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Hunting story: Roe deer stalking

Hunting story: Roe deer stalking

The essence of stalking to me has primarily been a deep interest in nature and the ability to rise early and enjoy the woods with no other living sole except the wildlife. Only then can you appreciate the quarries living quarters and daily routines and soon you become immersed in an alien yet beautiful world that no townie will ever appreciate.

This year’s roe season started with one such week of extraordinary stalking, closeness to game, bad weather and final success that will live with me for a long time. My folks live in Argyll Scotland, Highland peaks interlocked with lush farm lands, lochs and rolling hills to the sea. In April the woods are literally bursting into life, its palpable, you can feel the animal’s relief as the winter is nearing its completion and at last new food sources are sprouting up everywhere. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, those foods sources can lead you to success and the roe`s daily life, especially the buck at this time of year, can also be his downfall.

BUCK FEVER

With antler growth completed the older bucks are desperately trying to establish their dominance and territories within their community that has waned over the winter months. The velvet protecting the grown antlers is now becoming beige in colour, blood supply is severed and the hard antler below needs to be exposed. Rubbing on trees, is their only way of removing it, this also initiates dominance by leaving tell-tale signs of tree fraying along his boundaries. This is what foresters hate and what gets a buck noticed, but in a bad way! Sure it’s a sign to other males to stay away but to any stalker it’s a good indication of his presences and the acreage he controls.

I always take time to explore the woods prior to roe season to ascertain their movements, food sources and bedding areas. This week was no different, despite the horizontal rain, occasional snow showers and howling wind, the tell-tale slanted nibbled scrubs and foliage indicated deer browse and slots (hoof-prints} indicated in which direction they were feeding. Here red share the same woods and hills as the roe but slot size and browse heights distinguish the species. I soon had a mentalimage of how the deer were moving and where best to direct my attentions.

Best of all were those ‘sign posts’ left by the bucks, small conifers were characteristically bent by the antlers to remove not only velvet but also to leave the soft light coloured sap wood beneath exposed, which is instantly recognisable to all to - stay out, occupied! Additionally other giveaways are the scrapes bucks use as an additional sign post. These represent usually a triangular shape where their foot scrapes away the surface to reveal the earth below, again visualin nature although I have seen buck’s scent mark with urine and stamp a hoof print or slot into it, just for good measure. See one of these and you are on the right track.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

But this stalking week did not start off well as four days in foul weather, which I actually like as it keeps the foliage under foot silent when you stalk, made the going hard work albeit challenging.
I packed up my trusty 30-47L Predator rifle but this week I was trialling some new Leica Magnus scopes, the Predator wore a 1.5-10x42 illuminated model, great for the terrain I was stalking in and would prove its worth later in the week.

In the interim I made up my game plan to hunt the areas where the most fraying was evident yet keep a safe distance to allow minimal disturbance and achieve good observation and then a stalk in. Sounds great but Mother Nature does not always play ball and the wind necessary to stalk this scenario would be a North or easterly if the deer were not to smell me.

Guess what, South-Westerly’s all bloody week! I could not get around the problem literally due to land not belonging to the owners so I had to make do. Here stealth, inch by inch stalking, crawling on all fours is the name of the game with constant testing the wind. My only hope that the wind under the tree line on the ridge I was aiming for would be different. It was worse! Directly up the ridge and into prime roe territory. It was no wonder the first two outings ended in the bucks barking and running off long before I even saw them. First round to the roe!

TIPPING THE BALANCE

The next evening I was determined to tip the balance in my favour and in fact fate played a part as the wind died to nothing. In some ways it was a god send but in others now the woods echoed to the merest noise or twig under foot. I slung the rifle and inched my way across the field to the woods edge hugging the marram grass and tree line as best I could. The Leica Geovid binoculars were glued to my face as I scanned every undulation for deer’s ears, antlers or signs of activity.

story continues below...

