Top stalking guide Mark Brackstone proves his worth by providing Sporting Rifle editor Pete Carr with three bronze medal roebucks before breakfast
I found myself indebted to Sporting Rifle’s editor, Peter Carr, as he had kindly recommended me to a German gentleman who had come to the UK and stalked with me on a number of occasions over the last few years. Pete had never asked for any commission, and when I mentioned this to him his reply was that he could not take anything from me, but he would love to join me for a good roebuck.
We agreed some dates and the scene was set. To say that I was a little nervous guiding someone who also had a wealth of experience in the stalking game was an understatement.
The clients had gone a few days earlier and I still knew of a good old buck that would possibly be a bronze and should fit the bill perfectly. Peter would be with me for an evening stalk as well as a stalk the next day, morning and evening.
On the way to an area where a big buck lived we chewed the fat and discussed our various adventures around the world. The pressure was on me to produce something, but this had to be pretty minimal compared to what Peter must have been experiencing.
We crept into position to watch the face of the wood. We continued to talk in whispers as the light started to fade. A young buck came out and trotted down the field but there was still no sign of the mature buck. I whispered that I would creep around the corner and check to see if he was out on the back of the wood.
I checked out the other side but all was quiet. As I returned I scanned the field and there was the old boy coming out of the wood. I looked at Peter who was still watching the yearling, and slowly approached him. “He’s out, Pete,” I hissed, “By the wood.”
With that the buck ran down towards the yearling. The light was receding fast as we were in the shadow of a big bank with a wood above. I watched as the yearling neatly out-manoeuvred the resident buck, and whispered, “Take him when you’re ready, Pete.” He had his .243 Heym on the sticks and moved the safety forward. The bucks were now 130 or so yards from us and 30 yards apart.
I was looking at the bucks through a pair of 10×50 binos and could see the big buck well. Peter had tracked it with the rifle but had glanced my way as the bucks had skirted around one another. He was sitting using my sticks and I was half standing behind him. I glanced down and could immediately see that he had the rifle trained on the youngster. We had earlier had a fair bit of banter about a mutual acquaintance who’d had this kind of bad luck, and I’d even sowed the seeds of doubt in Peter’s head when I jokingly said: “Imagine if you miss in front of me.”
My knee-jerk reaction was to quickly advise Peter that it was the wrong buck, but it was at this moment that the small trident-holding devil popped up on my shoulder. I thought to myself: “It’s only a poorish yearling – and how much piss-taking at Peter’s expense is this going to be worth over the years?”
I suppressed a chuckle and got a grip. “It’s too dark, Pete,” I said. “Let’s come back in the morning.” The look of disbelief and disappointment on Pete’s face was a picture. He said, “I could have taken him no problem.”
With that I passed him my binos. He looked at the buck he thought was the big one, then swiftly swung them a few degrees to the other, let out a huge sigh and grinned at me. He looked accusingly at me with a wry grin and said, “You bugger, you considered letting me do that, didn’t you?” I burst out laughing, and still kick myself to this day for letting the esteemed editor off the hook. Next time he won’t be so lucky.
We returned at first light and I watched Peter make a 100-yard crawl before taking that same old buck with a textbook heart shot. The buck was a superb old trophy and had probably gone back slightly. I reckoned he would be around a bronze as long as he had a fair density of antler, which most of our bucks tend to do.
After handshakes and a clap on the back, we loaded up and headed for a different area to look for a buck I really didn’t expect to see – but I was not worried as I had already fulfilled my offer of a good Wiltshire roebuck.
Sometimes you get a real red letter day. We had walked about 200 yards from the vehicle and really not even started stalking properly when Peter nudged me – a buck had appeared around the corner of the hedge no more than 50 yards away.
We froze, as did the buck. He had seen us, but was not sure what we were. Luckily, Peter had taken the rifle from his shoulder the second he spotted the deer, but I had the sticks and could not move. I recognised the buck as the one I wanted Peter to take. I gently nodded once. Now, at that moment, had I been on the rifle, I would have gently lifted it and put the crosshairs on the buck. But Peter adopted a different approach, as quick as a flash up came the rifle, the safety released and the bullet away in about one and a half seconds. The buck just collapsed in a heap as the 100-grain Nosler caught him dead centre of the chest.
I just said ‘lucky’ and Peter looked at me with a smirk and cocked his eyebrows; another buck in the bag and probably another bronze. Peter was delighted. “Which bit was lucky?” he asked.
“Everything! First we found him, second he stood long enough while you buggered about, and thirdly that you hit him.” Peter just chuckled and took my jibe in good spirit, having two good-sized Wiltshire bucks, both potential bronzes.
It was still too early to go home so I took Peter to an area where I really didn’t expect to see anything, but where we could kill a bit of time. Just before he climbed into a high seat on the edge of the wood he asked me what the buck that we were looking for was like. With tongue firmly in cheek, I said lightly: “Oh, he’s a fair one. You’ll know him if you see him, and I’ll be back in an hour.”
I walked back to my Land Rover and settled down for a snooze, leaving Peter watching the birds and other wildlife going about their business before the sun got too hot.
Only 10 minutes had passed and I was just nodding off when I heard a whack, followed a split second later by the muffled boom of the moderated rifle going off. This was unreal – what had he shot now?
When I got to the high seat, Peter was busy propping up yet another old buck for photos. You guessed it: it was a third bronze. It was a really nice one and Peter was all smiles.
On the way back to breakfast he let me off the hook for the previous evening’s stalk by announcing that he had had a really great time and this was, in his career, the first time that he had shot three trophy bucks before breakfast. I told him not to expect to come back next year as he was just too darned lucky, and this was his commission off next year’s hunt if his German friend re-booked.
I must say I really enjoyed our time together but I will regret not letting him shoot the yearling the night before. I bet I never get another chance to have one over on the infamous Mr Carr. I shall be kicking myself forever more.