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Monday, 5 October 2015

From The High Seat - Not!

A high seat to a stalker is like a telephoto lens to a photographer, it's a great tool for some applications but you don't want it all the time. The following is an account of a stalk with an experienced deer stalker who had never seen Chinese Water Deer before, my job therefore was to get him close enough to see, identify and harvest one.

On arrival, we just trickle along the tracks in the dark, just on side lights, we don't want the headlights cutting through the dark to announce our presence. At our parking place the lights are off and every word is in hushed tones, the doors are opened and closed very gently, no slamming, no speaking unless absolutely necessary. As we set out from the car we flushed our first CWD, heard but never seen, then a minute later we saw a Muntjac and not yet 100 yards from the car, it could be a reasonable morning, the Muntjac was then flushed by our CWD and we headed off in the gathering light to see what else we could find.

We hadn't covered 400 yards before we had seen another half a dozen CWD and a distant Roe, so all three resident species spotted within the first 30 minutes of daylight, looking good!
We followed our planned route based on wind direction and about half a mile in to our route we rounded a corner to see a little yearling buck about 140 yards away and quite oblivious to our presence. I set up the shooting sticks for my companion to rest his rifle on and having verified safety, the shot was taken.

As we carried him out on a circuitous route back to the car, I spotted a CWD in a typical 'hide and seek' mode, where a head pops up out of the weeds, ears extended and makes a quick swivel before descending back in to the weeds. It took a few 'shows' to explain to my colleague where to look and exactly what he was looking for. It was a quite a difference to his previous experience and he was happy to take a seat in the sun while I made a stealthy and circuitous approach to an already wary animal.

CWD in hide and seek mode

My route took me back the way we'd come, under a hedge in to a wood, through the wood then out the other side in to a ditch. I crawled 'worm style' across some open ground and in to another ditch, whilst I was going through this assault course, my CWD had gained a 'lookout' a big buck laying in an open field a bit further away and just watched me, barking periodically to let me know he could see me!
After paddling down the ditch for a while, I was now obliged to get back out on the other side and do some more 'worm style' approach to a point where I thought I could not risk getting closer without flushing at least one of them. I could see both my original objective at 65 yards and the 'lookout' at about 120 yards distance. This is when it pays to know your quarry and their likely reactions on hearing a shot. I planned to take the lookout first then make ready in very short order, to take the original one as it stood up to see what the commotion was about. If I took them the other way around the lookout would take off in 'launch mode' and be out of sight before he stopped running.

I checked that I could swing from the first to the second target without moving my body at all and made a little adjustment. Safety checked and plan executed, the lookout rolled over dead where he lay and as the doe stood, she also laid back down again in exactly the spot she had laid in previously, all over in seconds.

One of those occasions when you get two deer in your sights at the same time. 
The jeans may not be the best camouflage but it's too late for these deer and now that they have stepped down into the ditch there is a perfect backstop.  

A busy and successful morning had arrived at  a different stage now and after preparations and ruck sack loading, we were headed for the car and home, where meat processing could begin. A lovely morning, great company and time well and productively spent. This is part sport, part harvest and part countryside management, I feel privileged to be a part of it, to share it and teach others about it. Come and join us one day and experience what we do at first hand.


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