Not been out since last summer and was champing at the bit so, more in hope than expectation, I gave Colin (Solwaystalker) a shout on Sunday to see if he could fit me in on the bank holiday Monday. Turns out he had the evening free so I headed down the next afternoon to meet him at Forrest Estate. I stalked there last summer and shot a buck, having seen large numbers of other deer and Colin always tries his best for you so I was feeling hopeful it would be worth springing some cash from the rifle fund!
Turned out it was one of those days though where it just didn't happen for one reason or another... First off we guessed the wind wrong on a circular stalk and it was blowing into our backs for most of the way round. The ground looked fantastic though, with tons of slots and browse signs so it would no doubt have been hoaching with deer if we'd decided to go anti-clockwise!
On to the next patch of clear fell where Colin had seen a decent buck chasing a youngster the day before. Wind was right this time and we stalked in from the track and up onto a mound that should have afforded a view over the whole area where we expected there to be activity. The buck was there alright but much closer to our point of approach than we expected and he must have heard something as his was one of two backsides we saw heading in the opposite direction just as we crested the mound. He wasn't for stopping but as we watched him head into the distance we spotted another pair - doe and a buck in velvet - feeding at least 200-250 yards out. Had a really stable position on the bipod but we'd have been guessing on range and hence hold over so definitely not a shot for me and we decided to mark their position then retreat and head further round the track before stalking in to a closer vantage point about 50 yards from them.
Can't blame the wind again so must have made too much noise getting into position because just like the first attempt we got almost there without disturbing them and then they bolted just as we tried to crawl the last 10 yards to achieve a shooting position. Got up and on the sticks but they kept going and that was the last proper chance gone.
Back to the truck and Colin put in some more miles to check likely spots before it got dark. And we did see plenty more deer, but normally heading at speed across the forest roads rather than settled in the stalkable areas we hoped to find them. Reckon we saw well over 15 deer - bucks, does and hinds - so they were certainly there but didn't seem very settled and when they were shootable our silent-footed ninja stalking skills deserted us. With hindsight, perhaps it was tempting fate to buy a gambrel and new larder knife from Cheshire Lad last week...
Still a lovely place though and who needs a rifle anyway (I'd rather go stalking!)