The middle of last week I received a telephone call from my friend Roedinator who asked the question “What are you doing on the weekend, do you fancy coming down to give me a bit of a hand with the sheds, and we will do a bit of stalking”? There could only be one answer and I jumped at the chance, maybe a little late but my Christmas had finally arrived as when Roedinator says a little stalking he’s generally understating the case and there would be plenty of stalking action, he doesn’t do anything by halves.
The plan was that I should arrive on Saturday morning and that we should spend most of the day dismantling his pheasant rearing sheds and runs that this year were still up long after normal due to pressures of work and other activities. The very high winds of the previous week had give Roedinator a sharp reminder that he had to somehow find the time to take them down, clean them off and stack them ready for the next rearing season that was still many months away. My arrival at Roedinator’s was a bit delayed due to severe frost on Friday night followed by rain that left the roads absolutely treacherous. In fact by 6.30 p.m. on Friday evening when I got in the car to go out shooting it was already covered in a heavy frost. On Saturday morning I witnessed the results of two separate incidents where cars had slid off the main road between my home and the motorway which was only a distance of some seven miles.
Not that I got that far without incident myself. I hate gralloching in the dark which I consider potentially dangerous so always carry at least one torch when stalking in the evening. As I had used the torch when shooting the previous evening I plugged the in-car battery charger for my torch in and left the car ticking over to defrost while I scraped the ice off the windscreen and windows. I suddenly became aware of the strong acrid smell of burning plastic and on opening the car door was confronted by smoke coming from the charger. The charger was unplugged and fortunately no apparent damage caused other than to the charger itself but a few moments longer and I’m sure a fire would have ignited. This was the first time that I had used that charger all previous charges had been via the mains charger, lucky escape me thinks.
I was half expecting to see deer on the way down to Roedinator’s but saw none that morning, though three roe on the hillside behind Roedinator’s house taunted us in the sun all afternoon while we worked on the rearing field dismantling the sheds and pens. Would the roe still be out that evening was the question we both asked ourselves?
We kitted up and set off early taking the quad with us. As usual Roedinator after studying the wind all afternoon had devised a stalking plan. We initially stalked away from the truck together but after covering some distance we separated so that we would cover the largest area of the remaining ground and maximise any opportunities. That was not before Roedinator gave me clear precise instructions as to the area that I should cover and the area that he would be stalking. The idea was that I was to stalk to a pile of silage bales that overlooked a field of new lay grass that was facing a wood. I was to cover that field and the two larger adjoining fields. He assured me that the deer would come out of the wood and into the field in front of me. After half an hour or so the first roe came out but she either didn’t present a shot, or she kept disappearing back into the wood. I turned away for a moment and was scanning the other fields after she had popped back into the woods for the third time. On turning around again three roe had magically materialised in front of me right in the middle of the field. After a little time studying the deer I selected the one to take and resting on a silage bale took the shot. The shot was about 150 yards and the 150 grain Game King did its job dropping the doe pretty much on the spot, the other two roe ran off. After confirming death I dragged her to the edge of the wood and started to gralloch her by now it was starting to get dark and so I phoned Roedinator to let him know the result. Unfortunately while he had seen deer himself he had been unable to get a shot but told me to remain where I was and he would bring the quad to me. I didn’t have time to complete the gralloch before I heard the quad coming along the headland. I have to admit that taking the deer back by quad is an awful lot easier than carrying it all that way back to the truck. Also that ever the gent Roedinator had put his guest in the best spot yet once again.
Once again while there had at first been a frost overnight it had given way to rain mid way through the night. We wondered if the roe would be out to dry their backs that morning and to enjoy any morning sun, this turned out to be the case. Again kitted up and with the quad in tow we were at the stalking ground before first light. Roedinator once again had it all planned out and the wind being favourable he dropped me off to stalk one side of a very large wood and he with Elle his GWP would stalk the other side of the wood. I was stalking down a steep bank when I saw the first roe walking along the fence line back towards the woods. Not a chance of clear identification or a shot at that distance and by the time I had stalked close enough it was back in the woods.