Never assume roe are not present just because you cannot see them, they are there and it takes a few days for the eyes to become accustomed to new surroundings. As my boots squelched on every foot step across the field I felt really conspicuous but so far no barking; a good sign but no activity either, a bad sign. I slowed down to a tree by tree stop and view as new avenues or vistas were revealed. Then as I stepped over the granite out crop marking by midway point a flick of an ear revealed a doe feeding quietly on a herby plant on the forest floor and soon I spied two yearlings close by. Totally unaware of my presence some 55 yards away I watched intently as they played and fed together. Sadly no buck and I followed them slowly from tree to tree as they eventually rounded a rocky outcrop that dissected the ridge top. I bid far well to them and decided to wait propped next to a Silver birch.

With no wind at all the deer’s feeding habits had changed as they usually feed into or across the wind for their protection. But today 50 minutes after I had left them the doe and her twins and other females reappeared around the outcrop and were heading straight for me!

I barely dared to breathe as they fed slowly towards me; I looked beyond them for a buck but no joy so I stood there and waited for the inevitable collision. 60 yards, 50, 30, 20, 10 yards, blimey the doe was straight in front of me and one of the yearlings was almost nibbling my left leg. At 10 paces she raised her head in total amazement and all hell broke loose. Winter clad pelage of three roe darted every which way, the small yearling nearly knocking over my shooting sticks. Brilliant moment and something you have to experience first hand.

BUCKS THIS WAY

A further three outings only revealed 14 more does and hinds with calves so I scratched my head and decided an early morning foray to another ridge was in order. Up at 04.00am and out to the thick forest tracks at 05.00. I had miscalculated the timings as the rain drenched clouds meant the first glimmers of dawn where not until 06.00, oops! As I stood there with the rain pouring down I settled as best I could but had time to plan my route and today test the new Zeiss 10x56mm range finder binoculars I had with me, great low light performance these ones and accurate range estimation in any weather!

With enough light to move and spot deer feeding I luckily had the wind in my face today along with rain and at times hail. But experience has taught me and no doubt other stalkers that deer usually are more active just before a storm and then just after it, they anticipate the low pressure and feed accordingly.

Almost immediately a fresh scrape in front of me; great! On the right tracks! Then a frayed young conifer followed by another and then a mound of moss deposited from a mega scrape. Now the old adrenalin was fl owing, the beating rain on my shoulders was ignored and the mind instantly heightens and every step from now was accompanied by a view through the binoculars.

I had reached a long shallow valley, great roe feeding grounds and I scoped the area but nothing doing although the three further frays indicated a buck’s presence. It was 07.30 now so slow and meticulous was my stalk as a buck could have fed and bedded down by now so I worked the forest timber edge where deer bed down just inside from the wind and with a good view out.

Sure enough after 250 yards a characteristic movement of antlers indicated a small but beautiful six pointer buck bedded and chewing the cud. The wind was good so I edged between the fallen twigs, water logged moss and pine needles. At 75 yards the old heart was pumping and the buck was still none the wiser so I raised the rifle to my shoulder and zoomed the Leica Magnus scope to x8 and actually switched the illuminated reticule on as it was dark under those conifers. In an instant, maybe a sixth sense but the buck was on his feet in one movement and staring straight at me. I unconsciously squeezed the Timney trigger and sent a 125-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet as a high heart shot. He dropped instantly where he stood and I was rewarded with a lovely Scottish roe buck.

CONCLUSION

Do not be scared to try something new or change tactics and follow your instinct. Signs such are scrapes and frays are obvious way points to success but you still need stealth and field craft. The new Leica Magnus scope was really good in the torrential rain conditions. Not the largest buck I have ever shot but one of the best with regards to the stalking required. Problem was now the roe sack was full up with my rain proof jacket, camera and tripod so I had to drag him ½ mile through the forest, I did not care, what a brilliant morning and the coffee at home tasted just that little bit better!

