Just thought I'd share some more of my newbie learning curve for anyone who fancies a read.
Yesterday I headed down to ELMER FUDD's patch near Monmouth. Barry (Elmer) has been really good to me, determined to get me a deer after my first and second stalks with him didn't produce. This was a special day also, as my dog Poppy was coming out with me for the first time stalking.
The omens weren't good to start with. Meeting Barry at a gateway and sending my wife off shopping for the day we were immediately greeted by a tractor chugging its way into the woods we were planning to stalk. Barry said that the forestry commission had chosen that day to start some works they'd been talking about for months.
Quickly bundling my kit and the dog in Barry's truck, we drove down the track only to be told by one of the foresters to turn around. Not to worry, we'd stalk the opposite end of the wood and see if anything was moving where it was still quiet.
I was surprised at how little Poppy faffed. On a long lead clipped to my belt she happily padded out in front, although she did seem to be sniffing rabbits a lot and occasionally got over excited and started pulling on scents.
As we passed a block of Hemlock on the left she suddenly started smelling the air and turned to face into the woods. She was very reluctant to come away, but the plantation was far too dense for us to see what she might have been marking. I'd never really seen that behavior in her though, it was totally different to when she wants to hunt ground trails. Maybe it was deer, maybe a rabbit or a squirrel. Still, I was pleased she seemed to have indicated on something.
We stalked on, Poppy marking scents the same way a few more times but never where we could see anything. She also tried her best to drag me along chasing a squirrel, which didn't earn her any points. No deer seen, we headed back to the truck for a drive (via the chip shop) to a different farm.
Arriving at the farm, Barry drove us to a hilltop to eat the chips and I watched a group of six deer through my binoculars. Too far away for now, but they seemed to be moving towards us into a woodland area, the closest edge of which was overlooked by the high seat Barry planned for me to sit in for the last hours of light.
Chips finished and wrapped up against the breeze I left Barry in the truck overlooking the woods and the seat I'd be in, and walked carefully to the solitary oak tree that housed it. I left the dog with Barry and apparently she was soon fast asleep. The excitement must have been too much!
I settled down in the seat, which had a good view of a fair length of woodland margin. The breeze was getting gusty and sometimes bringing with it a thin drizzle, so I was glad of my neckwarmer which I pulled up Ninja style over my face.
Unfortunately despite my best hopes and staying right up til the light had definitely gone, and the cold was creeping in even more, no deer showed. No such thing as third time lucky for me when it comes to Barry's fallow, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm cursed. Maybe I just had it too easy on my first outings!
So, watch this space, maybe next time I'll have that freezer filler I've been after. In the meantime, my passion for stalking isn't losing its edge despite not taking any deer these last few times. I still love being out and about, even sat in a cold highseat there's a satisfaction to be had in the quietness and the ability to sit and watch undisturbed. I'm also learning each timeI go out, whether it's "what tree is this?" or what makes a good place to spot deer. Hopefully next time the lesson will be "How does a fallow look when you gralloch it?"