This weekend, I had the pleasure of returning once again to Sikamalc’s patch in West Sussex in pursuit once more of the roebuck that have eluded me for the past three years. This was quite a special trip in that I had the luxury of travelling there by car courtesy of my newest stalking buddy and, conveniently, neighbour, Foss. I didn’t have to ruthlessly pack everything tightly in as few bags as possible, I didn’t have to take collapsible iceboxes and foldable trolleys to take a deer home, I didn’t have to make myself inconspicuous on public transport, it was all just so easy! This is how everyone else does it! On the way there, talking to Foss, I discovered that he really doesn’t need to pay for any additional stalking, and that he genuinely just wanted to come stalking with Malc and myself, for which I am very grateful, especially since we’d only met once before at the SD London drinks evening about a year ago. So Foss, thanks very much indeed, I really appreciate it, and let’s do something like this again sometime! Perhaps Scrumbag and/or Geoshot, also local gents, may like to join in?
We met Malcolm for lunch at a pub near the bothy, where it quickly emerged that he and Foss had spent years staking in the same part of the Highlands, to the extent that they knew the same people, the same rivers, rocks, slopes, individual tree stumps and specific holes in peat bogs, so when they started talking, they were unstoppable. No difficulty in making friends there, then! But at some point, lunch had to stop, so we went off to the B&B to suit up before heading off to the bothy. It was hot, it was humid, and all our gear is to designed to deal with the more usual cold and wet weather, but like air conditioning in the UK, it’s just not really worth investing in warm weather equipment for the one weekend every five years when you may need it. So inappropriately dressed, Foss was set up in a highseat (the same one where I spent a morning the same time last year, being eaten by midges) and given a block of forestry to peruse at his leisure, whilst I stalked on foot with Malc.
The stalking part of this story is going to be short. Specifically, 5.62km at an average speed of 1.92km/h according to my Ordnance Survey iPhone App. The vegetation was very high, the wheat wasn’t yet harvested, and essentially, no deer were showing. We spotted two does lying in two different fields, their heads just popping up from the wheat on occasion, mostly we were looking at a pair of ears, but there were no bucks in attendance. Plenty of evidence of where bucks had been chasing does or each other around in the wheat the day before, but they weren’t coming out to play for us. However, no experience is a wasted one, because Malc did teach me how to use the Butolo call he’d told me to buy, so next time, next time…
It was 9.30pm by the time I walked up to Foss’ highseat on the off-chance that he was still there, since no-one had any mobile phone signal, and sure enough, there he was, having been around his beat in the interim. I’ll let him tell his story, but he hadn’t seen much either, just a roe doe and a fallow hind. We stopped for a hugely anticipated ice cold pint of cider on the way back to the B&B, before dining on a fantastic pork pie and a bottle of Sauternes that Foss had brought. I tell you, this trip was just five star all the way! Then a very short night, before the alarm went off, and Foss’ first words were “I hope I didn’t snore”, forcing me to immediately try and be friendly and polite, whereas actually I wanted to make an expletive-laden tirade about why on earth I choose to pursue hobbies that involve sleeping even less than I do at home with a small baby.
By 4.15am, we were back at the bothy. “You look the way I feel” said Malc kinldy to me by way of greeting. This time, I was to return to the highseat from which I’d shot my first deer, a fallow pricket, almost three years ago now I think. It didn’t look the same in July, with all the vegetation being taller than I was! As soon as I had sat down, it started to rain. Well, at least this seat has a roof on it! Visibility wasn’t great, it was all quiet with no birdsong, and I have to admit to fighting to keep my eyes open. I had to give myself things to do to stay awake, so I set up my camera on the rail as I thought that if a deer turned up, I could try and film the action. In the event, that turned out to be useless, I had to resort to taking highseat selfies.
I didn’t see so much as a squirrel, just a buzzard that set up residence in a tree to my right, perhaps waiting for me to provide breakfast.
Three and a half hours later, Malcolm and Foss approached in the distance, whistling first to warn me. They’d had no luck either, although they had had an opportunity, but again, that’s Foss’ story. “I was just telling Foss that you’re probably wearing your magic roe-repellent pants again” said Malc. Well remembered. Clearly my “magic wildfowling pants”, a pair of camo boxers that a friend gave me for Christmas a few years back, are no better for roe than they are for wildfowl.
It just remains for me to thank Malc for as always, doing his utmost to try and put me in front of a deer and for the good-natured smartypantsness. And of course my thanks go to Foss for being a great new stalking companion: hopefully, the first of many trips, once of which will eventually end up involving a roebuck! Unfortunately, I’m all out of stalking for this year, so that muntjac buck of mine will remain alone on the wall until next season. Ah well, at least I still have things to look forward to .