Paul Childerley chances a call at the start of the rut and ends up putting his new Sako rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor to good use
Needing some summer venison for a camping trip at the weekend, I decided to head to my good friend Stuart’s place in Gloucestershire to try my luck at calling a roebuck even though it was really a bit early for the rut to be in full swing.
It had been a fantastic stretch of good weather and, speaking to many friends, they agreed that sightings of roebucks had been minimal as they were all laid down pre-rut, saving their energy for the task ahead.
But that didn’t faze me as stalking round the beautiful Cotswold woods is a privilege either way. I was sneakily confident because we hadn’t taken any bucks this season, so the numbers would be slightly higher than other years, and I also wanted to try out my new Sako Finnlight II 6.5 Creedmoor rifle.
There is no rush in getting to the wood because it was still very hot and I knew everything would be laying in the cool, so arriving at 7pm-ish was perfect as it gave me a few more minutes to get all my kit sorted and play around with the Zeiss RF binoculars and phone app, linking the two and getting the correct rifle calibre profile connected just in case it was a longer distance shot. Once I felt the time was about right, I slowly stalked through the peaceful, calming Cotswold wood – a different feel from my normal area.
After 15 minutes or so, I got the feeling I was wasting my time. Sometimes you just ‘know’ when an area is going to draw a blank. Having had this sixth sense many times before, I decided there was no point pushing the situation, so I headed straight out to a part where forestry contractors had started dropping a few firs, thinning a plantation.
As I approached, I came out into a great open area with new trees freshly planted last winter, which gave a wide area to view. There were big clumps of thistles and other greenery, which made it look like a perfect deer area. I set up on the sticks on the top corner of the main ride looking down.
Just as I got set up, I realised that a young roebuck was stood watching me 80 metres in front. By the time I got on to him for a shot, my window of opportunity had been lost and he had slowly vanished into one of the thistle patches.
All was not lost, though – instead of trying my luck with a call or waiting patiently, I backed away and left it quiet, thinking he may come back out or I could sneak in and give him a call later.
Route marching to one of the far woods made me need a couple of minutes of rest and gave me time to reflect on my next plan. I sat down on an old fallen-down drystone wall and looked out over the valley.
I was looking at the adjacent bank to see if there was anything out grazing in the evening sun or if it was worthwhile me stalking out in that direction, and decided to bellow out on the Buttolo to see if I could entice anything out. Six loud squeaks and I sat there for a good five minutes.
Nothing. So I repeated, and on the third squeak a buck popped out of the distant wood. He was a magnificent six-pointer with big white tips, a strong body and in tip-top rutting shape. But however much I needed some venison, he was not on the menu.
Wanting to see how good his antlers were, I gave him another couple of squeaks to see if he would react and he was on it. He ended up coming in to the hedge to my right, where he managed to link up with a doe, and he chased her 20 metres behind me, back into the wood.
A fantastic spectacle to watch and you can learn so much from the deer and the noises they make by doing this, which builds the fieldcraft for your calling. Seeing the quality of this buck gave me a sense of confidence that we’re managing the stock correctly.
Time was pressing and I thought I would head back to see if the earlier buck had returned. I approached the wood from a different angle, just in case he was keeping an eye on where he had spotted me before.
There’s a Cotswold stone wall there, which gives you great cover to duck behind, so I could get right up to the edge of the young plantation. Also it was a good shooting position, in case I needed it.
I snuck into position and poked my head over the top with my binoculars in position. There was no sign of the buck but there were a couple of fallow only 15 metres away. This was not good news as if they spooked, the last plan of the evening would fail, so I backed away slowly and did a reverse stalk, which seemed to do the trick as they carried on smashing the tree guards.
Looping in a big circular walk, I tried to get to the other side where I had previously stalked that evening, conscious to prevent the little breeze there was from hindering my plan. I stopped further away than I would normally, set up on the sticks and waited to let everything settle.
Thinking this area was slightly more sensitive owing to the earlier activities, I decided to use the Hubertus call, which is slightly quieter and not as aggressive, because I needed this young buck to come and have a look and not be scared away. Young bucks are normally inquisitive and not quite as cunning as the old boys.
Setting up on the sticks, I made myself comfy so I could take a shot without much movement. Once you’ve made the first call, those animals can pinpoint you, so a key to success is minimal movement. On the Hubertus call, you can wind the screw to give you a higher pitch.
I wound it right out so it sounded a little deeper and more like a doe rather than a fawn. After a few squeaks, the young buck came trotting along up the centre ride. He had come from the tiniest patch of thistles – how I had not spotted him in there was beyond me.
Giving a sharp whistle, he stopped in his tracks but unfortunately he was facing me straight on with his head dipped down so no clear shot at all.
After a five-second delay, he trotted back into the thicker cover, but I could see his ears and antlers moving towards me, so I gave him a couple more squeaks, which pulled him to a clearing and gave me a clean neck shot, where he dropped on the spot.
I was so pleased with the result – not only had I passed up and seen the most fantastic buck, but I also had a perfect one in the bag for the weekend’s trip away.
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