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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Student Visit To Riddy Wood; by Graeme Williams

An account of the recent fieldtrip to Riddy Wood made by the Reaseheath College Game Management course by one of the visiting students.
On January the 12th 2016 at 12:30pm me, my class mates and our lecturer Geoffrey Guy left Reaseheath college and set off for Cambridgeshire to the woodlands that Geoffrey and his brother Richard manage and where they run recreational deer stalking for Chinese water deer and Muntjac.
I was particularly excited on this trip because I was going to get a go at Chinese water deer stalking, this was my first time deer stalking. We arrived at the farm yard where the vehicle’s where parked for the duration of the trip. Richard arrived with the 4x4 and trailer to transport the food and tools we had brought with us to the campsite while we walked with our rucksacks to the site, once we got to the campsite we went to where Richard had parked the 4x4 and trailer and carried the tools and food to the campsite. We then began to set out our bedding under the shelter that was provided, after a meal of pasta cooked on the camp fire we retired to bed.
cThe next day me and my class mates woke up early to a cold morning, once we all had woken up we decided to go to top camp and have breakfast, boiled eggs and bacon was on the menu, good eating ready for a good days work

'Top Camp' is the main camp at Riddy Wood where we store and process timber and teach.
'Bottom Camp' is also affectionately known as camp coppice and was the original site of our camp when we first started working in Riddy Wood. 
 After breakfast Geoff and my class mates went down near to the bottom camp and started to fell the trees which were to be coppiced with axes and shoot grey squirrels. Me and Richard went off to check that the zero of his rifle suited my eye, we got out of the woods and walked down the side of them. As we were walking along the woods we spotted something running in the wood with a white rump, we both suspected a roe deer as there is a handful with in the area. While walking to a suitable place to zero in the scope, I asked a range of questions to do with game keeping, woodland management, deer ecology and shooting techniques and I found the answers very insightful. As we got to the other side of the wood we spotted the roe buck running out of the wood and away from us. It may have been the same one that we later saw on the trail camera footage. 

When we arrived at the destination and spotted a Chinese water deer running in the distance, Richard set up two targets, one for him to check the rifle on and one for me to practice and make any final adjustments if I needed to. Richard fired a group from prone then I went into the prone position and took three shots with the Remington 700 .243, the three shots were on target within a one inch group at 75 yards with a slight wind, not bad for the first time using a centre fire rifle. 

Satisfied with my level of accuracy we headed back to the others where I joined the group coppicing, felling, removing the felled tree limbs and burning the brash. Around 1:30pm we stopped for lunch were me and Richard grabbed a sandwich and drink and left to go deer stalking. On the way to the 4x4, Richard discussed shot placement with me to recap on what Geoffrey had taught me back at college, it’s always good to have a refresher. We got to the 4x4 and drove to the area where we was to stalk. On the way Richard went through the safety aspects of the stalk and the plan of action. 

We arrived at the destination and set off quietly walking around a field boundary, stopping now and then to take a 360 look around to see if we can see a deer. We got to a small patch of woodland and due to the wind direction decided to go around the wood anti-clockwise. As we started to go around the wood we soon spotted a Muntjac going so we snuck over to see if we could get a closer look, we couldn’t see the deer so we went to the end of the wood to an opening, snuck in and waited for 10- 15 minutes to see if we could get an opportunity to take a shot. The Muntjac wasn’t seen again so we headed out of the wood to continue as planned. 

We hadn’t walked 5 yards when I spotted a Chinese water deer at the other end of the field slowly walking to the edge of the field. We crouched down and following the edge of the wood we stalked the deer to the edge of the field we set up and I went into the prone position, I took off the safety, controlled my breathing and waited for a broadside shot to present it’s self. I squeezed the trigger and hit my mark, the deer went down and managed to get back up for a second the fell down again. I made the rifle safe and me and Richard headed to the deer, Richard did a little exercise with me to see if I could find the site of impact, where the animal had first been hit. 

Once that was done we went to the deer check it for any response by touching the eye, nothing, one good shot behind the shoulder at approx. 115-120 yards, I bagged a nice Chinese water deer buck, please with the shot and please that we will be back at camp before it got too dark we headed back.

My First Deer

Back at camp we all gathered around and Geoff gave us a gralloching and skinning demonstration. The shot had left both shoulders intact maximising the meat that could be collected but did damage the liver. We had deer rump cooked in a Dutch oven under the camp fire. Every one enjoyed the meat, it was definitely one of the nicest venison meals I’ve had. Some of us watched some trail cam footage of the deer that visit the wood during the night and then retired to bed. 
"Interestingly enough one of the haunches from this animal couldn't be eaten as we found a large wound in it, at least an inch deep and partly healed but very swollen and slightly discoloured, probably caused in a fight with another Chinese Water Deer and it's fearsome canines. With wounds like that it's better safe than sorry so we had to get rid of it". Geoff
In the early hours of the next morning me and my class mates was woken up by a Muntjac barking close to camp, after which we went back to sleep for a couple of hours before waking up and going for breakfast. Porridge was up for grabs this morning. We discussed the plan of action for the half a days work we had to do before leaving to catch the buses home. We packed our bags split some wood, cleaned the remaining trees that had been felled and added the last bit of protection from the Muntjac for the coppiced trees. We packed all the gear and remaining bit of food back in the vehicles along with the venison and the Chinese water deer skin that will be tanned and turned into buck skin and left by about 1:30pm. 

All in all it was a good camping trip with interesting topics discussed and a very satisfying deer stalking conclusion. I will definitely think about doing it again in the future.

Graeme Williams 

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