Well it all started about 2pm on Thursday last week. A friend who lives about an hour away gave me a call and said did I fancy having a go at a few deer before the end of the season…..does a bear **** in the woods I thought to myself…..and we agreed to head out this weekend.
Only problem was that my rifle wasn’t zero’d for expanding ammo. I’ve not had it too long and have always used the “estate rifle” to date. As such I had only used target ammo though it at the range. “Not a problem, we’ll set up a target on the Friday evening”. He said - WINNER!
My next problem was to actually get hold of some expanding ammo for my 6.5x55, its like trying to find rocking horse **** round here. Anyway, 5 phone calls and a 45 minute drive later saw me with 2 boxes of Nosler 120 grain Ballistic tips at £35 a box – Ouch!
Friday afternoon off, packed up my gear…checked the weather forecast (crap!) and loaded the motor and off I went.
Upon arrival we set up on the edge of one of the farmyard barns looking slightly up hill with a big hill to act as backstop, target up we started. To my surprise it was only about 5 inches out, a few clicks followed by a few shots followed by a few more clicks and a few more shots I was getting 3 shots into the red (2 inch square) at 100m. Not too bad seeing as it was peeing it down and the wind was blustery. Can’t show you the target as it disintegrated with being so wet.
All the while this was going on there was a rather damp hare getting closer and closer….it was very tempting to nail it in the head and have him for dinner, but as he wasn’t out target quarry (shame as I do like a bit of hare) I left him alone – Stupid Bunny!
With about 40 minutes till dusk we thought we’d have a quick drive round the farm to see what was about. We parked up a little way from two very large fields where the local fallow usually gather…sure enough they were there but must have caught wind of our scent and they scarpered sharpish. About 30 or so mix of does and bucks…including one VERY large white buck.
We didn’t pursue as it was getting to dark and so we head off to the pub for dinner and few beers. Nice to know there were a few about though.
The following morning saw the two of us (thick headed from the un-necessary amounts of beer the night before) up at 7am getting tooled up for the job in hand. Me with my Sweedish Mannlicher (makes me chuckle every time) and my friend with his .243. Sticks at the ready and full magazines each, off we went.
We drove to the top end of the farm, unloaded and started to stalk though some woods….it was very windy and being in the woods was swirling all around us, sometimes in our face, sometimes nearly blowing my hat off from behind.
Needless to say, they smelt us before we saw them – a group of fallow. My mate said to wait where we were and set up looking down the track while he doubled back and wondered off down another track (to try and send them back before they disappeared onto the adjoining farm) – Don’t worry all was safe, he knew where I was and I knew my arks of fire and where he was at all times.
Before he left, he left me with strict instructions not to shoot the biggest 6 males and leave any white ones…fair enough I thought and off he went. 10 minutes later I could hear the movement about 60 yards ahead….and through came 20 or so bucks at a reasonable pace. The only on that presented a safe shot…you guessed it the bloody big white one (same one from the night before). He stood perfect broadside…safe backstop….bold as brass. Don’t think he saw me as I was stood between a couple of trees, but he certainly looked at me, maybe it was my scent again (beer fumes).
It certainly got the heart racing a little having such a magnificent beast stood in front of me. Not because I wanted to take the shot, more just pleased to witness such a huge beast (easily the biggest buck in the group and the biggest I have seen in my limited experience) in its natural environment.
After another 10 mins or so my mate turned up (from behind me) having said he spooked a big herd of does as well as the bucks both of which were very ‘edgy’. I hadn’t seen the does but was chuffed that there were plenty about.
We stalked through the woods where the bucks had crossed to see if they had hung about on the two big fields (where we saw them the night before)….no sign, but it was foggy, windy and miserable.
We stalked between the two large fields along the hedge line to see the bucks and does having grouped together in the middle of one of the fields. There were now about 40-50 i guess bucks and does. They were really skittish, especially the does. But at 250-300m away they were not aware of us and they were out of ‘our’ range. We both climbed a couple of trees next to each other, to get a bit of height as the field was fairly flat, and waited to see if they would come any closer. They were running about all over the field without any particular reason and eventually they buggered off down the valley without presenting a shot. I could not get over how skittish these fallow were. Apparently the neighbouring farms and estates had been hitting them quite hard and any sign of man they run!
We thought we’d leave it a short while before pursuing, even thought he wind was now massively in our favour. We slowly meandered in the general direction that they had run, and got the binos out as we looked down the valley.
One of the reasons (albeit not the main reason) for not shooting the big white buck is that he stands out like a very sore thumb…even in relatively thick woodland. Sure enough we could see him and a few of the other bucks in a strip of forestry block to our left about 600-700m away. My mate said to me “you see that thin green embankment inside the wood running parallel to the woodblock….the other side of that is FC land and not ours”. Where was the big white fella?….you guessed it, with his chums 10m the other side of the green bank inside the wood.
