There’s always one buck that gives me the incentive to keep getting up at stupid o’clock, time and time again. The most recent buck like this was one that came back on to the edge of the estate and would pass backwards and forwards across a busy A road, which has had many casualties over the past years. He normally arrived at the beginning of April with his antlers clean, but still quite light in colour, as expected. For the past three years, he had arrived at the main block for the spring and summer before disappearing for the winter months. During his summer break he would always be seen on the perimeters of the estate and would never fully commit to the does that he obviously came to visit.
After assessing him fully, I could see he had passed his best as his antlers had reduced in mass and height from the previous summer. He was still a magnificent buck and good enough to leave until after the rut.
During the rut, the buck was seen daily and held a confident presence, wouldn’t shy away from being watched and carried on with his rutting duties. As the rut tailed off, I was concerned that he would soon head off back to his secret life the other side of the A road. After seeing him so regularly and at ease, when spotted, I was feeling quietly confident. How wrong could I be?
The first attempt after him ended swiftly as he was on the woodland border of the main road. With two stamps and a couple of deep barks, he disappeared between a Golf GTI and an Astra van across the road.
His summer was not over as he quickly returned. The second attempt was after having a late night on the foxes at a friend’s estate. I popped in to have a quick stalk on the way home. He’d been seen the day before next to a lake, down in the valley, and was lying on a bank in the reeds with another young buck. This was a perfect area, which has an ideal viewpoint overlooking the whole valley and lake, where he should be hanging out. I arrived at the viewpoint, and within five minutes of setting up, a pair of fox cubs were in full attack mode killing pheasant poults in the reeds, where they obviously come off roost during the night. So, you know the scenario of what happened here. Unfortunately I only got one!
It was getting to September. I was getting busier – game shoot days had started – but in the back of my mind, I had set myself a target to get this buck before he disappeared for the winter. He had now moved down the estate and was living in a slightly different area. It was a plantation with a lime tree avenue down the centre and with a young fir block plantation on the back of it, heading back to the road. Parking on the edge of the fir block, I decided to stalk down to the lime tree avenue and set up on the sticks and wait as he had been seen several times in the last couple of days. Blank.
I thought I would try again in the same location but a different time, so I arrived in the late evening. I shot a muntjac buck on last knockings as there had been complaints of numbers getting too high. A great evening result getting the muntjac and seeing several roe does but still no sign of the buck. While driving back off the estate, flicking the lamp across for a fox, I caught sight of him laid down in the middle of the stubble field, right behind where I was stood earlier.
Now we were into October and in full swing of the game season. Time was precious and spending several hours chasing an elusive buck was not on the top of my priority list. Fortunately I had a phone call to cull out some young roebucks in a forestry block before the end of the season only 30 minutes away from the buck, so my buck was worth another try.
After a successful morning culling the young roe bucks from the forestry block, I decided to go and look at some new ground and head back to see if I could try my luck again that evening.
The previous partridge day, the buck had been seen, on one of the drives, heading out to the main road. The beaters heard a lot of beeping and skidding and jokingly had said the best place to look for the buck would be on the roadside! On the route in, I kept my eye out for him on the verges of the A road, just in case a car had beaten me to it.
The place he had fled from was a large block of kale which I knew was a good place to ambush him. Cautiously stalking around the area, because there were a lot of partridges on the borders of the kale; my aim was to not scare the partridges away because no doubt they would give the game away, to the buck.
After getting into the perfect position and the birds were all settled, feeding and dust bathing around me, I knew that the first part of the plan had been completed. I sat down on a five-gallon drum full of water, next to one of the water drinkers, which gave me the perfect view over the kale, with the wood directly behind.
After an hour or so, which passed remarkably quickly, as always happens when there is plenty to see around you, a doe popped out from the edge of the woodside and decided to walk up the edge of the kale, with a pair of playful twins hopping and skipping behind her. They were 50 yards in front of me and followed one of the partridge feed rides into the centre ride of the kale. Once they were on the crossroads, they were also surrounded by partridges. Seconds later the buck appeared at the bottom end of the kale and headed straight in, seemingly relaxed and settled. Unfortunately the doe had seen my movement and trotted back the same way she had arrived, in doing so, she flushed a big covey of partridge which glided down over the kale and landed around the buck area which spooked him like a scolded cat. He was gone.
It was the last week of the roebuck season – not my preferred time to hunt them but this one had to be seen through and I’m not one for quitting. Setting off in the afternoon after a busy morning I jumped in the truck with just my rifle, binoculars and set of sticks and decided I would stalk the boundary woods to see if I could catch him there as nobody had seen him since the partridge incident.
It was a classic autumnal evening – leaves had turned and winter was well on its way.
After my scheduled verge check, I parked up on the boundary wood, wondering if I’d missed my chance but hoping he was still around. The plan was to stalk the boundary woods and if I would accidentally bump him, he would want to pass around me to head back across the A road. After several close encounters I had everything crossed because this was my last chance this season. After two hours of hard stalking, I still hadn’t seen hide nor hare of this elusive buck. The night was drawing in and I was struggling to see clearly in the woods. Deciding my last hope was a stubble field next to the wood, where I had parked earlier, I fast-walked to the set aside edge where there was a nice stone wall to set up on.
As soon as I peered over the wall I could see deer movement. Unbelievably, there were seven roe across the field. Instantly I could recognise my buck as he had distinct straight, narrow antlers and without a second thought I was onto the wall for a steady rest. The buck was about 120 metres across the field and when I looked through my scope, it was slightly blurred. With a swift, twist down, to a lower magnification, he became crystal clear and the shot was taken.
The rest of the gang exited and I was soon across to the buck to inspect not only him but the shot placement on poor light conditions. As I am used to shooting roebucks during the summer months, it was a pleasant surprise to see him in his full winter coat. He looked so magnificent in his winter coat and had been so elusive, I decided not to let him out of my sight again and have him as a shoulder mount in the shoot lodge.
To hunt with Childerley Sporting, contact Paul on 07715 638934, visit www.childerleysporting.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org