After a week in London, commuting in every day from folks in the Chilterns, but with a number of walks through the woods with dogs and getting intoxicated on the sent of bluebells - springtime in the Chilterns is very special, Easter Saturday saw the alarm being set for 5am. If you can get up early for work even easier to get up for fun! I crawled out of bed.
Picked led up my combination gun, bins and knife, jumped into the car and went over to friends farm over ther other side of the Forth. They were up and about checking on the ewes and lambs. It was a beautiful blue and breathless morning. Leaves on the trees not quite there yet, but just ready to burst - a couple of goods days warmth will do it. Woodland floor bright verdant green, blue bells just coming - a good ten days later than down south, but primroses and cowslips in full bloom. A quick cup of coffee, and friend son and I set out. He came along for the experience.
Very tricky stalking, bright sun and virtually no wind. So moved slowly. But I am not good at moving slowly, nor is the son, and every twig seemed to snap. We bumped two does and a buck. They moved off up the hill and we stopped. "Let's not push them - they will go off and settle up on the top and we will get into them from above". We relaxed, and a quick lesson in walking quietly we set off around the hill. There is a grassy track running alongside the loch at the base of the wood. Easy and quiet to walk along. Wind now in our face, but also the sun - now just appearing above the hill. Half way along we spy a buck grassing amongst some bushes on the neighbours land. A couple of does are feeding quietly on our side of the march. We take a pew - they will come into the wood, hopefully bring the buck. Ten minutes later the does move in and the buck vanishes. We give it a few more minutes and move on quietly. Nothing, but did n't matter. Air is filled with birdsong, a pair of grebes dancing on the loch. Frost on the grass, turning to dew when the sun hits it - it's magical.
Plan - let's walk along the bottom relaxed and we will circle around the back of the hill and come down onto the wood from above. We just walked away no longer stalking, but just enjoying the morning. Checked the ewes on the way through - quite a few new born lambs just wobbling about.
Lets to go very slowly now, there will be something tucked into the bushes as we come over this rise. First patch of gorse nothing, but move slowly. 40 yards further on. What's that on the wood edge - brown and vee shaped. 30 yards away it grows into a pair of ears. We sink down, sun behind us. A doe is curled up looking away from - the vee is the back of her head. Her yearling doe is curled up next to her. It's amazing how well camouflaged they are. These are the pair we bumped earlier, the buck will be close by. They are on the edge, there is a big drop of behind them. We sit quietly, sun on our backs in no hurry. rifle is on the sticks ready for a shot if it presents itself. A buck stands up from behind a fallen oak tree. He's big and solid - stretches and has a scratch. Far too good to take - or is he? He's looking at us, we sit still, he turns away, up go the bins. Antlers are a bit spindly - probably going back me thinks. Possibly should take him. But academic at the moment because I can only see the top half his body above the fallen tree. I could neck him - it's only 30 yards after all. But he is at the top of the bank and there is absolutely no safe shot. So we watch. The wind is in our faces, and the sun is behind us - they don't know we are there.
the does stand a up and start stretching. They have a few nibbles. The buck moves from behind the log. There is a patch of grass my side of the fallen tree - he comes round to this side. Now shooting down into solid ground - would have to be a neck shot though to be safe. he starts grazing, rifle slowly into shoulder, cross settles at the junction between knock and head, safe back drop, take a deep breath, relax and the lower the rifle.
He's too good take and it's too beautiful a morning to disturb. Quietly the three deer just melt away. Our plan worked. A wonderful morning that will be with both of us for a long time. There are plenty of stalks but not as many magical moments as that.