Deer, Deer, Deer, and Rabbit Too.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper
I had been meaning to go up and see my Ole Mucker Bucks Moocher for a couple of years now, also he was going to come back down to me too, but our lives just got too busy with work and other things so we just kept in touch on social media and the odd phone call from time to time, Now Bucks is an old school Countryman after my own heart, he prefers to hunt with dog and ferret net and lamp as do I, although he is a damn fine shot too with quite a good collection of shot guns etc, he is pretty tidy with a catapult too but that's for another story, we have hunted together many times over the years all over the country with the most memorable being in West Wales many years ago now, that has already been well documented and written about before.
Bucks called me up one night asking could I come up with my rifles and help out on a Chinese Water Deer Cull on another good friends of ours (David) farm well his families farm, they had or well still have a huge problem with these deer destroying the crops and eating more grass than their sheep, so a weekend was arranged and I was to head up, also joining me was Niall my right hand man on a lot of my professional work and Little Jon he is the mountain man with the beard in the pictures, I am mentoring him well sort of in his deer stalking career, Bucks also used a magic wand and said oh whilst your up can you come help with some traditional ferreting and rabbit control with a Game Keeper friend and his family, now that was the magic word and for the few weeks leading up to this weekend all I could think or dream about was getting out Traditional ferreting with purse net/long net/ferret and running dog, to me this sort of hunting is the panicle the golden crown of hunting, I have heard folks say this about catching a Salmon or stalking a Red Stag, both of which I have done and filled my bag, but to me as a rough Ole Countryman that I am, nothing beats a bolting rabbit in a purse net on a frosty morning as the Viking war drums start as the Pug’s (ferrets) make contact with Drummers (rabbits) deep under ground, as I am writing this I can feel my heart pounding at just the thought of it, so as many get goose/duck/stag fever what ever I get rabbit fever, its never left me since my very first day in the field traditional ferreting when I was just two years old.
Friday morning Niall arrives in his van to pick me up two hours early I might add, but I was ready as I was just as excited to be going up to Buckinghamshire too and catching up with my old friend Bucks and David, the journey up seemed to fly by as we chatted like a couple of excited school kids, Niall was really excited about seeing Chinese Water Deer for the first time, I was too but for me it was the chance to run a running dog, work a terrier, slip a ferret down a warren and bolt the humble bunny, before we knew it we were outside Bucks House, well I better rephrase that as Her Majesty might have not have had the kettle on, we were out side my Ole Muckers House Bucks Moocher, I tapped on the door and he answered it was just like I had only seen him yesterday not several years had passed, his good lady made us a wonderful fresh home made vegetable soup and a cottage pie for the boys, she was working all weekend and staying at the farm, so it was a boys weekend too, I will say she is a wonderful cook and keeps a lovely house, it was nice to see my old friend with a little weight on him, as he used to be like a coat rack, sorry mate you were a bit skinny that girl looks after you well, she is defiantly a keeper, don't forget my invite to the wedding too.
Little John arrived a couple of hours later, we all sat there chatting like old friends as if we had known each other all our lives, we had that lovely tea then headed out to meet up with the Game Keeper and his family, I was greatly looking forward to this as I wanted to chat to a fellow keeper and see how he did things there different to what I do on my shoot in Somersetshire, this was also who we would be going ferreting with too, we met up with the keeper James and his Son Liam, by golly they were two man mountains and I could see why the local poaching travelling fraternity gave them a very wide birth as they both had hands like shovels, right away we hit it off chatting when he said lets take these two running dogs for a walk and run a few rabbits and survey the land for tomorrows ferreting trip, my smile just grew from ear to ear, Bucks grabbed a lamp in case it got dark so we could lamp a couple of rabbits too and give the dogs a stretch of the legs.
We got to a high hill ground that ran along the side of a main road, James was just explaining this was where we were going to clear some rabbits in the morning, at this point two men with running dogs came into the field, shone a lamp straight the six of us just standing there seventy yards out stood bolt upright looking right back at them, James said that's poachers, as he and Liam took off after them, I could hear a lot of shouting as James escorted them off the field and told them not to come back and he was reporting them to the police as he had their registration number, they had Irish accents and were shouting something about losing their shoes in the field as they drove away, blimey that was enough excitement for one night, Jon walked back to the car as he was done he had nothing left in him but he did well, the boys carried on for a few more fields and ran a few more rabbits, James and I meandered along following them chatting away, time to go home as we had to be up for ferreting in the morning.