 

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

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Hunting story: Roe deer stalking

Hunting story: Roe deer stalking

The essence of stalking to me has primarily been a deep interest in nature and the ability to rise early and enjoy the woods with no other living sole except the wildlife. Only then can you appreciate the quarries living quarters and daily routines and soon you become immersed in an alien yet beautiful world that no townie will ever appreciate.

This year’s roe season started with one such week of extraordinary stalking, closeness to game, bad weather and final success that will live with me for a long time. My folks live in Argyll Scotland, Highland peaks interlocked with lush farm lands, lochs and rolling hills to the sea. In April the woods are literally bursting into life, its palpable, you can feel the animal’s relief as the winter is nearing its completion and at last new food sources are sprouting up everywhere. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, those foods sources can lead you to success and the roe`s daily life, especially the buck at this time of year, can also be his downfall.

BUCK FEVER

With antler growth completed the older bucks are desperately trying to establish their dominance and territories within their community that has waned over the winter months. The velvet protecting the grown antlers is now becoming beige in colour, blood supply is severed and the hard antler below needs to be exposed. Rubbing on trees, is their only way of removing it, this also initiates dominance by leaving tell-tale signs of tree fraying along his boundaries. This is what foresters hate and what gets a buck noticed, but in a bad way! Sure it’s a sign to other males to stay away but to any stalker it’s a good indication of his presences and the acreage he controls.

I always take time to explore the woods prior to roe season to ascertain their movements, food sources and bedding areas. This week was no different, despite the horizontal rain, occasional snow showers and howling wind, the tell-tale slanted nibbled scrubs and foliage indicated deer browse and slots (hoof-prints} indicated in which direction they were feeding. Here red share the same woods and hills as the roe but slot size and browse heights distinguish the species. I soon had a mentalimage of how the deer were moving and where best to direct my attentions.

Best of all were those ‘sign posts’ left by the bucks, small conifers were characteristically bent by the antlers to remove not only velvet but also to leave the soft light coloured sap wood beneath exposed, which is instantly recognisable to all to - stay out, occupied! Additionally other giveaways are the scrapes bucks use as an additional sign post. These represent usually a triangular shape where their foot scrapes away the surface to reveal the earth below, again visualin nature although I have seen buck’s scent mark with urine and stamp a hoof print or slot into it, just for good measure. See one of these and you are on the right track.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

But this stalking week did not start off well as four days in foul weather, which I actually like as it keeps the foliage under foot silent when you stalk, made the going hard work albeit challenging.
I packed up my trusty 30-47L Predator rifle but this week I was trialling some new Leica Magnus scopes, the Predator wore a 1.5-10x42 illuminated model, great for the terrain I was stalking in and would prove its worth later in the week.

In the interim I made up my game plan to hunt the areas where the most fraying was evident yet keep a safe distance to allow minimal disturbance and achieve good observation and then a stalk in. Sounds great but Mother Nature does not always play ball and the wind necessary to stalk this scenario would be a North or easterly if the deer were not to smell me.

Guess what, South-Westerly’s all bloody week! I could not get around the problem literally due to land not belonging to the owners so I had to make do. Here stealth, inch by inch stalking, crawling on all fours is the name of the game with constant testing the wind. My only hope that the wind under the tree line on the ridge I was aiming for would be different. It was worse! Directly up the ridge and into prime roe territory. It was no wonder the first two outings ended in the bucks barking and running off long before I even saw them. First round to the roe!

TIPPING THE BALANCE

The next evening I was determined to tip the balance in my favour and in fact fate played a part as the wind died to nothing. In some ways it was a god send but in others now the woods echoed to the merest noise or twig under foot. I slung the rifle and inched my way across the field to the woods edge hugging the marram grass and tree line as best I could. The Leica Geovid binoculars were glued to my face as I scanned every undulation for deer’s ears, antlers or signs of activity.

story continues below...

