28.08.15 Steve P starts at The Stump
A misty, very still morning, as Steve walked to The Stump as dawn approached. Once there, we could see deer out below us, coming in off the crop fields and making their way back towards the shelter of the woods. A line of half-a-dozen does with one fawn made their way towards us, but at the time it was too dark for the video camera. On they came, ending up munching on the fresh bramble growth from where I had ‘strimmed’ one month previously. These deer were no more than 5 metres from us. After a short while it was light enough to film, but I didn’t dare to make a move to turn on the camera! Eventually they moved away, and Steve and I started spotting prickets. A smallish black one looked a likely target, and in due course he came clear of the pit below us, presenting a sure shot: VIDEO
The remainder of the morning produced some good stalking, with sightings of numbers of does and fawns, but no bucks.
26.08.15 Harry’s double
Harry’s weekly visit kicked off in similar fashion to David’s the previous day, with us creeping down to the same field in the rain. This time, however, the deer stayed out, and in no time at all we were taking a white pricket back to the chiller. Out again, but only does and fawns showing, so we returned to the first field to sit up for the remaining daylight. Again there were a good number of does & fawns; but just as the light started to go, a line of fallow made their way out of the woods about 70 metres from us. First and fourth in the line were prickets, with the first one being the cull of choice. As he came broadside I was about to whistle, but he stopped anyway, and Harry was ready……
25.08.15 A damp start for David K
Long-time regular visitor, David, arrived in very wet conditions for his first stalk of the season. I had already done a little recce, and spotted deer out on the sheltered edge of one field. These included one pricket. However, by the time we had crept down there, they were back in the woods, the rain getting heavier. We went for a scout around other fields, followed by a slow, fruitless stalk through one of our conifer blocks, before heading back to the original field. By now, with the rain easing, there were quite a number of deer out, including the pricket. Again we crept down through the woods, managing to get into a suitable spot for a shot just as he lay down. With does often less than 20 metres away, we waited patiently, and eventually David got his shot.
18.08.15 Harry in the Long Grass
This was an epic stalk for Harry: crawling up the bank from the lake, then inching across the top, through the long grass, all the time wary of does to our left and not far in front of us. Our target was a white pricket. who spent the time lying in the stubble by the field’s edge. An hour passed from starting the crawl to Harry taking the shot – much of this spent with our faces buried in the grass whenever a head popped up. I managed to capture it all on video, but have edited it by half: VIDEO
That wasn’t the end of it, as the pricket dashed off into thick bracken and rhododendron. It took us a little while to locate the blood trail, and following it wasn’t too easy to start with. This video will be uploaded in the next few days….
We ended the day in ‘Tarzan seat’, with in excess of 40 deer crossing the ride on either side of us – but all were does & fawns.
17.08.15 Jake P’s first stalk
Jake was given one of my ‘Introduction to Deer Stalking’ gift vouchers as a 21st birthday present. We stared off with coffee and a chat at my place, then off to the range to learn the basics of rifle shooting and safety. Jake shot well, as did his partner Sophie, who was with us at this stage. She had just the one shot, to find out what it was like, then quit whilst ahead with a dead centre bull at 100 metres!
Jake and I then went stalking and, as often seems to be the case at times like this, we were in luck on the first field we visited. Having walked up the bank, we found several does and fawns in front of us, and could see quite a number of deer at the other end of the field. Skirting around below the skyline, we got as close as we could on foot before resorting to crawling. In full view of many of the does we slowly inched towards two prickets, one grazing, the other lying down. Once in a suitable shooting spot, I set up the tripod and eased the rifle onto it. Jake got himself into as comfortable position as possible, given that he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and there were plenty of stones and thistles trying their best to distract him. The grazing pricket was turning back and forth, occasionally presenting himself broadside, but with several fawns lying behind him. This gave Jake ample opportunity to discover how patient you need to be to become a stalker. Eventually he moved clear of the fawns, and it wasn’t long before I gave Jake the nod. A squeeze of the trigger, an excellent shot, and he had culled his first deer.
Later we got on to another pricket, a white one, and just as we were getting ready for a short range standing shot off the tripod, he started walking straight towards us. Close enough that we had lost the safe back-stop, the pricket got wind of us, and it wasn’t long before he was back in cover.
Jake had had a memorable afternoon/evening – and certainly wants to do it all again….
