Having had an outing cancelled during the week because of the rain, I decided to head out this morning on the basis that it is meant to be the best day of the Bank Holiday weekend.
Arriving at the ground at 04:45, I let Fallow out of the car and got myself ready. A quick spy into a small field next to a copse showed a muntjac buck grazing his way towards me. I had the rifle up on the sticks and was looking at him when he changed his mind and headed away. Maybe it was no bad thing, as grassing a beast within 10 minutes of arriving wouldn't have seemed quite fair. He still had his antlers, though by next week there's a good chance he'll have shed them.
Walking back along the footpath I made my way to a small triangle of set aside. Another muntjac barked incessantly at me for the best part of 10 minutes, but although it could presumably see me I never caught sight of it. A movement in the distance caught my eye as a yearling roe buck appeared at the far end of the triangle. It slowly made its way towards me before disappearing behind some trees on the far side. Moving quickly I tried to catch up, taking a short cut through the copse. I stood still as a roe doe appeared ahead of me by a feeder. Unsure of what I was, she paced back and forth and tried to catch my scent. A month or so ago it would have been easy to add this doe to the cull, but now she was delaying me catching up with the buck. Eventually the doe decided I was not good news, and she bounded away with a gruff bark.
Coming out of the copse I spied the edge of the wood looking for the buck, but my delay because of the doe had given him time to make good his escape. Carrying on along the side of the wood I headed towards a valley that's a magnet for deer. Dropping down into the valley I decided to spend 15 minutes by a tree with my rifle on the sticks and see what might come out.
Sure enough, 5 minutes later two roebucks appeared about 150 yards away - one a nice 6 pointer and the other a yearling. They made their way out into the valley, grazing as they went. The older buck then decided that the valley was too exposed, and came back towards where I was standing. Looking at him through the scope confirmed him as a good six pointer - and one to leave for a guest. Switching my attention back to the yearling he was now following the older buck. As he came towards the trees he paused for a mouthful of grass, and I took the shot. He leaped in the air and fell, only to get back up again and turn broadside on. Looking through the scope I could see the original exit wound - there was plenty of dark blood but I could also see that the shot had been a fraction low. The buck stood there motionless, and with another round already in the chamber I squeezed the trigger again.
At this the buck turned and dashed into the trees on my side of the valley, disappearing from sight. I hadn't seen a definite reaction to the second shot and my heart sank. Loading another round I gave it 5 minutes and then walked to the shot site. Fallow ran on ahead, causing frost and dew to fly from the grass. I got near the location and started to search for signs of blood. Fallow was 5 or 10 metres ahead of me and had her head down, licking the grass. Walking up to her side I could see paint and pins, the dark blood confirming that the first shot had hit the liver. I knew the buck would be dead, but I still couldn't see him. With Fallow ahead of me we walked towards the wood, now seeing great gobs of blood as we went. Looking towards the trees I almost tripped over the buck, which had fallen in the tractor ruts that make up the track.
Checking the buck's eye with my stick I said a quick word of thanks, then dragged the buck into the woods to perform the gralloch.
I checked the ribcage to validate my initial impression of the shots. Sure enough, the first shot had indeed been a couple of inches low. The second, to which I'd seen no reaction, had pinned both shoulders. Both would have been killing shots, but I was pleased that I'd taken the follow-up shot when the opportunity was there.
A few minutes later I had the buck in the sling and gathered up my kit to start the long walk back to the car. A successful stalk was behind me and the sun was now burning off the frost. All things considered, a good start to the Bank Holiday weekend.