Never assume roe are not present just because you cannot see them, they are there and it takes a few days for the eyes to become accustomed to new surroundings. As my boots squelched on every foot step across the field I felt really conspicuous but so far no barking; a good sign but no activity either, a bad sign. I slowed down to a tree by tree stop and view as new avenues or vistas were revealed. Then as I stepped over the granite out crop marking by midway point a flick of an ear revealed a doe feeding quietly on a herby plant on the forest floor and soon I spied two yearlings close by. Totally unaware of my presence some 55 yards away I watched intently as they played and fed together. Sadly no buck and I followed them slowly from tree to tree as they eventually rounded a rocky outcrop that dissected the ridge top. I bid far well to them and decided to wait propped next to a Silver birch.

With no wind at all the deer’s feeding habits had changed as they usually feed into or across the wind for their protection. But today 50 minutes after I had left them the doe and her twins and other females reappeared around the outcrop and were heading straight for me!

I barely dared to breathe as they fed slowly towards me; I looked beyond them for a buck but no joy so I stood there and waited for the inevitable collision. 60 yards, 50, 30, 20, 10 yards, blimey the doe was straight in front of me and one of the yearlings was almost nibbling my left leg. At 10 paces she raised her head in total amazement and all hell broke loose. Winter clad pelage of three roe darted every which way, the small yearling nearly knocking over my shooting sticks. Brilliant moment and something you have to experience first hand.

BUCKS THIS WAY

A further three outings only revealed 14 more does and hinds with calves so I scratched my head and decided an early morning foray to another ridge was in order. Up at 04.00am and out to the thick forest tracks at 05.00. I had miscalculated the timings as the rain drenched clouds meant the first glimmers of dawn where not until 06.00, oops! As I stood there with the rain pouring down I settled as best I could but had time to plan my route and today test the new Zeiss 10x56mm range finder binoculars I had with me, great low light performance these ones and accurate range estimation in any weather!

With enough light to move and spot deer feeding I luckily had the wind in my face today along with rain and at times hail. But experience has taught me and no doubt other stalkers that deer usually are more active just before a storm and then just after it, they anticipate the low pressure and feed accordingly.

Almost immediately a fresh scrape in front of me; great! On the right tracks! Then a frayed young conifer followed by another and then a mound of moss deposited from a mega scrape. Now the old adrenalin was fl owing, the beating rain on my shoulders was ignored and the mind instantly heightens and every step from now was accompanied by a view through the binoculars.

I had reached a long shallow valley, great roe feeding grounds and I scoped the area but nothing doing although the three further frays indicated a buck’s presence. It was 07.30 now so slow and meticulous was my stalk as a buck could have fed and bedded down by now so I worked the forest timber edge where deer bed down just inside from the wind and with a good view out.

Sure enough after 250 yards a characteristic movement of antlers indicated a small but beautiful six pointer buck bedded and chewing the cud. The wind was good so I edged between the fallen twigs, water logged moss and pine needles. At 75 yards the old heart was pumping and the buck was still none the wiser so I raised the rifle to my shoulder and zoomed the Leica Magnus scope to x8 and actually switched the illuminated reticule on as it was dark under those conifers. In an instant, maybe a sixth sense but the buck was on his feet in one movement and staring straight at me. I unconsciously squeezed the Timney trigger and sent a 125-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet as a high heart shot. He dropped instantly where he stood and I was rewarded with a lovely Scottish roe buck.

CONCLUSION

Do not be scared to try something new or change tactics and follow your instinct. Signs such are scrapes and frays are obvious way points to success but you still need stealth and field craft. The new Leica Magnus scope was really good in the torrential rain conditions. Not the largest buck I have ever shot but one of the best with regards to the stalking required. Problem was now the roe sack was full up with my rain proof jacket, camera and tripod so I had to drag him ½ mile through the forest, I did not care, what a brilliant morning and the coffee at home tasted just that little bit better!

 

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Hunting story: Roe deer stalking - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

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