I took up position under some large oak trees as I had been instructed to do and shortly as the light improved I could see two roe well out in the very large field of new lay grass in front of me. I guess that the field was at least 50 acres perhaps and the deer were probably in excess of 300 yards away. Once again the deer seemed to be heading to me right in the direction of the large wood. I was just pondering if there was a way to approach closer when a large dog fox entered the field from the left and proceeded to walk between me and the deer just that he was only some 30 or 40 yards at most from me. When directly between us the fox suddenly spotted me and was away in a panic but fortune was with me and he didn’t spook the deer that by now have moved into a depression in the field.
Having no alternative I decided that a direct approach across the field was worth a try and had just got crouched down within easy shooting distance when one of the three does, one as yet unseen, that were in the depression spotted something wrong or caught a wiff on the slightly swirly wind and made off to the far side of the field. They stood watching for some time but were obviously unable to make me out clearly, but there was no chance of me getting any closer so I had no alternative but to retrace my steps.
I then decided to stalk into the high seat that overlooks a natural bowl and when approaching the corner of the wood saw two roe does stood right next to the seat 100 yards away. I watched and waited for a short time so that they would move away from the seat; after all I didn’t want to put a hole in one of the steel support legs of the free standing seat. The rifle was up on the sticks and ready and the shot was eventually taken at a distance of about 90 yards. I was just walking towards the downed doe when all of a sudden a whole parcel of roe erupted from the bowl in front of the seat and moved up the bank the seat overlooked. Knowing that Roedinator was keen to take several from this area I immediately put the rifle back on the sticks and shot another doe across the small valley. I heard the shot connect but the doe made it to the edge of the woods but I was certain that it dropped immediately on entering the wood. That should have been enough but yet again another group of roe erupted from the small valley and one stood looking across the valley too long and I was tempted to take another shot. This time I didn’t hear the whack and while I thought my aim was true I wasn’t confident thought that I may have missed.
Rather than trample about disturbing any scent trail I planted my sticks where I thought the strike point was and gave Roedinator a call and asked if he would bring Elle down. While we were talking on the phone in whispers he suddenly proclaimed “got to go, got to go” and with that the phone went dead, however I did hear a shot shortly afterwards and when he phoned back it was to inform me that two roe had suddenly walked right in front of him and that he had shot the doe.
By now I was unloaded and waiting near the high seat for Roedinator and Elle. I heard the quad coming when totally to my surprise a young buck and a doe came walking straight towards me and only run off when they were within 20 yards of me.
When Roedinator arrived he suggested that I take up position with rifle at the ready to the side of the small wood that the deer had run into just as a precaution that wounded deer should emerge once he and Elle had entered the wood. To my surprise in only two or three minutes he drove up to me with three roe in the box on the quad and Elle running alongside. They had found the doe I was sure I had hit immediately inside the wood and the other one that I was unsure of only a very short distance away. He took the deer back to the truck and I walked back with Elle while he collected the doe that he had shot.
It was then back to the larder with four deer to do before breakfast and then back to work on the sheds and pens but not before he deliberately bent my beloved garden cane shooting sticks in retaliation for shooting all his deer.
Even then the roe on the hillside came out to taunt us again and to enjoy the cold sunshine for what remained of the day. Roedinator did ask if I wanted to go out again Sunday evening but to be quite honest by then I was shattered and feeling quite drained. What a weekend, we did a bit of work and put five deer in the larder. Roedinator what a terrific guy, he always looks after his guests before himself and always puts them in the hot seat. Thanks again mate and thank Mr’s Roedinator for keeping me over nourished over the weekend. And just to spite you I managed to straighten my shooting sticks yesterday.
In total over the weekend we saw 23 or 24 roe on Roedinator’s ground not counting the three at the back of his house, and I even saw three roe standing on the corner of the wood opposite Dynham Park on the way home.