly for me with my 'Dad' hat on, he behaved himself and was safety conscious at all times.
Cheers Dave. Top man.