Pricket skulls found in the woods
We to'd and fro'd over the email and finally his commitments match up with my commitments and we ended up at this weekend, the tail-end of the Fallow buck season. So once again; I set off to meet a man, an armed man, I met on the internet, in the woods.
Over the phone - [shouting, not at each other but just to be heard over the din of older brother tormenting younger sister in background]
SBW: Can I take the kids out on Sunday instead? I'm going away on Saturday
Ex Mrs SBW: Excellent! Where are you taking them?
SBW: I can't take them! I'm going deer stalking!
[Sound of The Littlest Bushwacker wailing in the background]
Ex Mrs SBW: She's crying because you won't take her deer stalking
SBW: [laughing] That's why she can't come deer stalking, and her legs are too short
We agree to meet at 4am for the two hour drive to his stalking ground, and what a stalking ground. An estate that borders a national park, four species of deer, lots of small game, and a 200 yard rifle range.
My Host HunterX
On the way there the temperature drops and it stars to rain, perfect weather in other words. Our arrival turns out to be auspicious, I've always been taught that an unloaded rifle is just a stick, so load-up as soon as you get out of the truck because your first [or only] chance might be in the first few yards. Hmm yes. This time the first chance was a very chubby Grey Squirrel waiting for us on the estate side of the gate. Air rifle still in truck, 17HMR missing magazine, .308 not really what you'd call a Squirrel calibre, .22LR finally hauled out from under the other cases only for HunterX to miss at, well he called it ten yards but more about his range estimation later.
Woodland Stalking in southern England
Much sniggering ensues as we stalk up into the woods, long 'rides' separate blocks of woodland. Mist clings to the ground, it couldn't look more 'woodland stalking' if it tried. A shootable Roe Buck scoots across the ride we're walking on, head down, and intent on something other than evading us.
The next opportunity is also a squirrel. We're neatly concealed by some coppiceed Beech trees and the Grey Menace is cavorting on a fallen tree, I crawl into what looks to be child's-play range and send a .22 sleeping pill straight over his head, he doesn't stick around for me to take another shot. Honor looking decidedly sketchy on both sides we retreat to the range.
Not too shabby - for 50 yards!
HunterX was curious about PCP air rifles and had asked me to bring the Parker Hale Phoenix .177 which acquitted itself admirably even out at 50 yards! - i.e + 60% of its effective range. In case you're wondering, yes at that distance the time between 'phut' and 'dink' is a long one!
We worked our way up through the calibres, the .22 first shooting a one inch group which then expanded to a four inch group. Phew! We we're now both able to blame the equipment.
That was a LOUD one! The 17HMR split a case
50 yards is a long way with an air rifle, and
200 yards is a long way in anybody's book!
Parker Hale .308 - within 4.5in. at 200 yards and within 2in at 100 yards.
My suburban air rifle practice is starting to make a difference!
Note: Plywood is not an effective backstop
Remarkably, despite the range being 'well used', deer and fox trails cross the range, and both have been taken there.
Perhaps this would be a good place to set a snare?
Who's House? Mr Fox's House!
We took a break for an amazing 'full english' breakfast and enough coffee to wake the dead, before dedicating the afternoon to bunnies.
At the bottom one of the woods we had a great view of some dairy fields which the bunnies were busy mowing. I've never been very good at estimating range, in fact I'm so bad at it that you'd never get me to venture an opinion, having learned my lesson on one one of our trips to Jinx Wood, where The Bambi Basher had shown me the strange optical effect of 'dead ground' when a hidden dip in the terrain can double the perceived distance. HunterX is a very encouraging sort of chap, "I really think it would help if you were ten yards closer" he said.
At the bottom of the wood we found this Gralloch, as any of the estate stalkers would either have buried it or used it for fox bait HunterX took this as evidence of poachers being there probably less than a week before us
Holding our noses we crawled into a gully which gave us a discrete position to snipe at the Rabbits from, a position which sadly was well outside the .177 Phoenix's range, when after several misses we paced it out, turned out to be some 45 yards beyond the air rifles effective range. HunterX "thanks you've cured me of the temptation to buy an expensive air rifle"
Some more up-hill-and-down-dale stalking led us back across the estate, we did make sight of a fat Muntjac doe doing a very credible Usain Bolt impression, but no shot was taken. All the walking had
renewed our appetites and we
enjoyed forced down the worst Kebab and Cheese burger yet seen before heading to the high seats to try to catch the fallow having their evening meal. On the way we went to see a field outside the permission where this group of 70-80 Fallow were herding, Does, this years fawns and last years yearlings all being bossed about by a one antlered buck. HunterX reckoned he's soon be chased off by a master buck come the rut.
A bossy buck shoo's does into one group and fawns and yearlings into the other
A field of Fallow bait - but no Fallow
Highseat hunting is always colder than I remember it, as the light started to turn a cool breeze chilled me to the bone. The crop field looked promising but no deer came, at one point a Hare so big that on first sight I thought it was a Muntjac hopped past, but I didn't think the .308 would leave much worth eating so I turned down the shot, and as the light soon faded I walked back to the truck. HunterX smiled ruefully
HunterX: "I guess I put you in the wrong highseat, I saw two prickets you could have shot, sparing with each other"
SBW: That's why its called 'hunting' and not 'shopping'
All in all a fantastic day afield, massive thanks to my host HunterX, one of the good guys.