16.08.15 Alex R crawls to success
Persistent drizzle stopped as we met in the yard for Alex’s second stalk of the season. With no certain wind direction, we headed out to the top field for a look. There were quite a number of does & fawns, so we left them grazing peacefully. Ascending The Bank, a number of deer came into sight, and we soon spotted three prickets amongst them. There was no other option but to belly-crawl across the top of the first ridge, and in wet clover that really shows up how the waterproof properties of my stalking clothing have deteriorated over the years! As we got close to a shooting position another pricket, with two spindly little spikes, emerged from the woods. Immediately there was quite a bit of movement amongst the herd, and we took the opportunity to crawl closer. Eventually the four prickets came clear to the right of the others, and Alex put the rifle up onto my tripod sticks for a prone shot at around 160 metres. That last pricket out turned broadside and stood: a perfect target. Alex squeezed the trigger: a perfect shot!
We ended up at The Stump for last light, and might well have had another shot, but the pricket came out so close to us that we couldn’t get the rifle on to him without coming to the attention of the following does……
Still, as Alex said: “Another great day out!”.
14.08.15 First fallow for Richard S
Although local to the estate, Richard’s stalking experience is mainly of Scottish reds and roe. This was to be his first stalk with me, so it was especially pleasing that the previous day’s torrential rains were over. Wind direction was perfect for The Stump, so we made that our first port of call. Despite a touch of mist in the air, visibility was so much better than yesterday’s, and we were spotting deer a full half hour earlier. Many of them were moving out of the sides of the valley, but a small group, which included several prickets, turned back and came in our direction. A black one was grazing slowly and broadside. Richard waited for the opportune moment, and gently squeezed the trigger of his Sako 6.5×55. His first fallow!
Once that was in the chiller, we continued stalking, getting on to several does and fawns and, eventually, a couple of bedded down prickets. Richard spotted them, but before we could get on to the pair they were off. I like to think that it wasn’t us that spooked them, as almost immediately there was a racket from the fields next door, with some obviously agitated sheep, lots of dog barking, and shouting from the dog’s owner(?).
Nevertheless, a great early morning, and a first for Richard.
13.08.15 A wet one for Nick H!
Nick and I met up for an early start at 04h15 – and it had just started raining hard. As we made our way over towards The Stump, thunder & lightning added to the doubt that any deer would be out and about by the time it was properly light enough for a shot. With the thick low cloud, it was well into the legal hour before sunrise by the time we could see anything – and, sure enough, there were deer still out in the valley! However, once they started moving they were pretty intent on getting into cover, and the four or five prickets amongst them all cut in short, rather than coming past us. Maybe a half-chance, but no absolute certainty; and Nick did the right thing in deciding against squeezing the trigger.
The remainder of the outing involved woodland stalks, with very little in the way of deer sightings at all. They were obviously well tucked up out of the weather, with rain continuing to bucket down. Our final roll of the dice did find us one pricket, but he was hurrying after a doe & her fawn, showing no inclination to stop for us. It was time to head home for a hot shower.
11.08.15 Harry gets going….
Being the only stalker to be out of luck so far this season, Harry was eager to get out. We struck lucky in the first field we came to: a number of does & fawns, along with one pricket. We carefully crept down through thick bracken in the woods on the south side of the field, getting set up for a sitting shot from behind a large oak tree through a sizeable window through the undergrowth and low-hanging branches. Does were filtering across this window, and it was only a matter of time before the pricket would follow. This he duly did, but for a while he kept turning, and offering no sensible shot. Eventually, however….. VIDEO
Another field, and another pricket – as it turned out, he was one of at least three. A short crawl, and Harry took the shot off his bipod.
So, in little over sixty minutes, we had two hanging in the chiller. With another two-and-a-half hours left, surely Harry would be on for his third?
No! Plenty of does & fawns, but nothing with ‘orns!
10.08.15 Tony R’s annual visit
Chef Tony and his wife Alison travel down from Manchester once a year, for a long weekend, to get away from work for a while. This was their fifth visit, with Tony being successful on each of his previous stalks. He’s a realist and knows that, sooner or later, luck isn’t going to be on his side…..
This year wasn’t the unlucky one though. Once again, The Stump came up trumps, and Tony took a pricket from there. After we had sorted that out, we climbed The Bank, crawled across the top, and were successful with a second pricket. VIDEO
Once both of those were safely in the chiller, we carried on stalking, seeing a number of does & fawns, but nothing with antlers. I managed to catch one interesting encounter on camera, when we bumped some up from thick bracken: a buck fawn wasn’t altogether certain what the panic was about, and stayed around for a while, no more than 10 metres away from us. VIDEO
09.08.15 Wayne B’s early morning double
With Wayne’s mate Bob starting on ‘Reservoir’ but being successful at ‘The Stump’, Wayne opted to go straight to The Stump – a wise move, as The Valley was alive with fallow, and he soon bagged a pricket: VIDEO
This gave us time to get up to Reservoir where, after a short wait, he downed his second. The young buck disappeared into the woods, leaving no trace of a blood trail to follow; but in fairly open chestnut and birch, he was quickly spotted: VIDEO
Subsequently all we saw were does and fawns – but Wayne was happy!
