The first day of April can’t come soon enough for Byron Pace, who takes his new Kimber Montana out to control a roe population that’s causing a farmer sleepless nights…
I lay in the snow as a blizzard of ice and sleet relentlessly cut across the range. Between the white-outs I settled into the rifle and took aim. Every shot required a focused composure, blocking the elements and the biting cold from my thoughts, leaving just the rifle, the bullet and my target. Meditating myself into composure, I clicked the elevation turret an inch down with my shaking, numb fingers.
Another shot cracked through the icy air, this time slamming into the kill square. Two further shots settling just over 0.8in apart confirmed the rifle was where I wanted it. Initially zeroing with 105-grain Geco ammo, I wasn’t expecting my new Kimber Montana to group particularly well. I had tested the classic version in .243 Win a year or two before, and had cut some impressive holes in paper with 75-grain Remington ammo. It hadn’t favoured the 100-grain offerings I had at the time, although the groups were certainly usable for hunting. By virtue of this, I wasn’t expecting anything special from the even heavier Gecos.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered I would be able to run these excellent value-for-money cartridges through my rifle, and I was sure I could do better once the barrel was fully broken in, and indeed when weather conditions improved.
Of course this didn’t take place at the start of the buck season. No, this was in the depths of January during countrywide snowfall that seemingly brought all of society to a grinding halt. Having just received my new rifle, I was eager to get some brass in the chamber, and arctic conditions weren’t going to get in my way. I was also conducting a review of the set-up, and these extreme conditions were exactly what this rifle had been designed to cope with. In any case, with the rifle kitted out, reviewed and zeroed, April saw the start of the buck season with a new rifle in the cupboard.
Getting the doe cull in had proved a challenge this year, owing to poor weather along with very little time being spent at home. To add to that, a lot of my shooting lay across a new water pipeline being run the length of Scotland, and this had caused considerable disturbance. Fortunately they had begun wrapping up operations a week or two before the first day of the season, and now all but one farm was back to its usual tranquility.
Across any shooting permission, there will be certain areas that require focused attention. Whether it’s rabbit damage or pigeon crop destruction, it’s important to speak to the farmer and find out how you can help. A good relationship will make your life a whole load easier in the long run, and it is important to help manage a working countryside. The same is true of deer.
On arriving home from a hunting trip to Germany, I got an anxious phone call from a local farmer, who had mobilised the armoury to ease the roe pressure on a field of neeps. Three days and a handful of roe later, the remaining animals got the message and moved off. But with the buck season fast approaching, a different farm was having a similar problem with a young hardwood plantation. I promised it would be my first port of call when 1 April arrived.
In recent years the patchy pine forests that littered two adjoining farms had been felled and thinned, tidying up much of the wind-blown maze of impenetrable timber that had lain haphazardly for almost a year. This improved the stalking to no end, but now regeneration hardwood planting was replacing the unsympathetic blocks of pine. It was this that was causing a headache for the farmer, as resident bucks itching to clean their velvet abused the hard graft of establishing the juvenile forest. I would have to be hard on them to appease the farmer and protect his investment. It was time to get hunting.
The night of the call, I checked the weather for the following morning: fresh, with a light southerly wind and partial cloud cover. For a nice change the conditions were good. Content that I had a plan, I laid all my kit on the bedroom floor, set the alarm and hit the sack.
As my Land Rover’s wheels stopped turning at the top of the farm, the day’s first light had just begun to spill over the eastern sky. I was running a tad late but didn’t have far to walk. Below me I could see the old forest edge butting against the cleared valley. Now only sparsely populated birches stood tall, but below the newly planted hardwoods stood their ground against their four-legged threat. The light breeze was marginally in my favour, pushing up the valley from the bottom end. These were my preferred conditions, so I was hopeful that a slow and deliberate stalk would produce the goods.
After an hour the sun had fully emerged from over the neighbouring grouse moor, and I was almost halfway along the plantation. Little more than a few songbirds had shown themselves for my effort, and I was beginning to wonder where all the roe were. I paused to check my trail cam; a quick switch over with the SD card in my compact camera revealed plenty of deer movement, but not in the way of bucks. With that, I pushed on.
Approaching the end of my ground, the valley opened and flattened out, carpeted with the ginger browns over-wintered bracken. From a slightly elevated position I had a good command of the land. It was rare that I failed to take an animal from here.
Some careful spying gave up a doe and kid lying up beside a stone dyke, casually enjoying the early warmth of the day. Scattered grey plumage populated the distant forest tops as an army of woodies plotted a flight path for their day’s foraging. From every bush and tree, wildlife was bursting into life after a night of silence. The first hour of sun-up is an incredible part of the day. However, the bustling morning commotion didn’t offer up my intended quarry. It was time to abandon the valley and head to a new location.
With time cracking on, I hurried back over the hill towards my Land Rover with the intention of looking for roe in the middle plantation. As I breached the horizon, my mind had wandered to other things. But as I strode along the farm track, my peripheral vision caught something that made me halt and drop to the ground. Standing in the open at the top of the grass field to my left, eight roe stood browsing along a rough field edge. I was kicking myself at almost stumbling past them, completely oblivious. Peering slowly up, I glassed the group; I was lucky and they were still unaware of my presence.
From where I crouched behind a fence, it was only a short crawl to a nearby hedgerow. From there I could casually walk up the field within 100 yards of where the roe stood. It couldn’t have been easier.
Resting on a strainer post at the top of the field, I looked out towards the group. Among the does and kids, only one buck was visible, even though I’d spotted at least three from the bottom. The buck in my sights would have to do even though he was in velvet. I had a job to do, and that was that. A crack and a thud and the deal was sealed.
That evening I returned to the same farm. There was little more than an hour and a half of shootable light left, so if I was going to grass a beast I would have to be on it quick. As I pulled up to my usual vehicle drop-off point, I was greeted with an unexpected déjà vu of the morning. With the wind in pretty much the same direction as my earlier stalk, the roe were there once again. In less than 15 minutes I had added another buck to the tally. Now I would be able to report to the farmer that I was getting on top of the problem.
Want to see the Kimber in action? Tune in to the 25 February episode of The Shooting Show. See it at: www.theshootingshow.tv