First off I would like to say a massive thank you to my good friend Mr M for giving me the chance to shoot my first ever deer (and for the ham sandwhich) and also to Ben who was my guide for the day for his patience and utter determination through out the day (We ain't going back with out a deer mush).
Martin had very kindly offered me the chance to try for my first deer back in November but for various reasons had not been able to take up the opportunity until recently, when after a change of plans at work I suddenly had a day off last monday, the 18th of March, and so at very short notice I was going stalking for the very frst time where it would be me behind the rifle.
I arrived at the at nine in the morning and after an hour on the range accustoming my self to the .243 rifle that I was to use for the day, Ben and I set out into the woods in the hopes of finding a Sika hind, with instructions that if we were to see a mal-formed Fallow buck that had been seen about the place that we were to shoot him if we got the chance.
The ground on which we were stalking is very varied, though mostly made up of very thick mature hazel coppice with standards interspersed with woodland glades and rides as well as large areas of mature Oak/Ash woodland spread out along a river valley, the conditions under foot were very wet, with intermittent drizzle and a varying and very light breeze.
I'm sad to say I didn't really keep tabs on the time through the day but by 1pm we had stalked a fairly large area with out seeing any deer, except two Sika hinds that I managed to spook as I set up the sticks, ok so I stepped out from behind Ben with out looking where I was placing my foot and nearly fell flat on my face, and were heading back to base to have lunch when the mal-formed Fallow buck trotted past us just fifteen yards away, a large buck with the main beams of his antlers swept back almost flat along his back, I quickly set up on the sticks and got the rifle ready but although he had not seen us he was not stopping and as I tracked him through the scope he set his head for the valley we had just left and headed on down the hill, we followed him back down the hill in the hope that he might present a shot once he reached the river at the valley floor but despite getting the cross hairs on his shoulder several times we could not get into a position where I could get a properly clear and safe shot and we finally lost him in a dense holly stand.
We broke for lunch at 3pm and after talking tactics and deer sightings we set out for the other side of the woods just before 4pm in the hopes of catching the Fallow on the woodland boundary as they were heading out to the horse paddocks for the evening and our hopes were raised when we spotted a large group of does on some neighboring land close to the boundary of the woodland that we were about to stalk.
Parking the truck at the end of the boundary track and we set off to stalk in a wide circle in order to bring the wind into our favor, after about an hour we had crossed the valley and were beginning to stalk up along the boundary staying just inside the woodland edge, with the horse paddocks to our right and spotting for deer to our left, hoping to catch them as they came up hill towards us, when Ben hissed “freeze” from behind me and a group of some forty odd Fallow does came in to the woodland from our right hand side exactly where we had not been expecting them to come from.
After about fifteen minutes of milling around on the flat ground in front of us where it would have been un-safe to shoot they dropped down to our left and into the valley below us;
Ben told me to creep on slowly and to see if I could get a shot as they stood in the valley or on the bank of the opposite side but as we made our way along it was clear that the deer had crossed the valley floor and gone up over the bank and on into the woodland beyond, we decided to follow on and cross the valley but as the light was starting to go we were beginning to think we had missed our chance and the day would end with out a deer.
We took our time crossing the valley slowly and working up the opposite slope and were working our way around a clearing trying to spot where the deer had gone when Ben tapped me on the shoulder, “get the sticks ready and just step out from behind this oak, two Fallow does in the clear in front of a bank, put a bullet in the one on the left”
I made the rifle ready, stepped out from behind the tree and got up on the sticks, finding the deer in the scope I placed the cross hairs half way up her body and just behind the shoulder, steadied my breathing for a moment and as the cross hairs rose back up to the half way point on her body I held it and gently squeezed the trigger;
I don’t remember seeing the deer at all after the shot, I didn’t hear the strike or see any reaction and I think I must have blinked when the shot went off, Ben had been stood behind a tree and so had not been able to see or hear any thing either and all of a sudden I was shaking like a leaf so I made the rifle safe and handed it back to Ben, I marked where she had been stood and after waiting a few minutes we marked the firing position and went to find the strike.
We walked straight to the strike point and found a large patch of cut hair but no blood, by now I was far from calm and very worried that I had wounded a deer right on last light, then turning to look back to where I had fired the shot from I saw two patches of bright red blood on a fallen birch bough, then a great pool of bright frothy blood with flecks of lung and then not ten feet away at the foot of a holly tree and with her back to us lay my doe;
We pulled her into the clearing and I bled her and while Ben went to get the truck I sat on a log next to her and shook like a jelly for a while before going back to pace out the shot at roughly 97 yards.
We took her back to the larder to do the gralloch and found that my bullet had gone just a little high, destroying both lungs but also just touching the bottom of the spinal column.
To say I was over the moon would be an under statement, I was so excited I couldn't remember how to perform the gralloch and had to ask Ben to talk me through it, I even forgot how to turn the water off in the larder after I had finished cleaning down which caused much amusement!
It was a very long day in difficult conditions but it was also one of the most fantastic days of my life that I will never ever forget and it was with a great deal of pride that evening that I filled out the carcass tag and didn't write down my certificate number for the very first time because I had completely forgotten what it was and had to send it to Martin via text later on.
And an easier second
Sunday morning, saw me back out in the woods with Ben in the hopes of shooting a second deer.
I arrived at our meeting point at just gone half six in the morning and after a quick conflab we set out to stalk through the same patch of woodland in which I had shot my first deer on Monday last.
Not really a lot to report about this one I guess, Ben and I made our way down the ride and in to the glade where we were to begin the stalk and there was a Sika hind stood looking right at us from behind a few trees, Ben asked if I wanted to shoot her or to stalk passed and see if we could get in to some Fallow?
I said I would be happy to shoot her so Ben said that we should move forward and that if she went righ handed in to the glade she would be a safe shot, forward we went, right handed she went and stood right in the middle of the glade broad side on, quartering just a little towards us and again looking right at us, Ben handed me the rifle and I got settled on the sticks and placed the sights half way up her body just behind the front leg, settled my breathing and gently squeezed the trigger.
This time I saw the strike, saw the hair fly and watched as she jumped and threw her front legs forward and took off like a race horse accross our front, now for some reason I'm fine before and during the shot but after the shot has gone I'm in bits, I made the rifle safe and handed it back to Ben and then after I had stopped shaking and my breathing had slowed went to find the strike.
At the strike we found just a few cut hairs but no blood and so we started to work our way down the path she had taken searching all the time for a blood trail, after a while I was begining to worry again when Ben shouted me from down the hill and there she lay stone dead behind a root plate about a hundred yards from where she was shot.
My bullet had struck a little far back cutting the bottom off both lungs but hadn't gone far enough back to hit the liver.
The rest of the morning we spent just having a wander around the woods, looking for a deer for Ben but although we bumped a few fallow we couldn't get a shot.
All in just another amazing day out in an amazing place and all thanks to some amazing people, now where did I put that FAC application form......................?