08.08.15 Bob N Starts the season on a high
A light north-easterly breeze, with some mist hanging in the valleys, determined that we should start the morning sitting up in ‘Reservoir’. As it got lighter, it looked as though our decision was vindicated as a line of does and fawns started to walk across in front of us. More were coming, including a cull-able pricket, when suddenly a shot rang out from the next door estate. Cue deer swiftly vacating the area!
We decamped and headed for ‘The Stump’. Bound to be deer there; and sure enough there were – almost too many! With the prickets chasing about, trying to get on to one for a good, clear shot was quite tricky. Bob did eventually get a shot, but by that time the camera had stopped ‘rolling’ (memory card full!).
You can watch the Video here
& a short Video of retrieving Bob’s pricket, when we experienced a close miss……
06.08.15 Tony A’s First Fallow
Tony is a relative newcomer to stalking, although he has been shooting for much of his life. I think we can safely say that he now has ‘the bug’!
This was his first stalk for fallow deer, and he was immediately amazed at the numbers we were seeing. We spent some time in the fields, stalking onto one herd that contained at least one pricket, but they all retreated into the woods. After that we stalked through the woods, seeing quite a number, but all being does and fawns.
We were heading for some more fields, and crept into the first (small) one, and up to the tree line separating it from the second larger field. We had about a dozen deer within 50 metres of us but, again, they were does and fawns. We needed to get past them in order to approach the third field, and they was no way other than to ‘bump’ them – always a risky move, as fallow are just as likely to run off in exactly the opposite direction to what you would expect! Fortunately these took the logical option of the shortest route into cover. Approaching the third field, hiding behind a sweet chestnut, it initially looked as though the field was empty, but tucked up in the long grass a couple of heads were showing – and they were both prickets. As we manoeuvred into a position from where we could get a shot, we spotted another one, along with a couple of does and a fawn.
I always find that when you are watching deer, and although you may in a horribly uncomfortable position, time just whizzes by. As we stood there, crouched beneath the chestnut, more does and fawns were coming out no distance at all behind us. Even though we were in full view of them, the fact that we were standing still and blending in with the undergrowth rendered us pretty invisible.
Eventually the moment we had been patiently waiting for arrived, and one of the prickets stood up. Tony was prepared for this, with his Blaser .243 already up on the shooting tripod. I gave the nod, he squeezed the trigger….. and successfully culled his first fallow!
04.08.15 First Success of the Season
Alex R is another regular visitor, & he was keen to get out on a windy but dry afternoon. We started off in the same field that Harry & I had initially stalked the day before. Again, there were a good number of deer, but precious little in the way of antlers. We enjoyed (?) one good stalk down the middle of the field, crawling over freshly mowed thistles on hard, stoney ground – VIDEO – but some of the deer started to move off the windy crest of the field, heading for the protection of the woods, got down wind of us, and alerted the others – including one white pricket – who quickly followed.
There were more deer at the far end of the field, including another white pricket. As we headed towards them my video camera packed up (memory card full), so the following action couldn’t be recorded. We crept up to a small island of trees (& nettles), with does and fawns within 50 metres. A little off to one side was a small group, one of which was the pricket, who promptly lay down amongst the thistles and long grass. Right next to us was a high seat. Could we get into it without disturbing the does? It was painfully slow work, but we managed to do so. After that it was a matter of waiting until the pricket stood up…..
03.08.15 First Stalk of the Season
Well, due to the CLA Game Fair intruding into August, Harry C. had to wait until the afternoon of Monday 3rd to get out on his first stalk of the new fallow season.
Determined to make up for lost time we headed out of the yard, through the woods to the closest field where I felt we were likely to find deer. Sure enough there were just a few out there. In fact too many – and it’s a really difficult field to stalk, with relatively little in the way of safe back-stops. We spotted several prickets, and a couple of young bucks still in velvet, but all our attempts to get into the right place for a shot were thwarted by the numbers of does, particularly alert as so many of them have very young fawns tagging along.
Moving on, we stalked into another two fields. Again both had deer out grazing, but nothing with antlers.Fouth time lucky? Another field with a good number of deer out, but a tricky approach. For a moment a cullable buck presented a perfect shot, but Harry wasn’t comfortable enough, and wasn’t going to risk any mistake. The deer moved back into the woods, so we sat up waiting for dusk. Soon does and fawns were out again, but as we reached that hour after sunset, no bucks…..
Never mind, Harry will have another chance soon enough!
‘In The Cross Hairs’ is the blog site for GunRunner UK