Bothered by a buck

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The evidence was all around – well it would be, wouldn’t it, it was that time of year.

Roebucks knocking the velvet off their antlers by fraying the bark from the low-hanging branches, newly growing tree shoots and tree trunks – all a damning indictment of deer numbers and their dietary and rubbing preferences.

The signs of tree decay from previous incursions were evident, and the damage was all too easily seen in the form of stunted tree growth and now lifeless trees.

I knew it was time to do something about it, and an early morning and late evening visit was formulating in the fetid morass that passes as an excuse for my brain. I was planning to ascertain the locality of the offenders and intercept their destructive antics. So binoculars in place, I set about trying to locate the culprits.

I first walked up and into a group of five: three adult does and two followers, which quickly ran out onto the field from the trees before stopping some 150 yards away to look back. The next two areas proved deerless, although there was some trade where they had jumped a dyke through a gap in the hedge. There was also some fraying here, but nothing as bad as I had seen in the trees.

I moved on to the next likely location. As I scanned the area with the binoculars I could see a buck, back-end on to me, about 200 yards away. I couldn’t see his head but he looked to be fully grown. I tried to stalk into him, but the wind wasn’t particularly favourable and he soon departed at a rate of knots.

I walked up to where he had been standing. There was fresh fraying on two of the thinner branches – in fact on one of them he had completely denuded the branch of all bark covering. There was a lot more trade here, and the damage to the trees was substantial enough for me to decide that this was the best place to begin.

There was nowhere I could place the high seat that would be of benefit, so it would have to be a foot stalk. This isn’t an issue usually, but in this area the prevailing wind can work against you when considering how to stalk in without being noticed, and still get you in a position that offers you a safe backdrop for your shot.

shooting1The following morning found me armed with the .243 Tikka-Burris combo and suitably camouflaged. I set out just as dawn began to break. As expected, the prevailing wind was completely wrong for my purposes.

Scanning the area, I could see a buck where I had spotted one the day before. It was going to be exceptionally difficult to stalk into him, but I had no option but to give it a go.

I had to belly crawl for a good 50 yards, trying to minimise any scent that may be emanating from me (no comments please, editor). I was nowhere near a shooting position when his head went up – then he was off and he wasn’t going to stop.

Disappointed, I sullenly trudged back to my starting point. I was sure from the evidence I had gained previously that I still stood a chance of catching a buck at the far side of the area if the fates were with me, so I set off to investigate.

Scanning around this section as I went, it was impossible to see if there was any activity in the vicinity without getting closer – and the closer I got, the more chance there was of spooking the residents.

The wind was completely wrong for this stalk, too, but there was no other option, and so staying as low as I could, I stalked into the tree line, travelling a few yards then glassing the region to see if there was any sign. This meant I was making slow progress, but it had to be done if I was going to have even the slightest chance of success.

I caught sight of some brown sticking out from a mass of brambles. Sitting down and glassing proved it to be a roe. I could only see the side of its back end, so couldn’t discern whether it was a buck or a doe. And of course, it refused to move – it was impossible to tell.

I considered crawling around to enable me to see its backside, but again the wind prevented that as a course of action, so I had no option but to wait.

Five minutes dragged into ten with no inkling of movement. I sat desperately trying to think of a way to get around it. I needn’t have worried – it finally backed out of the brambles, and it was clear it was a doe. All that time wasted with nothing to show for it. It wandered away unconcerned, and I decided I would call it a day and try again tomorrow.

It was while I was making my way back that I thought I saw some movement in the area I had stalked originally, so bringing the glasses to bear, I checked it out. Sure enough, there was a deer about 20 yards into the trees.

This time there was a possibility I could stalk in without the wind minimising my chances if I took it carefully, so dropping low, I began to make for a position where I knew I could shoot safely.

The deer was obviously grazing because it seemed every time I moved closer, it moved a little further away. It was immensely frustrating, but I persisted in my efforts even though it meant once again dropping to my belly and crawling.

Habitat horrors: Damage to new forest growth meant the buck had to be found

Habitat horrors: Damage to new forest growth meant the buck had to be found

When you’re my shape this isn’t always the easiest of things to do but I was determined to make headway.

I had been crawling for about 200 yards and it was beginning to get a little tedious. I moved 10 yards and it moved 20. I could see now it was definitely a buck, so at least it was a worthwhile stalk – there’s nothing worse than crawling a long way through wet, cold undergrowth to find that when you get into a firing position your quarry is the wrong sex.

The buck carried on for another 30 yards or so, then stopped its meanderings and began grazing. I was getting closer, but it was unnerving when the buck threw its head up and sniffed the air, its ears rotating for the slightest sound. I froze.

I was almost in position but needed to get another 40 yards closer to give me a clear shot. Its head was still up and it was looking nervously around. It stayed like that for a good 30 seconds before dropping its head again to feed.

I took my chance and made some progress towards the place I believed I could get a shot from. Its head came up again and it began to move away.

I stayed in position and watched as it got farther and farther away. I felt it was going to be another waste of time when it stopped again and dropped its head to feed.

Moving as quickly as I dared, I crawled on. Not far now, and its head hadn’t come up. It was back-end on to me but I was now in a position where I could get a clear shot – it just needed to turn.

I must have sat watching it graze for about five minutes without it offering me any form of opportunity.

Its head came up again but it was still back-end on to me.

It looked in my direction and then turned just enough for the Burris to pick out the target.

A gentle squeeze on the Tikka’s trigger, and the buck dropped instantly. I walked out 98 paces, and the entry wound was exactly where it was placed – a testament to the accuracy of the combination.

A nice buck in good condition, and one that would no longer be at liberty to roam carelessly and destroy the surrounding habitat.

Tony Megson

Third time lucky: After the prevailing wind problems, Tony got his buck

Third time lucky: After the prevailing wind problems, Tony got his buck

Equipment reviewed by Tony Megson

Product: Tikka T3 Lite
Distributor: GMK ■ 01489 587500 ■ www.gmk.co.uk
Price: £885 (bundle price £1,200)
Comments: An impressive and accurate rifle package, as effective on deer as on foxes

Product: Burris Four X 3-12×56
Distributor: GMK ■ 01489 587500 ■ www.gmk.co.uk
Price: £580 (bundle price £1,200)
Comments: Good optics and light gathering with illuminated reticle, all making for an impressively clear sight picture

Product: Sako 90-grain soft point
Distributor: GMK ■ 01489 587500 ■ www.gmk.co.uk
Price: POA
Comments: Hit their mark exactly

Product: Rivers West Ranger Jacket in Mossy Oak
Distributor: Rivers West ■ 01524 548060 ■ www.riverswest.co.uk
Price: £179.95
Comments: A very useful jacket, that could ideally work in conjunction with the Ranger trousers

Product: Black Islander Scratchless Boots
Distributor: Black Islander ■ 01349 877770 ■ www.blackislander.co.uk
Price: £209.95 + £10.00 P+p
Comments: There’s a reason these are so well known – they truly are the business

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