The date is 1st August, and Paul Childerley is setting out after a roebuck but ends up pursuing an entirely different species of deer…
The opening day of the fallow season, 1 August, and I’d arranged to meet my buddy Stuart back in Gloucestershire to see if we still had the skills to call in roebucks. We knew we might bump into a fallow pricket for the table also.
Meeting at the woodland crossroads with Stuart, we decided that we would head out together and I would try out a new call I had been given to try by Kristoffer Clausen, the Norwegian fox eater.
Yes, it’s true – this chap heads off to the wilderness and lives for weeks on end from the wild, and on one of his excursions, he ate fox. It’s worth a watch. Anyway, he makes roebuck and fox calls and asked me to try this one.
Stuart was up first on the rifle and we headed straight to one of our favourite blocks of wood, which is a good spot for calling. As we approached, we could see that the forestry boys had been in and levelled the whole block of ash trees, but there was a nice young plantation of fir trees still standing halfway down the block.
We decided not to stop and call on our normal area, so we headed towards the edge and stopped about 50 metres from the edge of the firs. Stuart set up on the sticks and I gave a few loud, sharp blasts on this yellow Clausen roe call.
I also had my cherry whistle and Buttolo in my pocket ready. It was full rutting season and I was expecting to try many different tunes to try to entice a buck.
The call was loud and intense. It echoed down the empty woodland, bouncing back from the distant sycamores at the bottom of this once ash wood. Stuart and I looked at each other and laughed. The call was so loud, and because I was not used to it, it rasped out some strange noises.
After a few tries, I managed to get it working well, though it was still very loud and didn’t sound like a call an English roebuck would normally come in to. Maybe the Norwegian roebucks react differently to the English ones.
After several rounds of calling and a few laughs, in the distance, a fallow doe came trotting directly at us with her head held high and her ears forward. She looked like she was on a defence route. Close behind her were a few more followers.
Quick to realise she was interested in the call, I rasped out three more in quick succession, which moved her on her feet again and made her close the distance between us rapidly with her group of does and fawns behind her. Tagging on behind was a lonesome pricket, trying to keep up with the fast-moving group.
They closed the gap from 300 down to 100 metres in a matter of a few squeaks, but I told Stuart to hold on to see how far in they would come. The lead doe was on full alert and on defence mode. They were now on the other side of the small plantation standing still, and the pricket caught up with them.
I gave three blasts and once again, the lead doe instantly reacted and dragged her followers along to a standstill at 30 metres, where once again, the rest of the group caught up.
I gave one more single blast and she charged and circled away past us. Eventually the pricket caught up with the line and we stopped him with a sharp whistle in the clear, where Stuart dropped him on the spot.
We headed over and couldn’t believe the reaction to the call. We were expecting the possibility of a roebuck but instead we had some nice venison for the table – this is one of my favourite times of year to harvest fallow deer to eat. The buck was a cracking specimen with full menil summer coat – one for the tanners for a rug for the shoot lodge.
Feeling quite chuffed with ourselves – albeit dripping in sweat – we thought we would carry on to see if we could call out a roebuck. It was an extremely warm evening and Stuart decided to take back the pricket and put it in the chiller and head round to the pheasant pens to check on them before dark.
After a 20-minute drag, I took the opportunity to return to my truck, have a change of outfit and a quick swig of water. Stuart told me to head over to another area where there has been quite a lot of tree damage. I stalked down the drystone wall and into the beech wood, which opened out to where the plantation began.
The plantation was about eight acres in a triangle shape – it is an awkward spot as it has many craters and features that can hide deer really easily. So it would be a case of set up and wait.
I decided to head back along one of the hedgerows, which acted like a motorway between the young plantation to one of the main fir blocks. Tucking myself into the side of the hedge and setting up on my sticks, deciding to face the triangle wood, I gave a few blasts with the Clausen call.
By now, I had got the sound about right – not too aggressive but enough to gain attention. Amazingly, a buck came out of the standing wheat on my left and started heading towards me. He was 150 metres away but I could tell he had spotted me instantly, and far from continuing towards me, he was soon on his feet heading away from me, barking.
The buck was fairly young, which made me confused as to how he spotted me so quickly. Then I suddenly realised my jacket should have been reversed to the green side as my surroundings were now all green.
After correcting the error and making a few more calls, nothing was happening, and sometimes you just know when enough is enough. My legs were starting to ache and the drystone wall behind me gave me a great place to rest against.
Putting the rifle on top of the wall, I was looking straight towards the parallel hedge, which is also a favourite for the deer to follow. A black fallow pricket was on the hedgerow pathway heading on the long route round to the plantation.
I’m not sure how he had gone unnoticed considering he was dark against the golden coloured wheat background. He was about as close as he was going to get, so I settled in and made him number two for the day.
I was pleased with the shot at 180 metres, and it was an unexpected end to the first day of the fallow season, considering we had really been attempting to call roebucks.