Chris Dalton on his 2020 kitbag

Chris Dalton is impressed with his 2020 kitbag – including the Haenel Jaeger 10 in .243 and Leupold VX6-HD

For some time now, I have been working with Viking Arms and, as a result, using rifles out of the Haenel stable which, prior to this, were largely unknown to me.

I’ve had the Jaeger 10 in .243 for over a year and it has been the rifle I have used exclusively throughout that time. I like how it handles and particularly like the stock which has an adjustable comb which you can raise and set exactly how you want it.

If I am using a rifle then I use it all the time. I don’t believe in chopping and changing between one rifle or calibre; it’s much better to get to know exactly how one rifle performs in any given circumstance.

When I set the rifle up for a shot, I want total confidence that the round will go exactly where I want, within a very small tolerance. Stalking clients often ask which rifle to bring. My stock answer is always the same – bring the one you can shoot with and use most as long is its legal for UK deer.

Recently Viking started to supply Leopold Optics and again this was glass I had no previous experience of. To be honest I had handled one of their scopes years ago and was not overly impressed, nor was I fully convinced by some of the reviews in my early days of stalking. I now understand that Leopold have done a huge amount of work on R&D and rightly have an excellent reputation and large following in the UK. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

So having taken delivery of the Leupold VX6-HD, I set this up on the Jaeger 10, which I have to say was easy. The dials are very straightforward, well-marked and the adjustable illumined reticle is great. The scope feels robust and certainly on the range in good light the glass was clear and precise, but that was on the range. I wanted to get into the field to test it properly on deer!

I needed to go down to Yorkshire on business and a week previously had received a picture from the owner of one of the farms I manage showing a couple of groups of fallow browsing happily on his grass fields by the farmhouse.

I had backed off on the cull as I hadn’t seen the numbers of fallow I expected over the summer months, nor had I seen a lot of evidence of movement in the woods. However, clearly looking at the numbers in the groups, I needed to adjust my cull upwards, so here was an ideal opportunity to test the new set up.

This is strange stalking for me; it’s an urban environment with a lot of public access on the farm surrounds, a footpath through the wood and joggers, dog walkers and mountain bikers everywhere – not my usual hunting outing at all.

If I see another soul while I am out in Scotland it’s highly unusual and almost spoils my day! I try to do most of my deer control here when ordinary folk are in bed and at times when we have long daylight hours so I can get the job done before the walkers get active.

The Haenel Jaeger 10 performs well in every shooting scenario

But I can’t always do that – particularly with the does – so here I need to get the deer shot just as it’s coming light or just before dusk in the evenings, and from parts of the wood where it’s unlikely to find anyone else.

The fallow here move and feed freely under cover of darkness and will go to cover very quickly as the light comes up, and the dog walking commences.

A good scope is essential to catch them before they move to cover. This would provide a good field test for the Jaeger 10 and Leupold combo; the scope needed to perform well in these conditions if it was to become part of my regular rig.

A few days later saw me check in to my usual local hotel – I like to use small, friendly and traditional hotels where possible. You can build up a relationship with the team there, they get used to you being up and about at 3am in the summer and will be accommodating regarding meal times and, I find, they are always interested in what you are doing.

Moreover, it’s generally not long before local venison starts to appear on the menu, which is another great way of promoting and explaining to the wider public what we are doing and why.

I arrived late afternoon which gave me time to get out about an hour before dusk, ideally I planned to stalk some of the thicker parts of the wood where I know the fallow lay up during the day and if that didn’t work I could check some of the upper pasture fields just before dark and try and catch then moving on to pasture.

I pulled into a quiet corner with the car. I can get here through a padlocked gate used by the farmer which leads off a backroad and leave my kit up out of sight. I can then work around a high wall to get to one of the dense parts of the wood and in the middle of this is a stand of mature larches, favoured by the does which lie up on the carpet of soft larch needles.

All went to plan; there were folk walking dogs up and down the track and the odd jogger as it was a lovely cool evening – none of them saw the guy with the rifle quietly working the field edge and disappearing into the bracken at the side of the wood.

I did not actually get to the larch trees. As I got about 100 yards into the bracken – which lie under an open ride below telephone lines – Zosia started to pull forward, nose in the air. Deer were close. I stood and glassed and there they were; three young fallow does and a pricket 140 yards away, feeding under some beech trees.

I set the rifle on the quad sticks and waited for the smallest of the does to move broadside, with a safe backstop all around. Shooting downhill I shot her high in the neck and apart from the briefest of twitches she dropped where she stood.

There was very little noise from the moderated rifle and while I stood and waited for everything to settle I watched a couple of dog walkers chatting away as they made their way down the track around 200 yards from me, totally unaware of anything.

This rifle/scope combo has successfully helped with deer control all year long

I recovered the deer and dragged her about 100 yards where I carried out a suspended gralloch and left her to drain, hung in an old holly tree – it was a cold evening with frost just forming so no issue there.

I was about to call it a night – a pint of my favourite, hand-pulled Timmy Taylors’ landlord bitter calling – when I thought I saw something move. Too dark to tell with the naked eye but through the glasses I could see a small group of fallow coming into the field.

They were wary as deer invariably are when first emerging into the open and it was the leading doe clearly in front, and third in the line was a young doe.

A quick double check with the binoculars to confirm and for the second time that evening the rifle was deployed to the quad sticks. The doe was clearly visible through the Leupold, a click on the button to illumine the reticle and the second fallow fell with the briefest dash. The test of new set up was completed and all passed with flying colours – now how about that pint? 

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