We decided to try and stalk closer as they may well decide to come back onto my mates land to feed (wheat field just this side of the woodland). In we went, stalking the line of the green embankment. We got to within 40m of the group of bucks, all laid up and not a doe in sight. We must have spent 10 – 15 mins looking through the bins at them just chilling out. They were certainly much more relaxed now.
Apparently there was a footpath (in the FC woodland) another 100m the other side of the bucks, and being a Saturday morning there was a good chance that dog walkers or cyclists may disturb them back onto my mates land. And as luck would have it, just that happened, the group of 20 or so buck all stood up slowly (they were much calmer this time) and wondered from left to right about 40m in front, there were a couple that presented themselves but didn’t have a suitable backstop or they were stood next to each other until….you guessed it, the big white one stood perfectly broadside, still, with a good backstop. Again I didn’t bother raising my rifle, just looked at him and a few of his other mates who were also sporting very large racks.
After they passed, without noticing us, we decided to stalk after them, at which point, 300m to my right I saw a couple of dog walkers heading in the direction that the deer had just gone. We decided to wait to see if they’d head back out way and before we had time to set back up on the sticks all 20 odd bucks started walking back towards me, all head on. They walked directly at me; it got to the point that I could have poked the eyes out of the lead buck he was that close - about 5m away (and sporting a fairly good rack). It was bizarre as I wasn’t in cover, just stood ridged with my mate behind me who was also in the open, we stood there for what seemed like ages (but was probably only maybe a minute), heart pounding not wanting them to spook, and long enough for the old Elvis leg to start wobbling (as I wasn’t in a comfy position).
We let them wonder past us, strange being so close to them without being spooked, and they then curled off down through the woods out onto the wheat field to have a feed.
“Right, we’re on here” were the next words to come out of my mate’s mouth. We slowly wondered down to the edge of the woodland and set the sticks up. I had to sit on one of my feet to make sure the branches didn’t interfere with the bullet as it left the barrel. As this point the deer were about 200yards away. Great backstop and they were just munching away…just had to wait until one presented itself.
“You have the first shot, and if they stop again I’ll take another if it presents itself” my mate said, and so I waited till one was clear enough from the group to take a shot at. It must have been about 5 minutes before the first one wondered away from the group slightly….you guessed it the big white fella again...….he must really have a death wish! Bold as brass I couldn’t believe it.
Another couple of minutes later and a small buck walked out broadside from the group. I set the cross hair up, about 10cms above where I would normally aim at for a 100m shot and I gently squeezed the trigger. It seemed like an age before I heard the thwack of the impact, but was probably only fraction of a second.
He ran straight into the herd and I lost sight of him for a second as they all clumped together and ran down the hill, it wasn’t long till I picked him up again as he started to stumble, he maybe got about 30-40m before collapsing and kicking out a few times.
My mate did consider a second shot as they herd came to stop a little confused by what was going on, but they were about 250-300m away at this point and so we left it.
I pased out the shot, 220 from shot to impact location, so i'm guessing about 200m in reality. With the beast dragged off the wheat field – it took both of us, I hadn’t reliased how heavy these fallow were, we went back the farm to pick up the quad and retrieve him back to the barn, my mate gralloched him trying to show how efficient he had got at it in the last couple of weeks…. show off!
Final result was a pricket, although quite large for his age, I’m guessing about 75lbs maybe more clean (bit of a guess but I couldn’t lift him by myself) he had very small antlers (with only an inch showing). My mate was happy with the selection of which beast i took and the shot placement was good. I was about an inch above the top of where the heart was (roughly) and so it was just a lung shot, I guess I slightly over compensated for bullet drop. That said there was practically no lung left inside worth talking about and so it was a good clean kill in my book. No meat damage that i could see, with the exit hole about twice the size of a 50p piece in exactly the same place on the other side of the rib cage to the entry point.
I had a cracking time. All in all, we were stalking the same group of bucks for about 2-3 hours (I lost track of time…it was the last thing on my mind), which was a real experience. To date I’ve only shot roe does out to a max of 120m with an estate rifle where they weren’t too difficult to stalk/or it was out of a high seat.
Initially, I was a little hesitant about taking such a long shot with this calibre but with a little bit of thought and consideration regarding shot placement the end result was good, and I’ve gained another valuable experience.
I am no longer a deer virgin with my own rifle!
I must thank my friend (not that he’s on here) and fingers crossed he gets some more spare time to take me out again before the end of the season. No piccies i'm affraid...surely everone forgets something while stalking...at least i had the important things! And the memory will probably stick with me for ever.
First fallow buck – DONE!