Dorset Sika

Tedward1

Well-Known Member
Of all the trips I've done this year, this was the one I was most excited about, and the one I least knew what to expect - a bit of research throws up all sorts of things about Sika - they are tough and shot placement is key, they are hyper-stealthy and will appear from nowhere, and much more... there's so much noise in fact, I still have no idea what to expect as I drive down, and urban sprawl gives way to villages, and finally forest.

I arrive and jump in the truck with my guide "B" for the first of three outings, and we drive to the edge of a dense wood and get ready. B is a vastly experienced stalker who knows the area well and I can just tell right away we are going to get on. Stalking through in late afternoon light, we start to cross a patch of open ground heading towards a small copse facing a large bog when I hear a piercing whistle echoing through the fog ahead, it's unlike anything I've ever heard in the UK and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. To our left we see a heavily built 6 pointer gliding in and out of the reeds, but he's about 300 metres away and we move on into the trees, and a high seat. Once up, we have a commanding view across the bog and I can see a pricket snaking along the trees ahead of us; the first stag has gone but there's something big calling in the woods across from us, three sharp whistles to signify he's getting up to begin his rut! The pricket is suddenly almost underneath us, out of nowhere, and I catch myself holding my breath as it's so quiet. Luckily he wanders back into some gorse ahead of us and is blocked from view.

Breaking cover in front of us is a big stag, and when we glass him for a closer look I can see a monumental head.. he's clearly an older boy and is walking somewhat stiffly into the bog, where a hind appears (also from nowhere). In a move that brought back fond memories of my twenties, he sidles up to her (200 metres from us), leaps on her back, throws his head back in a roar less than 2 seconds later, and starts ambling away, towards us. There are some small banks that he moves in and out of, and I'm conscious that this is a cracking stag, but am a bit nervous about taking a shot at this distance (I haven't shot from a high seat before). He closes to 170 metres and I decide I can do it; I can hear my heart beating in my head as I get onto him and so I take a minute to breathe and make sure I'm not moving about so much. With a sharp crack I see him go down right away, and I reload but he stays down and isn't moving.

After a few minutes we get down and slowly approach over a bridge into the bog; wading in deep black water (at this point I wish I had wellies). As we approach, B exhales slowly and I stumble behind him to get a first glimpse. A dark, older stag, he's lying dead, a ten pointer! On the left side of his face is a long-healed gash, which looks like someone has taken a shot at him and bodged it with a small calibre rifle - It almost feels wrong to have started with such a fantastic beast, and I put my hand on him for a quick thank you before we set to work dragging him out (which, in water and thick mud over the ankles, is not the easiest). We physically carry the sledge out over some bits and it's turning pitch black as we set him down by the truck drenched in sweat. There's always a strange combination of jubilation and quiet contemplation for me after a kill, and I'm usually quiet on the ride back.

An excellent start to the trip, with 2 more outings to follow!
 

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Tedward1

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the comments - here’s the next bit!

Ok, so - nearly dawn on day two and we are driving in the truck to another part of the forest. There are a lot of foot-paths and public rights of way but we are hoping nobody will be out so early. I joke to B saying that after the previous outing, a 9 pointer will be fine and another 10 isn't necessary! B is, like most professional stalkers I’ve met, a lovely guy - very intelligent and measured, and I would definitely swap jobs with him if I could!

We set off down the track with only a tiny bit of light to see us through, and the landscape is ethereal - pre sunrise gloom, thick fog with barren hills peeking out on the right, and pine forest on the left. We work our way along a winding track and sure enough, after a few minutes the elk-like call of a Sika Stag whistles through the mist and we see the slightest outline of a 6 pointer almost invisible on the hill only 90 yards or so from us. I can make out his outline with the binos but with the scope it’s harder and despite getting onto sticks I am not confident to shoot and he eventually ambles over the hill and away, completely unaware of us.

Coming round the next corner we bump a hind who bleats out in alarm and bolts off to the left. We stalk down into the woods and bump into an elderly couple who eye the rifle suspiciously - it’s at times like these I’m glad that I have a wooden stocked sporter type rifle rather than something more ‘tactical’. After a quick chat they walk on and bump a prickett that runs back along the path they are walking down - we decide to detour away from them and push through the woods.

