Muntjac vigil

Stuart Wilson heads south to bag his first ever muntjac, and hopefully capture it on camera at the same time

I spend a good amount of time trying to produce films for the Shooting Show – mostly behind the camera, but occasionally in front of it. If I am in front of the camera it is always self-filmed. Any form of stalking involves creeping quietly or waiting quietly, getting yourself and any stalking buddies and associated kit into range. If, however, your aim is to capture any form of video recording, your kit will naturally increase in both size and weight, and more importantly you need to consider the delays involved when a shot presents and how you are going to make it all happen.

I set myself up with my good old Remington 700 in .243 Win topped with the ATN X Sight, slung over my shoulder along with my usual video camera and tripod to allow a hands-free stable recording. The X Sight also has a record function built in, either activated by recoil, or as I prefer, a simple button push. The goal was to capture deer activity and hopefully a shot deer on both devices.

The day’s target was going to be muntjac – probably a doe, but if a small buck presented, that would also be taken. The ground I was lucky enough to hunt holds good populations of muntjac and fallow, with shots only to be taken from boxes observing specific arcs of fire. I am familiar enough with this ground to be allowed to hunt solo.

Stuart draws a bead using the X Sight as the crucial moment finally arrives

As the morning broke through the darkness, I made my way into my first box as quietly as possible, loading the rifle with Norma .243 Win 76gn Tipstrike and applying the safety, then quickly setting up the video camera within easy reach to allow single-handed ‘self film’ hunting.

It was late August and the cover was well up, nettles carpeting the woodland floors in front of the box, and trees are in full leaf. Some patches of nettles were decidedly thin, perhaps exacerbated by browsing deer.

As I was panning the camera to get an establishing shot, a small trio of fallow appeared to my right. The two does and one fawn proceeded to walk straight across to my left, no more than 40 yards out and certainly well within range. It’s a pleasure to see these creatures up close despite them being out of season. I was in position, rifle ready and camera ready, and the first test of concealment and scent had been passed with flying colours as the trio of fallow melted away into the nettles on my far left.

I explained earlier that muntjac were my target today. I had never shot a muntjac before, and they seemed the perfect starting point to test the day capabilities of the X Sight day-night unit. Two muntjac does appeared to my left no more than 15 yards from the box seat; my scent was pushing right to left straight at these two little deer, causing them to stop and scrutinise the ground in front of them. They dashed in short bursts as they disappeared into the thick nettles. No shot yet but things were looking promising – or so I thought. Apart from spotting a few glimpses of fallow and muntjac in the trees, things had gone quiet. It was time for a move.

Quickly packing away and slipping into the second box, I soon spotted fallow in the far tree line between 100-200 yards. A muntjac buck and doe also briefly put in an appearance. But with no shots presenting, I had a third and final box earmarked which I knew was more suited to what was now a dinner-time hunt. The woodland floor was covered with even more nettles than the first box, and was located in the middle of a large wood. Surely I could bag my first muntjac?

I crept into the box, ever hopeful, seeing fallow fawns and muntjac as I trudged through the four-foot nettles. I set up quickly, both camera and rifle, and glassed the area in front, with a good ride leading straight out and away from the box and a second ride leading to my right, disappearing round a corner some 90 yards away. I had good visibility, which certainly helps maintain interest if you are in for an extended stay. Just as I was relaxing and settling in for the duration, my plans tightened somewhat as the keeper explained I would need to vacate this box no later than 4pm.

The kit did its job and Stuart had his first ever muntjac on the ground

Fallow prickets were browsing in the tall nettles, but seemed to know how to stay safe from a shot. At one point a pricket and a doe got nicely into a clear spot where a shot may present. As time was ticking on I thought I would happily take a fallow pricket, but again my efforts were thwarted, both camera and ATN recording ready for a shot that never happened as the deer returned to deep cover.

This was becoming frustrating. I sat back, contemplating, talking myself down, and reflecting on the day’s events. I had seen some beautiful deer at ranges from 10 yards to over 200, so I had enjoyed myself. A cheeky muntjac doe had even appeared on a pile of spoilt grain from a pheasant feeder, presenting a raking shot that I wasn’t prepared to take, turning broadside for a split second only to skip off and disappear from view.

Half an hour later the same doe appeared again. The same raking shot presented, so I waited with main camera recording in case I had to take a quick shot. After what seemed like an age, the doe started to turn as she fed. Steadily browsing, she turned enough for my first real opportunity, I pressed record on the scope and bagged my first muntjac. I was delighted – it seemed like a fitting end to a day’s filming that could have all too easily turned into a fruitless day filming B-roll. Many thanks to my keeper friend, thank you to ATN, and a hearty thank you to the muntjac doe for the sport and the delicious meat.

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