Deer Hunting: Unexpected Results w/ Chris Dalton

When it comes to deer hunting, June is often a quieter month on the roe front for us; in fact it’s quieter in general.

Credit: James Warwick / Getty Images

This isn’t because we have less deer hunting enquiries but more because it’s the way I prefer it. With the cover up and the roe often getting quieter pre-rut, we start to turn our attention to the red stag season starting at the end of the month. 

This means that we will be checking areas for stags, finding where they are and planning the cull for the coming season. It’s generally better weather and with long daylight hours it’s hard burning the candle at both ends.

I never have an issue getting up early; in fact I love being out when everyone else is in bed. The world is quiet and it’s just me and the dog. 

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But I don’t sleep during the day. I never have been able to as I always seem to have things to do and can’t settle – so if I then go out till dark, after being up since before 3 am, I soon lose enthusiasm.

According to the memsaab, I get grumpy! Me? Surely not? So we try to get a lot of deer hunting maintenance done this month – we can stalk mornings and check seats/paint etc and move things during the day – if we don’t do it now or in March then it tends not to get done, as clients take priority.

Anne was away and, as I was holding the fort, I decided to have an early morning foray mid-month as the weather forecast was fine with a breeze. The conditions were ideal after a few very hot days.

A change in the weather like this, I find, often has the deer moving. If it has been hot and quite humid with bad flies – and the black flies can be murderously annoying in the forest – fresher weather will often have deer out feeding in the cool of the morning.

Deer Hunting: The perfect start 

I was off as the first hint of light started to creep over the horizon, and was just able to see as I pulled up to the rookery gate, donned my kit and headed slowly up the track. It was a perfect morning for me; I know every inch of this ground, it’s close to the house, in one of my favourite valleys and I was confident that there would be a few bucks about.

If I were able to choose the ‘perfect’ conditions and location for a morning roe buck outing, this was it. However, someone forgot to brief the deer. I saw neither sight nor sound of anything resembling a deer.

The dog indicated a few times, but even she was not showing the keenness which the scent of deer at close quarters generates. Still a grand morning nevertheless and the sunrise alone made the 3AM alarm worthwhile. Never mind.

With no guests in, it was a steady 10 minute drive back to Garryloop to prepare a nice breakfast and coffee and start to tackle the job list the memsaab had left for me, all good.

I had driven half way back and, as all stalkers do, most of that journey was spent looking into the fields and margins and not watching the road. All stalkers will know where I am coming from, we can’t switch off.

Anyhow up past the quarry I could see what looked like deer out in the pasture. A check with the glasses confirmed a young buck and doe browsing on the side of the hill a good 300 metres out from the trees.

Typical! As I watched them browsing quite happily the route they were following was bringing them closer and on current track they would end up in some rushes around 150 yards from the track edge.

I had the cover of two willow trees and the quarry bank so a quick detour had me driving 200 yards up the track, quietly exiting the vehicle and re-kitting out of sight of the deer. 

I crawled 100 yards up the ditch to the lower gate and then checked the deer’s last location. They were not there and as I was lower down than my original vantage point on the side of the road I was looking across the rushes in front of me rather than into them from a higher vantage point. No sign of them. 

I think this is where experience tells. In the early days I would have moved and tried to locate them. But now all was settled; birds were singing, there were no alarm calls from the ‘Jenny Wren’ or Blackbird.

So with nature going about its business, I felt sure the deer had not spooked and were, I presumed, in the rushes feeding, so I waited. 

Deer Hunting: Shoot from experience

Probably five minutes or so passed, but it seemed longer, and then movement gave a deer away – there was the doe, now 170 yards away in front of me. Head up and then down again, feeding. I could just see her back.

The buck must still be here but it was another couple of minutes before I saw him. Head briefly up, then down again enjoying whatever tender morsel he had found. I slowly set the quad sticks as I needed some height to try and engineer a shot where I could see the chest area.

At 150 yards and in cover a roe neck is very mobile and it’s not a shot I would recommend from this position; too many variables and fraught with danger. If you have ever seen that shot go wrong then the consequences make you think very carefully before it becomes a good option. If he presents then fine, if he does not then he lives to fight another day.

As it happened, once he had moved forwards 25 yards he came into an open patch of reeds which the cattle had flattened making the way to a water trough at the edge of the wall and he came fully clear.

Safety off and the Haenel Jagersport did the job from 150 yards to a perfect heart/lung shot. He never flinched and dropped on the spot. This is a sign that the deer was totally relaxed and unaware of any potential danger.

An unexpected deer hunting bonus. It ain’t over till it is

This was an unexpected bonus, resulting in a lovely young buck in the bag and some prime venison for the table. The stalk is never over till you put the rifle back into the cabinet. The area where I fully expected deer to be, in perfect stalking conditions revealed nothing.

I then see two roe in a pasture full of sheep and some cattle, feeding next to a working quarry and right out on the hill. Even the fact that they duly walked back in to me goes to show that if it’s meant to happen then it will.

How often have you finished a stalk, switched off, nearly back to the car, only to spook a deer and see it run away?

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