By now the sun is coming up and throwing a yellow glow over everything like the whole forest is on fire - it’s stunningly beautiful and we have gone in 10 minutes from mist and hills to glowing trees. The landscape in Dorset is really some of the most beautiful i’ve seen in England and I keep forgetting to walk quietly, and even snap a few photos on the phone as I go. We have been out for a while and to be honest, after such a good day on the previous outing I feel no pressure to take anything, which is a great position to be in as an amateur!

We relocate to some more open ground and the sun is now fully up, but we are relaxed - when suddenly B stops and sets up the sticks. I creep forward as he gestures through the trees “incredible - a white stag on the left”. I can see a flash of white moving slowly between the trees and my heart is thumping in my chest as I set up and try to get onto the beast, swinging onto him while I steady my breathing. A white cow comes into view and I go very red, we both start laughing as I realise I’ve been pranked! Once I recover my composure and we have a chuckle, B calls from the same spot and we are immediately answered by a trio of calls in front of us. I’m partly screened by some gorse, and facing across some open moorland in the direction of the calls.

After a few minutes without any movement, B squeezes my arm and whispers - “he’s behind us, turn slowly”. Pulse racing, I turn to my 7 o’clock, and a heavy set stag is ambling towards us at about 50 yards(!) - he hasn’t seen us yet but any second now it will. I fumble around setting up for a shot, there are some bushes around his legs and I want to wait for a perfect broadside but he has noticed some movement and is having a good look right at us quartering.. luckily the bushes are behind us so it’s hard to make out what we are. I know time is key, so I opt for a shoulder shot and he’s straight down. We wait for two minutes, (where I have to remember to breathe I’m so excited) - he’s not moving so we creep round to approach from the rear and find him breathing his last breath.

He’s a beautiful animal with a wonderful cape, and as B goes off to get the truck, I spent a few quiet minutes sitting in the heather with him thinking about the trip; these contemplative moments after a kill feel more and more important as I do more stalking and are a firm part of the process for me now. I feel like a good stag after yesterday is almost too much and decide that on my final outing that afternoon we should agree to just take cull beasts. We load him into the truck and head home for the morning, to come back out in the afternoon, but first measure him up and even with unequal sides he’s comfortably a bronze medal.

At the beginning I had joked with B that a 9 pointer would be fine today, and that was what we ended up with. An absolutely phenomenal stalk, my favourite to date, with no worry or pressure to take anything and a lovely beast at the end.

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Tedward1

Well-Known Member
I hope you realise how lucky you’ve been there mate
I definitely do. This trip has been absolutely nuts - I actually started to think it was going too well and I should slow down a bit.. and am glad this wasn’t an earlier trip (in my stalking experience to date) as it might have been lost on me without more context. I always appreciate the animals I stalk, but this was really phenomenal and the best stalking I’ve done so far - I’m very grateful to be able to have this sort of experience. B is an awesome bloke and very very good at what he does.
 
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ArunT

Well-Known Member
Awesome pictures and the writeup. To be honest a bit envious of the whole experience. Thanks for sharing.
 

Tedward1

Well-Known Member
Awesome pictures and the writeup. To be honest a bit envious of the whole experience. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you.. if it’s any consolation I’m back in the ‘orifice’ at the day job with a crash after all that! Not exactly a regular thing for me!
 

ArunT

Well-Known Member
Thank you.. if it’s any consolation I’m back in the ‘orifice’ at the day job with a crash after all that! Not exactly a regular thing for me!
Lets just go back to the stag, the early peaceful morning, the walk in the wild and so on. No talks about office day jobs until Monday 0900. Its still weekend :)
 

TheCornishman

Well-Known Member
Awesome stuff...thank you for sharing your experiences with us all.

The zen like moments experienced whilst stalking are what keeps me going and probably the same for most on here.

That supreme and targeted focus when you have spotted your quarry, relying on your instinct, smarts and judgement to get “on the animal” & achieve the clean kill. A stark and addictive contrast to the Adrenaline fuelled rush felt when you see & hear the strike of a shot and watch with anticipation for the reaction.

Then of course there is the pleasure of taking the hard earned rewards in doing that animal the justice of preparing its carcass to be shared with others. Fulfilment of the hunter gatherer instinct that resides so strongly Is.

Well done to you Sir. Would love to meet your guide as Sika Stag is still very much on my to do list.
 

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