I was out on Friday night, meeting the person I would be guiding at 7pm. A short drive to the stalking ground gave a chance to spy for any deer already out on the way, though none were showing.
Having parked the cars a quick scan down the side of the wood we'd be stalking turned up three roe does on the narrow headland between the wood and a field of rape. Deciding that the lay of the land made it pointless to try stalking along the outside, we headed into the wood and made our way along the track.
I often think this time of the year, when the undergrowth is growing at the maximum rate, is the most difficult. Any muntjac would have been invisible unless it stepped on the track, and scanning the woodland ahead was really a question of spotting the gaps.
Having carefully stalked about 300 metres I could see the three does were still quietly grazing. Calling my companion forwards we watched them for 5 minutes until they decided to come into woods themselves. Picking their way through the brambles they suddenly saw us on the track. Standing broadside on they tried to make out what we were and then, deciding we were no good, bounded away - the three white caudal patches disappearing into the gathering gloom. They hadn't barked, which suggested to me that they were still unsure as to what they had seen, so we carried on forwards at stalking pace, stopping every 10-15 metres to scan carefully.
About 50 metres later I caught site of another patch of chestnut outside the wood, that then transformed itself into a nice six point buck. Again my companion came forwards, and I got him to get his rifle up on the sticks. As ever, trying to point out a deer that you can see to someone who doesn't know where it is proved a challenge. This wasn't helped by the buck moving behind a thick patch of trees and brambles, obscuring him from our view.
Seeing a gap in the woodland edge about 10 metres ahead of where we'd last seen the buck, I motioned my companion to get ready should the buck appear and come into the woods. As if on cue, the buck stepped into the woods. Again I could see him clearly but my companion, two steps to my right, couldn't. The buck was looking straight at us, but appeared unconcerned. It took two more steps forwards and now my companion could see him but couldn't get a clear shot. The buck turned and quartered away from us, and started to walk with a purpose. There was only one gap for a possible shot, so whispering the plan to my companion I gave a gentle whistle. The buck stopped, only to drop in his tracks a second later once the trigger was pulled on the .308.
I could see the undergrowth moving where the buck had dropped, so we waited a minute as quietness again descended on the woods. We then walked forwards to find the buck lying motionless.
Though out of velvet, and with large coronets, there was not as much colour to the antlers as I'd first suspected, and another week or so and they would have darkened considerably. Dragging it the short distance out to the field edge, my companion then gralloched the beast and we carried it back to the car. The shot had been perfectly placed, entering behind one shoulder and exiting ahead of the other, taking out the heart and lungs on the way.
Although we'd only covered perhaps 500 metres since our arrival, it had been a very satisfying stalk, repaying our careful progress with a lovely six pointer.