ITS A DEER GAME
By The Ole Hedge Creeper
I suppose I should really start were all this began, right back when I was 12 years old growing up on Uncle Dave’s farm, you see Uncle Dave was or should I say well is,a countryman of the old school ex game keeper and farmer and well good ole rough round the edges country boy.
I remember my Pappy and Dad talking with him about deer control on his farm, my Pappy of course was all about what great recipes he could make with said venison, like his famous faggots or sausages etc, my ole Dad on the other hand had no interest in hunting deer but was more of what you could say the arm chair hunter and likes his venison steak rare and his pint cold, My Uncle Mike used to come along too mostly rough shooting that's my Pappy's middle son.
They all laughed and said you don’t have the minerals for this sort of hunting boy stick to the rabbits, Well that made me even more determined to learn all I could about the art of deer stalking and heard management, my family knew this would be like red rag to a bull telling me I could not do something as I never had the minerals for it, looking back they knew exactly how to fire me up an bloody well still do.
So it was agreed Uncle Dave very reluctantly said he would start my training in the art of deer management, it started with a book on deer and the different species we had here with particular reference to seasons and disease etc, three weeks later I was allowed to accompany Uncle Dave on a roe buck stalk so long as I was out of bed and dressed to go by 4am.
Uncle Dave said blimey boy what did you do sleep there all night as he poured me a pint of strong tea, You will need this and a bacon sandwich to keep you going boy we have a long hike ahead of us, breakfast had tea drank all the animals done we were on our way up on the hill ground were the big woods met the meadows.
I will try and do this justice with mere words, as we got out of the Landover Uncle Dave handed me a pair of binoculars and said you will need these as they are as important as the rifle my boy, of course he was right but it took some years before I understood fully what he meant.
We stalked around the long way to approach the mist covered paddocks on the side of the 100 acre woodland block, I thought why in gods name are we going this way its much shorter to cut down the track and straight across, as with everything Uncle Dave did there was always method in his madness and here was my first rookie mistake to question it.
The two reasons we went the long way around was first the wind would be at our fronts thus not carrying our scent or noise towards the grazing deer, the second was it presented a better chance of a safe shot with a good back stop, like I say a rookie mistake on my part to question his methods, in later years I learnt not to question him as he knew best he knew every blade of grass hedge bottom and tree stump on his farm as if it were the back of his hand.
My first glimpse of the roe buck uncle Dave had marked for the cull was him feeding with two does at the far end of a spinney, Uncle Dave told me to shadow his every step if he stopped I stopped, of course I did everything he told me too or I might get a size 11 up my backside, so I did just that every move he made I made I shadowed his every move.
I thought my heart was going to burst from my chest it was beating like a marching bands drum, we stalked in closer and closer until we had got around fifty meters away right next to and old oak tree, Uncle Dave slowly mounted his Remington 270 onto his home made stalking sticks, by this point my heart was beating so hard I was almost in tears with excitement, in fact I am in tears and my heart is racing again just writing about this long forgotten stalk from my boyhood years.
I raised my binoculars slowly to watch Uncle Dave Take the shot, but he stopped why was he not shooting why was he just waiting? one reason was he was double checking the beast was the right one he wanted to cull, the second reason was what I could not see there was a third deer stood directly behind the roe buck, this turned out to be another doe, we just waited for what seemed like a life time to this first time stalker who's knees were now shaking with excitement too but was only about two minutes in real time.
The buck strode forward and stood proud in the early morning mists presenting a perfect shot with a great back stop, like I say mere words cannot do this stalk or the beast justice so you will have to use your imagination a little here, the loud crack of the rifle when fired echoed down the valley spooking everything including the rooks who called their distaste to the interruption of their morning, the roe dropped on the spot with a perfect shot to the engine room a brilliant heart and lung shot.
I did ask Uncle Dave why did you not take a head shot like with the rabbits, he explained deer heads move and he had seen many a novice shoot a deer in the jaw not the head, this he drummed into me always have the humane quick kill even if you have to wait for it the beasts welfare must always come first, the engine room does not move so a shot here and the beast is going to drop humanly, its something that stuck in my mind till this very day, even though I am now a qualified deer manager this is still the one thing I like to teach to my students take a heart and lung shot every time, many of you will disagree with me here but like I say it was how I was taught and how I teach, I also care not for trophy hunting it’s all about herd management humane culling and the meat not the trophy for me.
As you can imagine I was as excited as a polecat faced with a rat saying in a very high pitched voice you got it you got it I said, I was told to calm down take a breath and lets slowly walk over and check the beast and start the gralouch (gut the deer) and check for any signs of disease etc, I found this fascinating as Uncle Dave pointed out all the heart lungs liver kidneys lymph nodes etc, he taught me how to inspect for disease and made me write down all we had done and seen in my pocket note book for later reference he will be testing me on it.
