June may not be regarded as the best month for roebuck stalking, but editor Pete Carr says it’s still worth a punt as results can often be surprising
Many stalkers regard June as a bit of an off month for hunting roebucks. Indeed, I took this view for a number of years until in 2012, by necessity and situation of circumstance, I was forced to apply extra effort after a lean spring. The results certainly changed my mind about June, and my records from that year show that, surprisingly, June was my most successful month at the bucks.
Of course, April, May and the rutting weeks in July and August will see most of the bucks harvested, with another peak in October when the bucks start to show after the post-rut slump. The spring months are when bucks are most active establishing and defending territory. Their behaviour is much more habitual, and as a consequence the stalker’s efforts are better rewarded.
There is a lot of activity when the mating game comes into play during the rut, but the results are unexceptional for me. There is no doubt that it is a grand spectacle, but expertise with the call is an absolute necessity to get results. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing bucks chasing without ever offering a shot – especially when the stalker is behind on his cull target.
Indeed, sometimes even the best of callers fail to pull a buck away from his doe. I suspect it is because the doe is close to standing and the buck doesn’t want to pass up on a sure thing. The trick is to apply extra effort in April and May when chance is more in your favour, and the rut will not be so important for cull targets, which will leave October in hand for any fine-tuning.
June will see buck activity tail off as territories will mostly be established. The bucks fraying and scent marking will be much reduced once May is out until a brief increase again during the rutting frenzy at the end of July. The ground cover and foliage will increase massively, and this will therefore hide much of the roebuck’s remaining movements. However, despite these negatives, June isn’t the time to slacken off one’s efforts – a change of tactics is the way forward.
I am not the best person for high seat shooting as I am too impatient, but there is no doubt that during June strategically placed high seats will pay dividends. Sitting and waiting with the wind in your favour is, of course, pretty much the same thing, and should be employed too. The high cover certainly impedes spot-and-stalk tactics, but the bucks will still move about and ambush methods based on solid fieldcraft and knowledge of the area will reap dividends. You will know roughly what bucks you have and where they are, and time spent in the field will reveal their favoured crossing points and sunning areas.
During June, these are the places one should spend time stalking into to wait for the targeted beast. Be ready for quick target acquisition and shooting – you will have had time to assess the ambush area for a suitable backstop and no-shoot zones. It will entail lots of waiting, and the action will be brief. There will be little of the heightened excitement one experiences in early spring when spotting and stalking, but for me it is always great to be out in the field enjoying the freedom and brief respite from a heavy workload.
Of course, hard-pressed professional deer managers will treat June like any other month and apply the same effort that their job demands through the rest of the year. But to the conscientious enthusiast who by popular belief sees June as a bit of a waste of time, I implore you to maintain the effort. It will alleviate the stress later in the year if you get behind, and it will be a lot of fun too.
One thing I must stress is not to overdo it in a particular area. Spread your activities across your ground, and under no account over-stress the deer with sustained stalking in particular areas as this will have an adverse effect – possibly even making them become nocturnal.
Last June opened well for me, with a superb stalk into an opportune buck that I knew was in residence but had remained elusive. The cover was high and the wheat crop was halfway up my shins – perfect for holding dew to sodden the lower legs. I was working the wind and carefully rounding a junction of unkempt hawthorn when I picked up the movement of two roe passing into the field I was about to enter. A quick spy through the Swarovski EL Range binos confirmed a buck and a doe at 270 yards.
The approach entailed backtracking a little and squeezing under the hedge to work my way down it on the blindside, as there was very little other cover to use to my advantage. This done, I adopted a low crouching position and stealthily ate up the distance between me and the quarry. About halfway, I poked the binos through a convenient gap in the hawthorn – and my heart sank. The deer had disappeared. They had either been spooked and ran back to the wood over the boundary from whence they came, or they had lain down in the wheat crop. Despite careful glassing I couldn’t pick up tips of ears or antler tips, so I feared the worst.
Nevertheless I carried on the stalk toward their last known position – and prettymuch stumbled on the beasts laid up in a tramline in the security of a slight hollow that had created a small area of concealed dead ground. Luck was with me as they were facing away and still unaware of my presence. However, my movement deploying the stalking sticks – or possibly a slight eddy in the wind – alerted the pair and they stood up. Quickly fitting to the rifle, I ran the crosshairs up the buck’s front leg to find the kill zone and popped a bullet through its heart. The doe, confused, looked at its fallen partner in an agitated fashion and then skipped away.
It had been a good opening to the June account – indeed, I shot half my bucks in June last year. It isn’t the easiest of months to stalk roebucks, but sometimes it’s certainly well worth the effort.