I donít normally write up accounts of my outings, more than half of the time they are just lovely walks whilst carrying a rifle and watching the wildlife. I have been out four times this year the first was a short stalk to a highseat in a 30ac wood which yielded a Roe doe. The second and third outings, both in the same highseat, did not make a dent in my ammunition stock. I did see a rather majestic Roe Buck on the third outing which really made my day. I was able to watch it for a good ten minutes before he wandered down the ride into the wood.
Saturday morning was different. I decided to travel to a Christmas tree plantation about 45mins drive from me where the owner has asked me to help him control the Roe and Muntjac populations. Knowing that there would be a fair covering of snow I wrapped up and even put a pair of old winter rowing lycra on under my trousers. Being a reasonable acreage and more suited to staying on the high ground and observing what moves below I asked a friend of mine if he like to join. We set off at 6 arriving just before first light after negotiating some pretty awful roads. It was overcast and just above 0íc. There was less wind than the BBC told me there should be but enough of a light breeze to help us out. We opted to stick in the wood line over looking the trees. I stood in the north facing edge whilst he sat up in the east facing block. Having discussed the plan in the car we decided that this would give us the best coverage of the ground with safe shooting in our defined arcs.
At about 0830 four deer came out of the far wood line in my arc and were frolicking about in the short firs. I knew that the wood line was approximately 350m from my position so I estimated that the deer were at about 300m. There was very little cover between myself and the deer except 1 foot high nordmann fir trees running in rows parallel to my line of sight to the deer. I crawled out of the wood line towards the deer. The snow wasnít too noisy, or at least it didnít seem that way with a full face cover on. Regardless, the wind was blowing from the north west and I was crawling almost exactly due north. I forgot how slow and tiring crawling is, snow or not. It seemed to take an age to crawl all of 50ish metres. I got my rf out, (Thanks Eric the Red!) and it read 254m. Even prone with a bipod I was not comfortable with this and my heart rate was up. I crawled further but at this point it started to snow lightly. The deer moved slowly back towards the wood line and round a dogleg in the hedge. I crawled east towards the hedge line and when they were out of sight I could finally stand up using the hedge as cover and walk another 50m odd down the field. As I approached the dog leg it was back to crawling.
As I was getting into position the snow got heavier, huge soft snowflakes. The deer went over a slight rise down into the wood allowing me to use the dead ground to stay low and creep forwards on to the rise. From here I could barley see the deer in the wood due to the heavy snow fall. I knew I was between 50 and 60 m from the wood line. RFs were rendered useless by the falling snow. The deer were inside the wood staying sheltered. From my prone position I waited until my heart rate and snowfall eased. I could see a Roe behind a tree but only its rear end! I waited probably 4-5mins but what seemed like 20mins before it took a couple of steps forward. Roe doe. The snow was still coming down heavily but I could see well enough. I fired and managed to keep her in my fov and saw her take a step forward. I reloaded but could not find her in the scope. I went from 8x to 6x but no joy. (my bins are 10x) Watching for movement four Roe deer bust out of the wood and ran within 10m of me The snow had covered me in white, almost invisible to the deer. I shouted but they didnít stop. I watched all four run down the dip and then into the wood I started out from.
A cold sinking feeling entered my stomach. I was certain that it was a good shot. I was absolutely still with good body position, pressure on the bipod, squeeze of the trigger. Four deer in, four deer out. Surely I hadnít missed. I had mentally marked the tree the deer was standing next to, a big oak with a dead stump behind to the right. I checked the safety catch and walked slowly forward checking for signs of movement no sign of anything. No blood in the snow where the deer had surged past just before.
I reached my mark, the oak tree. An obvious blood trail. I turned around and saw lying about 5m away to the west was the doe. Many feelings passed through very quickly, relief and elation being the greatest. I checked for signs of life, unloaded and carried the doe back up to the wood line. After spending the best part of ten mins trying to find my sticks in the snow (I left them behind before my crawl ), my friend approach from the east probably seeing my smile before anything else. Quick gralloch and then off home for a change into warm dry clothes and a well deserved fry up.
Sorry to bore you all with the length of this but I am still smiling writing it. There is something magical about that morning stalk in the snow.
All the very best.