Wow, what a day!
The DSC1 pass arriving two weeks ago, I've been itching to get out onto my deer permission. Particularly since the deer have never been shot there and the ground is riddled with Roe and Muntjac. The difficulty, it was only cleared for rimfire. I can perhaps understand why, with two of the four sides bordered by roads / housing, although with a large railway embankment on the bottom end, perfectly safe shots with good backstops are plenty available if due care, diligence and common sense are applied. Thankfully, I'd done enough for a letter to the licensing authority to result in the land condition on my FAC being removed. Just in time. With a week off this week, I started sorting the garage to make the space needed for the new interest yesterday and planned the trip for today.
The permission 1 1/4 hours away, the alarm was set for 03:30 to enable arrival by 05:00 and to be out on the ground in the key area by 05:30 to avoid too much movement as the light became sufficient to see clearly. I started on a long straight hedge running parallel to the railway embankment, but it just didn't feel right. So, I headed for a field where I'd seen lots of signs of deer with my mentor previously, and playing over and over in my mind over the last few weeks, felt would be the best single spot. The hedge here was pretty wide with a clear gap that enabled one to observe the whole field, fully covered from view. Arriving in the spot and kneeling down, a cock pheasant sat 60m away, squawking loudly. Resisting the nagging doubts that I was still in the wrong spot, I figured that any other wildlife would think that if the pheasant wasn't disturbed from his business, they too would be lulled into thinking all was safe.
Another 15-minutes enjoying the pheasants display and steam rising off the field, suddenly several roe appeared at the far end of the field 260m away. Very quickly, there were a good half dozen visible and still more coming, almost all Bucks. They played their way down the far hedgerow getting closer all the time, but even at the closest point it would still be 140m away. The heart now going like the clappers, I dropped to the prone position and extended the bipod, now bitterly regretting not removing the roe sack sooner. It was pushing my head downwards and making me breath very heavily with the effort of maintaining position, making it hard to get a good and stable sight picture. Forcing myself to calm down and finally sufficiently confident of a good broadside shot, a gentle squeeze was followed a split second later by a resounding thump. Clearly a very good contact, not the slightly hollow sound of a gut shot as observed on Youtube and although ~160m, the fall of shot would be bang on and with a good although strained sight picture and solid follow through, I had no reason to believe not a good boiler room shot that should result in a quick expiry. The Buck staggered around a little while I reloaded and then dropped from view into the hedge.
To my surprise, the rest carried on as if nothing had happened, so a second Buck was forthcoming, staggering around and also just dropping from view into the hedge. Still, they just moved a little further down the field. Now around 180m but confident in my marksmanship and keen to make an impact on the numbers as not able to get to this permission very often, selecting a third clean antlered Buck this time (the other two were still in velvet), a gentle squeeze and again a solid contact, the Buck this time running 20-30m into the field and dropping. Waiting the obligatory 5 minutes to ensure all the rest of the deer were gone, I took stock of the last 40-50 seconds, simply stunned at how fast everything had happened and the measure of success.
Reaching the clean antlered Buck, I was delighted to find in clearly outstanding condition:
Concerned about the other two, I left untouched, made my way to the hedge and started working my way up towards the end of the field seeking sight of the other two. Reaching the end of the field and finding a patch just clear enough to force a way through, I crossed the ditch and emerged into the ploughed field on the other side. As hoped, the second Buck was 40-50m down the hedge just on the edge of the field, ~15m from where shot. Deciding to start the bleed while looking for the first Buck, I slit the neck/carotid artery as I'd been shown on Fallow. Nothing came out. Holding up from the back end and pumping the chest, still nothing happened so I decided to proceed with the gralloch. Only having seen on Youtube and DVD, I frankly made a right pigs ear of this, my first, including rupturing the bladder sending pee everywhere. Equally, I felt a fair effort for a first and popped the carcass into the Roe Sack. Continuing down the hedge, I spotted the first Buck right in the middle another 20m down. Deciding it would be easier to reach from the other side, I continued to the other end of the field and again found an area just clear enough to force another crossing, very glad of the new Harkila Stalking Boots, which disappeared into 6-inches of water on the way. Extracting the first Buck, the gralloch went a little easier this second time, but I still ruptured the bladder A breather was then felt in order along with a photo call:
Shooting position in the hedge ringed in red:
Finally, learning from all the mistakes from the first two, this third gralloch went pretty well and I properly cut out the back passage, ensuring the whole contents exited and without rupturing the bladder. So, onto a few pics of the fantastic Dougster Stalker knife, now well and truly blooded:
A lot of kit, but everything carried was used and the tip to carry disinfecting wipes came in extremely useful. I was also very glad of the small first aid kit, when the first cut on the first gralloch resulted in a slip and healthy slice of the thumb
Now for the extraction and a sudden regret that I had three heavy deer to move almost a mile. I had hoped the roe sack would take two, but with rigor setting in, only one would fit. So, I 'paunched' (sorry, I can't remember the deer equivalent term) the remaining two, slung my rifle and picking them up like handbags and staggered back towards the farm. No longer the fit young buck I was, I made half the distance before realising I really couldn't get everything back in one go. Leaving the two 'handbags' under a hedge, on reaching the farm, I was extremely relieved that the farmer (lifelong family friend) offered to pick up the remaining two with his landrover. After collecting the carcasses, I repaid some of his kindness with collecting him from town after he dropped the Landrover in for MOT and isolating the fault with his broadband connection. Although also originally planning to share the venison cottage pie I'd brought him for lunch, I realised time from shot was ticking on and the endeavours to ensure the carcasses continued to cool would only work so far and it was time to hot foot it home.
Dropping the two velvetted Buck carcasses at the gamedealer on the way home to experience that end of the process, it was on with the butchery. The hot day putting me off using the kids swing frame in the back garden, but not yet having had time to install rings in the garage ceiling, with head and hooves gone, I felt improvising with using one of the door opener frames should work and indeed it did:
Demonstrated by my mentor once and then making a right royal mess of a second he helped me with part way, I was delighted to find the skinning go very well this time:
A quick refresher watch of the first Roe Butchery vid on You tube and I was equally surprised to find the butchery also go well, with very little wastage:
Running out of time and energy tonight, the cuts went into the fridge and I'll finish off and tidy up ready for the freezer tomorrow. In the meantime, the three heads are in the freezer until I find the time and inclination to strip and prepare for the wall plaques.
Thanks for reading chaps and sincere thanks to my mentor and all the SD crew that have made all this possible in just six short months. I've scratched the surface of all that is to be learned, but am delighted with the solid start and a truly unforgettable first solo stalk