I later got to skin the roe buck with the help from Uncle Dave and thus begun my passion for deer stalking right were the metal meets the meat, I also got to have roe liver with bacon and some mushrooms and black pudding etc later that day, Thus began a passion for game cookery so as you can see the picture building of how I got to were I am now.
The Young Sport in question I am speaking of is Jake, a truly brilliant young man who absorbs what he is taught like a sponge, he shoots remarkably well for a lad who has no previous experience of Field Sports or handling a gun, but put a shot gun or air rifle in his hand and well let’s just say you won’t go hungry with Jake around.
I had to mop up the final part of the roe doe cull, I had three beasts left to take, I decided to only take two and save one for the following week when my ole mucker Chev was down, as we had our big Pass It On Young Sports Stand at The West Country Game fair so leaving one for him to take was a nice gesture and a thanks for all his hard work and coming down to help all the way from Rugby in the Midlands.
Jake joined me on this mid-week late afternoon stalk, I gave him a set of binoculars and told him these are a most important piece of equipment every bit as important as the gun itself, I also told him to shadow my every step if I stop you stop, I telle it was like a thirty year switch around had happened and I was now Uncle Dave.
We started off down the long winding track that lead past the five acre wood, almost immediately I froze, Jake whispered what’s up? I whispered what can you see young un? Nothing apart from a peacock why? I whispered what about that roe buck sat watching us lead down under that beech tree not forty yards from us.
Blimey he said you do have the eyes of a poo house rat my dad said that you would see things I could not. I chuckled inside and said lets stalk on by nice and quiet and not disturb him, as we went along I pointed out scrapes and marks and tracks and told him to write it down in his note book I had given him as I would be testing him later, I pointed out hair left on some barbed wire were I knew the deer had been crossing.
We got to a damp patch on the track leading up to the forty acre wood, there were several tracks here some fresh some a day or two old, I taught Jake how to test how old a track was and showed him how we were on the trail of more than one deer, he wrote this in his note book and scribbled a drawing before we pushed on slowly.
Jake tapped me on the shoulder and asked why we had gone around the long way instead of walking straight over the valley ground to the high seat? ahhhh young un look at the wind for one? our scent would blow right through the wood and alert the deer of our presence, also going this way I know there is a good chance some deer may be on the ride near the high seat and present a shot from the shooting sticks.
As we entered the bottom end of the wood rabbits trotted off for cover and a squirrel went about his business, on we stalked into the wood another thirty yards or so, at this point I froze you know when you have that gut feeling a deer or something is there well that’s what I got, I could feel we were close to some deer, I raised my binoculars Jake did the same scanning the mixed woodland before us.
I slowly lowered my binoculars and placed my Browning 243 on the sticks not ten yards from my high seat there were four does sat feeding, I had to take a step left to get a clear shot as a sapling was in my way,at this point I stood on a stick but luckily enough for us the wind muffled our sound brilliantly taking the noise away from the deer as well as our scent. Jake still not seeing the deer thought I was going to take a squirrel, but no I chose one beast and took a breath and waited for the optimum shot moment.
I clicked off the safety and lined up on the engine room and if I say so myself a brilliant forty yard heart and lung shot, the other deer bolted for the safety of the woodland as Jake and I approached the shot deer, a stunning young cull doe and well let’s just say I think Jakes smiles said it all as he retrieved her for me.
I told the deer to bugger off after a while I started to get sea sick with all the shaking of my high seat much to Jakes annoyance, an hour or so later as the light was just starting to dim I caught a glimmer of movement up the ride, it was some roe doe making their way towards the lush grasses of the valley ground, and guess who was with them? Yup you got it my big boy George I have not put him on the cull list yet but over the next year or so he will need taking whilst in his prime to make way for a younger beats coming through that I have ear marked for the next matriarch of this heard.
we actually sat back up in the high seat in case the smell of blood brought Mr fox out as I had seen him around my pens a few days earlier, we stayed until it got too dark to see then took the two cull does to the game dealer ready for her lady ship to decide what she wanted done with these ones.
I think I have a new deer stalking partner in young sports Jake as he now has a passion for deer and wants to learn more, I am sure you will be reading a lot more about this young man in futer articles, well until then I hope you have enjoyed the ramblings and scribbles of yer ole mucker, please keep the letters and emails coming in we try to answer all we can but some do slip through the net.
It’s A Deer Time
By The Ole Hedge Creeper