The ferrets were slipped in and that silence came over the warren, no sound existed for me, the wind stopped the birds stopped, dead silence I could hear my own heart beat as I strained to hear the rumble of the drums deep under ground, the first rabbit hit the net like a cork from the bottle, to me it looked almost in slow motion with muffled sound, rabbit in hand and a net re set it was like watching a well oiled machine, then another rabbit hit the net right in front of Niall but he was too slow, so Jet the whippet and myself launched into action from two different angles, who got there first it was a draw, she had a good hold of it and so did I, that rabbit was not getting away, it turned out to be a ginger rabbit, I had not caught a ginger one in thirty years so that is a memory made right there, the rest of the day went on like that, rabbits hitting the purse nets, slipping the nets and hitting the long nets, dashing in all directions to grab rabbits, this was when disaster struck, we had a kill very deep under ground, as always right in the most awkward place to dig right in the middle of the hedge, Dad always said two things, if your going to get a kill it will be in a god awful place to dig, also if you miss that bolt hole and not net it the rabbit will always find it, bloody true both of those saying I telle, James got to digging and had a half grown dead rabbit out in no time, again we could not find a ferret, turned out Bucks didn't check his locator batteries in his collars before using them, that's a rooky mistake as we gave him some stick for that, also the boys didn't see his big Hobb wander out of the warren, it headed across the field to a road hedge warren, what gave it away was the rabbits bolting out of it, eagle eyed Emma spotted the Hobb walking about, in no time at all we had the ferret to hand, picked up all the nets and returned the area to its former glory leaving nothing but foot prints and a few less rabbits, I gave Liam a few of my nets as he didn't have many, for me that's an investment into the future traditional rabbiting man, I have sorted a bit more gear out for the lad too, so when I go back up I will gift him the kit that has served me well for over forty years, we paunched out the rabbits, said our goodbyes and headed back for fish and chips and a few beers, we headed up to another of Bucks woods for a spot of roost shooting with 4.10 shotguns as Bucks and I have the same guns, we got a few shots but the pigeons and squirrels really didn't play ball, so we headed back for food, there's another funny long story about the best fish and chips in Buckinghamshire that will take too long to write, all I will say my fish and chips looked just like a large pizza and I will say no more for now.
Now it was Niall's turn to stalk some whilst I took a breather and just watched, all I will say on this one is, they are not Roe Deer he was stalking in lovely deep wooded valley in Somersetshire, the deer educated him that, he came back to me red in the face puffing like he needed new lungs saying what the hell are these deer, its like deer on speed or something, I full on belly laughed, so much so I could have had a Muntjack deer but didn't see it for giggling, by now it was starting to get late so we stalked around towards the woodland where Jon Was waiting, we text him to say were on our way and from what direction, he text back he knew as he was watching us with his binoculars, David and Bucks were stood with him too, we stalked around and came up from his back left as to not compromise his safe shot zone, we were just about to enter the field as we hear a shot report and a dull thump, I said to Niall I think Jon had got that, by the time we got there David and Bucks were retrieving a lovely medal Chinese Water Deer Buck, Jon was smiling like a Cheshire cat, not a bad start for his one, Jon has a bad back due to his size so he headed back to the keepers cottage too with his deer in tow with the lads, I said I will hang on for the last chance to get Niall on to a deer, I spotted a nice buck coming into the woodland field, it was a bit of a long shot for a beginner like Niall, he was not confident, so I said I would take this one, I let it come right round to my left so it had a perfect back stop of the hill behind it, resting on a round bale of straw I steadied myself, calmed my breathing and slipped off the shot, it dropped without a twitch another perfect shot to the engine room, I breathed easy and made the rifle safe, turning and saying that's how its done mate, Niall did get a chance of a shot, but I think nerves got the better of him and he missed cleanly, that was the end of a brilliant weekend spent with old friends and making new ones, some great food drink and banter, oh yes and some remarkably brilliant sport too, we said our goodbyes and thanks for a lovely weekend and headed back to Somersetshire loaded up with fresh shot venison and Jon back to Dorsetshire.
