Getting a break from the constant demands of being a gamekeeper, Paul Childerley heads out for an evening of much-needed R&R: rifle and roebucks.
I set off on a sunny afternoon in May to try my luck on a roebuck and also have a break from the day-to-day activities and my ever growing to do list. On arrival, there were forestry activities in the centre of the wood, consisting of one whole block being clear felled.
There were chainsaws in full scream and a forest harvester also dropping trees like there’s no tomorrow. Most people would have turned round and headed home or to a different location but knowing we hadn’t taken any deer from this area this year, the probability was good to get one in the bag.
Owing to the unseasonably warm weather, being minimalistic with equipment was key as there would be a lot of walking involved. I’d gone for lightweight Cordura trousers, Digitex jacket from ShooterKing, Primos double shooting sticks, my Zeiss RF 10×54 binoculars, and my Sako 85 in .243 with a V6 on top.
Setting off down the main track of the forestry block, another two vehicles with a couple of caravans appeared. After a quick conversation, they turned out to be a couple more of the forestry guys bedding down, next to their equipment, for the night, so just a bit more noise to add to the mix!
Once at the boundary; taking a sharp left through the old, mature beech trees, which when walking on, sounded like a stampede of cattle, but still hopeful that once the wind was in the right direction and far enough away from the forestry action, then the hunt would begin…
Finally, after more walking, it felt right; no noise, wind correct and a nice clear path to stalk upon. After waiting a few minutes, to let the wood settle back down and to enjoy the birds singing, I began to slowly and carefully stalk the woodland path, stopping at every good view point and glassing with my new rangefinding binoculars.
This particular area was approximately a 20 year old mixed woodland and scotch pine with a few hardwoods scattered throughout with some beautiful open areas and thick bramble bushes. A perfect area for roe to hang out. After about an hour of slow walking and spying, there was still no sign of movement and I was beginning to think that the forestry crew had had an effect on the deer movement.
After drawing a blank in that patch, I decided to try the next area over. The likelihood was pretty slim, as it was adjacent to where all the forestry was being carried out and half the trees were missing, but I hadn’t had any luck so far, so it was worth a try. Heading down the small ride, away from the wood piles, a roe doe shot out from my right hand side and gave the alarm trot and instantly I could see a pair of yearlings back through the cover where she had bounded from.
Straight on to the sticks, I could see that one was a young buck in velvet and was a perfect one to take. Unfortunately he was behind the thick cover and didn’t present a clear shot. With the alarm sound from the old doe, he was soon heading into the thicker cover.
Deciding that he would be following the doe, I set up ready for him to cross the ride in front. Moments later, the old doe crossed and circled around, to my left, which meant that the two yearlings would be imminent on the trail. Within five minutes, we had action with the first yearling, which was a doe, with the buck close on her tail but unfortunately he did not stop for long enough.
Luckily there was a second ride which he had to pass over, swiftly I manoeuvred the rifle and sticks to prepare for the crossing. Once again, patience was at the fore as there was no movement for a good 10 minutes and all was quiet, then suddenly, 119 metres away, down the first ride, the young doe was slowly sneaking back across a ride and I knew her sidekick would be close.
Back to square one, I was ready at the same time as the buck started crossing. I gave a quick bark to stop him in his tracks. He stopped and presented broadside for a perfect shot. He jumped, kicked back and I heard a good strike. Knowing the shot was good, there was no rush.
Heading up to find him, the buck was easy to find, lying dead 20 metres off the ride. Looking closely, the buck wasn’t in top condition, he was still in velvet, very broken coated, covered in ticks and basically, a scrawny, late animal, which is a perfect animal to take out of the stock.
Hanging him up to do a field gralloch and after close inspection, I still wasn’t convinced this was one for the food chain but he was in top condition inside and he was just a late born animal, which must have struggled through this year’s wet, cold winter.
It was such a great evening, and needing to reduce numbers on the area, carrying on was inevitable. As the only deer seen in the wood had been close to the forestry work and the chainsaws had now been finished for the evening, it was worth trying close by.
Walking through the clear fell area, I knew that there was a good hot spot where there is always a buck hanging out – but the wind was slightly wrong so I had to head out the long way round so I would be coming in from the opposite direction, looking back over a long field with a small valley heading up through the middle.
Sneaking a look round the corner, I instantly spied a buck on the far perimeter against the adjacent wood, grazing on the grass strip. Assuming he would be there for a while, it would give me a chance to stalk in closer and see if there was another buck closer down one of the adjacent hedgerows.
Unfortunately no other deer were out and he was the other one, but he was 400+ metres away so it meant some more stalking down the hedgerows and moors to get into a good shooting position.
I pushed on quickly to try to lessen the distance. The buck was also moving while grazing, so time was now a factor. A slow stalk turned into a speed walk, hunched over so the buck could not see me over the stone wall, which I was using as cover.
I knew where I wanted to get to for a comfortable shot across the valley, but as I gained distance the buck had spotted the movement where the wall had fallen and it obviously could see the dark shape’s movement. The last few metres were quite open which meant I had to manoeuvre myself through the foot tall stinging nettles which made the stalk even more rewarding, if I managed to get him.
I crawled into the gap where the wall had fallen and set up the rifle on the bipod, looking straight across the valley, where the buck was stood peering straight back at me, not sure quite what I was.
Needing to double check the distance, a quick press on the new rangefinder button, came back with the first reading of 236 metres and the second reading of five clicks up, which meant I quickly used the ballistic turret on the V6 and dialled in five clicks of elevation, giving me point of aim. With confidence in the kit, I squeezed off a heart shot which gave all the right signs of impact and watched the buck fall over after a 10-metre trot.
Heading up to the buck, it was clear to see that this animal was in a lot better condition than the previous one. His coat was in full moult but the hair wasn’t snapped off and ruffled. He was also a yearling buck, still in velvet and another perfect one to take out of the stock.
Deciding it was the end of the night, I headed back to the vehicle to find a pair of six-point bucks, one being a very, very good specimen and a perfect one to leave in the centre of the ground. But amazingly he was right in the middle of all the forestry action. Maybe he’ll be one for next season.