Pest Control Diary: Out of Luck
Howard discovers that when things go wrong they really go wrong!
I am a firm believer in telling it how it is and if we all learn, or have a laugh at my expense, then that’s OK! My last trip north for roe buck being no exception. On arrival, the first task was to clean up the converted out building, and it was two hours before I sat down for a well-earned coffee. An hour later saw me slowly walking the drainage ditches looking for any signs of roe. Some are so deep, and the grass along the edges so high, that you could lose a bull elephant in them. So a good pair of binoculars and a high vantage point is a must, or risk bumping into them without even being aware of doing so.
On arable land, there’s little or nothing for them to feed on except along the edges where the deer can gorge all year round on grasses, herbs and fungi. These ditches also provide shelter from the weather, especially when the fields are stripped of their crops. It was not long when we saw a buck shadowing a doe some 400 yards down field, and being up for a challenge, I decided to stalk it. My friend watched on high up. As soon as I dropped down I lost sight of the deer I was stalking blind using the tall grass for cover, every now and then daring to pop up, looking for the buck.
I must have stalked 200 yards hutching along down on one knee, back aching, knees wet before going for the belly crawl. The first obstacle I came against was a bunch of nettles hiding amongst the grass, my hands and face suddenly got this burning itching feeling but I pressed on, looking back trying to get a bearing on the distance from where I’d set off. I made it down to the corner where three fields meet and slowly came to my knees, trying to look through, or over the long grass, when a doe ran past me on the opposite side of the ditch, taking the buck with it!
Defeated, wet and with nettle-stung face, I made my way back to my friend, who laughed and described my last 100 yards of the failed stalk. Apparently I belly crawled right past the doe while she stood there watching me totally unconcerned; in fact, she was so laid back that she carried on browsing and even followed on behind for a short distance, so we called it a day.
The following morning, I headed for the same area for a rematch. I hadn’t waited long when a young buck stepped out from a low bank and made its way towards me, closely followed by the buck I saw the previous day, with no signs of the doe. I stood watching these two for what seemed like ages while being eaten by midges, waiting for a shot to present its self. The doe suddenly appeared out of nowhere, running past the buck I had my sights on and again taking it with her - damn. I had steam rising from my wet legs and was walking like a penguin with my wet pants clinging to my legs. I made it to a telegraph pole situated on a high bank, where I had a good field of view and could use it to steady my rifle if needed. Feeling wet and miserable, when out of nowhere the buck reappeared, running through the neighbouring field, straight towards me and a drainage ditch separating the two fields, was my luck about to change?
No, instead of jumping the ditch into my field it stayed on the opposite side and I only saw its antlers as it browsed on the vegetation. I caught sight of it an hour later, disappearing over a hill some 300 hundred yards away. It had walked along the ditch then made a brake for it across the open field to the hill while I was looking in the opposite direction. To be able to stalk such open ground and get within 100 yards of my quarry proved there’s nothing wrong with my skills, I just needed a break!
One or tother!
After a final fruitless stalk, we headed north to Inverness, arrived and bedded down for an early start. I had a fair old hike to get to a clearing we had created late last year and wanted to give it a try, so needed to set off at daybreak. However, the long drive, early mornings and late nights were taking their toll. At this time of year it’s only dark for three to four hours, so unless I can grab a few hours sleep during the day I make the decision to stalk early morning or evening not both.
On my ground at Inverness there’s red, roe and a heavy population of sika, there’s definitely not as many roe since the sika moved in. But what I have found is that the roe are more active after the sika have gone back to cover, probably to avoid any bullying from the larger deer. I did make it to the clearing the following morning but saw no roe bucks just sika hinds followed by roe does.
At this time of year I would expect bucks to be staying close to the does. It’s possible they are but are staying in the thick undergrowth and will only come out if the doe disappears from view. It was on the last morning when I had my best chance of a buck and would have bagged it if not for a fly or midget that hit me in the eye. Nine days, 1,500 miles, stings and bites and still nothing for the freezer; the day after returning home I am on antibiotics for an abscess just below the corner of my eye - I certainly won’t forget that trip north!
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