*There will be a video link to Bucks Moocher YouTub Channel at the bottom of this page*
It was almost the end of the Roe Doe season, what with the weather and other commitments I was right behind on this years cull on 2 of the estates, the land owners were breathing down my neck to complete both herd cull management plans, I asked Jon if he would like to join Niall and myself on this one as it would be great experience for him, also as I am sort of mentoring him this would be the perfect time to put what he has been learning into great practice, it was late on the Thursday night he got to my Country Penthouse Apartment (my flat overlooking the farm) here in Somersetshire, I had arranged to do a very early stalk on one estate in the morning and an evening stalk in the evening on the other, so after some wonderful food a couple of ciders it was an early night for us boys.
I arranged to meet Niall and Young Sports Ambassadors Oliver and Carter on site before first light to get set up and make sure the kabuto was all ready to go, I love early mornings before the sun comes up its a magical time just like sunset, we all met in the car park of the lodge and Niall opened up the first flask of coffee, we studied the estate maps and I told him where to wait for me with the kabuto and told him how I would stalk in onto the estate gardens/vast lawns and open parkland and where I wanted him and the Young sports ambassador's to be, I had been watching some cull does there all week so knew where I wanted to be and the wind was just right for this today, I spoke with the boys showing them field craft, tracking, other prominent signs most folk just walk past, discussed the wind direction and how I would use what natural cover there was to get to a good shooting position with good back stops.
Jon was to wait at a good vantage point so he could watch me as I stalked in, later on he said it was like watching a leopard stalk a gazelle after watching me stalk in on the deer he could see though his binoculars, I did laugh but then again I have leaned to become one with nature after 40+ years of being in the field and taught by the old masters.
I stalked around the headland way out to the right away from the feeding deer, then turned back in when the wind was right to a little out crop of trees, the stalk into these trees with the wind in my face did two things, one my scent and any sound was being taken away from the deer, two the trees covered my stalk in across the open parkland by keeping the tree cover between me and the deer, I got to the copse and set up on the far left side, I range found it and it gave me 400m of open undulating ground all around me, as the light came up the deer started to meander back to the big woods from the lower ground, I studied them all until I picked the right cull doe I was after, actually there were two that had to come out this morning, both very big deer old deer and they never threw any young last year so I determined these two would be the ones to take out.
The rest of the weekend I took the boys out on some of my other grounds a bit of rough shooting, working Tess the young Springer Spaniel, just had a jolly good weekend until it was time for all the boys to call it a day, Jon to go back to Dorsetshire, Niall to go back to his day job and Oliver and Carter back to their school, so that Sunday night everyone went home with a smiling face and a game bag full of fresh wild ethically sourced wild meat.
I got a call from a good friend of mine Bruce, he was having trouble getting on top of a Muntjac Deer problem in some of his vast forestry in Hampshire, he had arranged for a few of the boys to go up last year and help him cull, I don't think they got on so well, alas I could not go over then as I was away in Malta on a Masonic Pilgrimage, so when he called me this time to arrange it again I said of course, I cleared my diary, booked a hotel and was looking forward to catching up with the other lads as well as my old friend Bruce, alas as it was all the lads cried off one by one what with work commitments and other reasons, so it just left Bruce and I to have a go and see what we could do in this vast forestry plantation.
I beckoned Bruce to come down who was just finishing his coffee, I heard the shot he said did you get one, oh yes I smiled as we both went to retrieve it, I really could not of been more happy as the shot was pin point where I wanted it to be, a totally humane ethical shot, I saluted the beast as I do with all I cull and took it back to base camp to gralloch and dress out and butcher, well Bruce did the gralloch and skinning I did the butchery, we split the beast half each into out cool boxes, after this we headed around to the high seats, I never saw another deer this day, Bruce did he was his big matriarch Roe Buck and said he was in full velvet, I was gutted I would of loved to have seen him, we were only here for the Muntjac on this trip so even if I saw a cull fallow or a cull roe I would not have taken the shot, we headed back to my hotel as the light fell, had some lovely food and a few well deserved pints of Guinness, alas the next day the Sunday the weather came in bad heavy rain and high winds, so that put pay to another days awesome stalking in some of the most magnificent of scenery even though it was mountain goat territory.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it, please keep your messages and emails coming in to The Countryman’s Diary Magazine, I do try to get back to you all personally but some of you do slip the purse net from time to time like a good rabbit does.
Deer, Deer, Deer and Rabbit Too.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper