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Thread: Last light/Iffy shots at deer

  1. #1
    SD Regular teyhan1's Avatar
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    Last light/Iffy shots at deer

    When is the right time to call it a day when stalking?

    I have read a couple of threads lately about shots on partially obscured deer/ last light shots. It leaves me with a feeling of 'are we that desperate for a deer that we will risk injuring it?'
    Both threads have been from high seats (very steady rest) and both within very hit-able distances. But both have been at last light.
    Modern optics must play a role in this, always pushing the boundaries of light gathering capacities further and further. But at last light small branches and woody plants can disappear. Light calibres do not fair well against them.
    Then there is the chance of recovery. As the days grow warmer, the amount of time a carcass can be left before becoming unfit for consumption becomes shorter. So if a carcass is left over night it can often not be eaten anyway.
    Finding a deer (even if well hit) in near darkness often takes significantly longer, unless it is in the open. Even in the open, if there is stubble, distances are difficult to assess and in my experience are nearly always underestimated. But at least you have the opportunity to go round and round until you find the animal, as well as having had the chance to see it drop, if it has dropped?

    So when is the right time to call it a day?
    “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”........Dalai Lama

  2. #2
    30 minutes after sunset. If you lose the beast, that's what the tracking dogs are for. I mark my shooting spot with one of those boating LED units. I wait another 30 minutes before heading out. I walk to the strike point and mark that. Then go back and get the teckels or the GWP.
    Blaser K95 Stutzen - the ultimate deer stalking rifle

  3. #3
    I am unfortunately unable to have a deer dog, as we are adopters of Greyhounds & Lurchers, Mission control won't countenance it,but for choice it would be a Teckel (Dream on)... so I pull out from wherever I am on an evening, before dusk sets in, most times I am on the ground with a mate who has a very accomplished deer dog, but I still restrict myself to that amount of remaining light I deem workable.
    (The Unspeakable In Pursuit Of The Uneatable.) " If I can help, I will help!." Former S.A.C.S. member!

  4. #4
    There is certainly a risk involved. How much you're prepared to take it depends on circumstances I suppose, with the welfare of the deer (strange choice of words but I mean killing it cleanly) being the paramount concern. I haven't shot a lot of deer, but two have been properly at last light, indeed I would say at first dark, at that stage when I can see much more clearly through my binos or scope than I can with the naked eye, and where a shot results in a momentary lighting up of the area with a sheet of flame. The first was a muntjac buck with Willie_Gunn which we'd been trying to approach for a while and it was essentially double or quits. It was looking like quits until it turned to look at a doe who appeared out of nowhere. The only negative consequence of shooting at last light was that until we walked up to it, we didn't know that its' antlers made perhaps rather more, erm, expensive than I had budgeted for. I'd add that W_G's dog Fallow was with us.

    The next one was a CWD buck in February with Sikamalc. Same thing again, the deer turned up in a field at first dark, and we both didn't dare take our eyes off it because we didn't think we'd find it again. In that case, it made it 20m, but because of the darkness we couldn't find it until the next morning. Luckily it was freezing over night so the meat was recoverable (apart from a bit of haunch that went into a fox) when we did find it. However, the same happened as above: it turned out to be a probable silver medal!

    So in my case, shooting at first dark has only hurt my wallet, but I'm aware that there's added risk involved. I guess that if my opportunities weren't so few and far between, I'd probably forego the risk, and maybe my guides would too. But I've also demonstrated several times that I won't take shots that I don't think I can make successfully. So it's a risk, but a calculated one.

    I'd add to this that I've done a lot of wildfowling too, and that happens by its' very nature almost always at last light. It's the same thing, there comes a point when it's clear that even if you did shoot a duck, you'd never be able to find it, so you pack it in and put your gun away. At which point the world around erupts into a storm of quacks of derision...

  5. #5
    That's a neat phrase PM "First Dark"! I agree that optics can fool you to thinking there is more light than you need.

  6. #6
    The law says one hour after sunset, that is official sunset time, depending where you are in the country but in the North especially and in summer time it's quite possible to see to shoot well beyond that official time, consequently
    some shots taken at last light are illegal.

  7. #7
    SD Regular teyhan1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pine Marten View Post
    In that case, it made it 20m, but because of the darkness we couldn't find it until the next morning. Luckily it was freezing over night so the meat was recoverable (apart from a bit of haunch that went into a fox) when we did find it.
    This is exactly what I mean. It only went 20m and there were two of you looking and still no luck.
    “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”........Dalai Lama

  8. #8
    I think, as others have mentioned, that the need to take the shot outweighs a little common sense at times.

    You really only need to lose one in the dark to not make the same mistake again - happened to me 4 years ago - if I see one when its too late now I think, "you lucky bugger! See you again!"
    For Gods sake - don't tell her how much I've spent

    Ctrl-Alt FACT

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by teyhan1 View Post
    This is exactly what I mean. It only went 20m and there were two of you looking and still no luck.
    I know, that's why I thought I'd relate the story. I suppose we took a calculated risk that it was a completely reasonable shot to attempt, and indeed it was. It was in a mostly barren field so there was no question of that deer running off to hide in a thicket or a wood, there was no cover. It's a little deer so had it been hit anywhere, it wouldn't have made it to the edge of the field. As it happened, we could find no pins, no blood, no evidence of it having ever been hit except that Malcolm had seen it apparently go down just over the low ridge. So we came back at dawn for it, still couldn't find any evidence that it ever been there and wrote it off as a clean miss, unlikely as it seemed to both of us. And them Malcolm almost tripped over it, exactly in the spot he'd seen it go down the evening before, covered in thick frost.

    So was it an ideal shot? No. But not an unreasonable risk, and it all ended just fine. I think that if I had been on my own, I wouldn't have taken the shot, and neither would have Malcolm. But with a stalker and a spotter, two pairs of eyes and Malcolm's experience, it was fine.

  10. #10
    I can see deer clearly through my scope in the last 30 mins or so of light, enough to make an accurate shot. when I take the scope away and look through the mk1 eyeball I can see naff all so for me even though shooting it is on, finding it myself is debatable.

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