During his annual trip to Bedford, Chris Dalton hits the jackpot with a trio of muntjac for The Shooting Show.
This article originally appeared in February’s edition of Sporting Rifle
This month I wanted to cover one of my trips down South which has been a regular feature in Sporting Rifle for a number of years. It is always nice to stalk in different surroundings, meet up with some good friends and compare notes – and, of course, take the proverbial out of one another!
I have a number of guys who come with me and the team has evolved over the years, from an initial group of four to more than a dozen this year. We are hosted, as always, by Paul Childerley and his team, and it’s a week where we assist with the bulk of the cull after the game shooting season has finished. Most of the guys know the score and can be placed out into a seat under instruction which reduces the pressure on the guiding team.
Latterly, this has allowed me to take DSC2 trainees for some ‘hands on’ experience, and I also try to get some filming done for The Shooting Show. I had Graeme with me this year so we had a ‘pro’ on the camera. Previously it’s been me trying to guide as well as film, and I am not good at multi-tasking apparently – the memsaab continually reminds me that only women can do that! Anyway, it’s a good trip and one I always look forward to.
In this issue, I want to cover Mr Greaves, or Big Brian, and his ‘Elmer Fudd’ hat – who have both featured previously on The Shooting Show. On the second afternoon down in Hitchin, fallow and muntjac were the target for Brian and I – with Graeme working the camera.
We had been allocated the estate gardens, where the muntjac were none too popular. Our brief was to shoot some. I had free reign to a degree but would obviously operate in line with guidance on humane shooting, to avoid orphaning dependant fawns, for example. We would also not shoot any really big bucks.
Ideally, I wanted to select very young females or young bucks. I had stalked this area twice in the last year so had a good idea of the layout, but due to the wind, Phil dropped us to come in from a different side of the ground. Initially, I was not familiar with the layout but would come into a patch I had stalked before so there should be no problems. The weather was lovely; quite cool with a decent wind and great visibility, and we were all looking forward to the outing.
As Phil pulled away, having pointed out the far boundary to me, I noted a really thick block of the wood with some overgrown thorn covered rides which would be ideal holding cover for muntjac, so that was where I headed. As it was early in the afternoon, I thought they would be tucked up tight in the undergrowth, so we stalked and glassed slowly as we worked the cover. I was glassing intently for movement and suddenly I noticed some just in front of us.
We were all anticipating a deer but that turned out to be a black Labrador, followed swiftly by an owner wandering through the wood no more than 80 yards in front of us. He never knew we were there, but it really shows that you must be so careful. We waited for him and his dog to get well past us before we started up again.
Deer one was a young female muntjac that wandered across a glade about 150 yards in front of us, scurrying about like a guinea pig, as they do. It made the mistake of ducking under the fence and working back across us in a loop through a field.
Clearly on a mission, Brian was on the bipod and tracking it, as it came level I asked if he was ready. Affirmative. I barked, hoping the muntjac would stop. They usually do, but only briefly, so the shot has to be instant. It was, and that resulted in muntjac number one. Fair play to Graeme, who had the hardest job, he managed to get all of the action on camera as well.
After the gralloch, and with the muntjac carefully stowed in my Apex Predator roe sack, we moved forward again. This time following a power line, towards a sheltered corner. We moved slowly and quietly, travelling no more than 200 yards when we spotted another muntjac doe, around 180 yards away.
She was looking back in our direction, so may have seen our movement, but as we had the wind in our favour, she was not unduly spooked. A careful check confirmed that this was another maiden doe. Confirmation was duly given to Brian.
He moved slowly to the edge of the ride, deployed the sticks and deer two was swiftly grassed. With recovery and a speedy gralloch executed – by suspending her from a convenient tree – we moved on. My load was getting heavier; any more and the sack would definitely be full. We also had all of the action on film again, it was going well.
We pressed on, heading for the field corner. The sun was going down quickly now and I fancied there would be deer here; a quiet corner with trees on three side and rhododendron bushes for cover. As we got to the wood edge I could see a muntjac working down the opposite fence line just out from the rhodies. He was sniffing as he went, so was clearly a male. A more detailed examination though the binos revealed a really good buck, with thick and broad antlers. He was too good, so we left him alone – his lucky day.
As we were about to move back, Brian nudged me. He had spotted another muntjac about 20 yards out into the field. I had a look and again confirmed a muntjac doe. The OK was given as the rangefinders told me the shot was just under 200 yards. It was tricky though, as Brian had to move forward over a bramble covered ditch, and set the long sticks though the mess of briars.
I was next to him, also tangled in blackberry thorn, and we had to wait for Graeme to set up and try and get the deer in view. A quick jiggle of the auto focus on the camera brought the details of the hedge into view, rather than the deer. We continued to wait and when our cameraman extraordinaire gave us the green light, Brian got himself set. He had to wait for the deer to fully turn but once he had the shot, muntjac three was in the bag. Again we had all the action filmed.
I have to say it was an excellent evening of stalking and a good result in terms of reducing numbers from the grounds, even through I had to carry a full roe sack back. Brian, who is an excellent shot, had proved himself so – now he just needs to lose the hat!