- Monday, 01 February 2016
Chris Dalton talks dogs and comes clean on a four year old cover up.
(Above: Ayrshire stalking's Chris Dalton in action in the Shooting Show)
I am a great believer of stalking with a dog and it’s not often I am out without my current hound Oscar a Weimaraner. Followers of the shooting show will have seen him in action on a number of occasions. However, whilst I have a lot of experience with the more traditional breed of lab’s and cockers my first proper hunting hound was a Bavarian Mountain Hound (BMH) - ‘Bruts Red Burt’.
Now I deliberated for a long while and considered various other breeds which were beginning to make a name for themselves as specialist deer dogs; all of which have committed followers for varied and good reasons, however I settled on a Bavarian purely for their reputation as specialist trackers and, at the end of the day, as a professional stalker that’s the prime role for my dog in the stalking field. If I have a wounded or ‘lost’ deer then I want a dog that can follow up and find a deer which would otherwise not be recovered; bearing in mind also that I may be called out by one of my syndicate stalkers and it might be hours or even the next day before we hit the trail.
So Burt arrived, a lot of years ago now, at the ripe old age of 13 weeks and what a character, all the qualities you read about, loyal and great around people but also as stubborn as a mule. I made a lot of mistakes with him, and we had some battles royal; it was quite a learning curve but eventually we got there and subsequently I lost count of the number of deer we recovered together – he certainly earned his pay. Anne, my wife, loved him and he was great to have around, you never quite new when he would take a mind to be a little’ Ba...rd’ but that was just his character. I would not have called him fully trained until well into his second year and again Hounds do seem to take longer to mature than the traditional gundog breeds. And we had a number of ‘incidents’ along that training route – some have already graced the pages of this magazine.
I will relate one such tale which I was reminded of last week by two of my regular stalkers who were complicit in the subsequent cover up! – Karl and Andy from Gainsborough. Early in his training Burt had occasionally thought it a good idea to disappear off into the trees chasing anything that moved, in particular hares and deer. There was no warning for these indiscretions’ which used to, shall we say, make me’ slightly cross’, not so much in the very early days when he did not know better, but later on when he damn well knew that this was not the behaviour I expected, he would go off on one. I would come home and rant at the good lady ‘do you know what the little B...d did today! If he does it again I am not waiting for him to come back and I will leave him in the wood’. I was always made to promise that I would never do that and leave poor little Burt on his own!
Late Summer, I had a guy just completing his DSC 2, Karl and Andy two of my syndicate stalkers were stalking with us and out on a block of Commission land I managed, Anne was away so I was chief cook and bottle washer as well as stalking. My guy on his last witnessed stalk for his DSC 2 and quite late on in the evening got into a young cull buck on a grassy knoll, well into a big forestry block. From a nice position around 120 yards from the roe and as it turned broadside took the shot. I was watching and heard that dull, ploppy strike of a gut shot and saw the deer hunch and walk slowly into cover. My man immediately knows and admitted he had pulled the shot right and back. We discussed the correct course of action – allow at least 45 minutes before follow up etc and he gave the reasons and then we use the dog. All good stuff but – we are 45 minutes from the vehicle these are thick trees and it will be dark in 15 minutes. Because of this I took the dog straight in, immediately we got to the strike point the dog indicated looked at me and I sent him into the trees with the command ‘ show me’. Immediately I have a roe buck exit the other side of the trees with guts hanging from a big opening on his right side – the dog stops looks at me and I say ‘ get on ‘ .
Up to this point Burt had followed and recovered deer which had been dead and whilst I had taught him to bark, ‘speak,’ on command and when he found a dead deer he had no experience of following a wounded and live deer, so I did not know what was going to happen, my hope was that he would bring the deer to bay and bark until I got to him but this was the moment of truth and we were about to find out. I was also slightly concerned that it was about to drop dark and this was a huge forest, but my first concern at this stage was to recover and dispatch a wounded animal, this is what we have the dog for.
I need not have worried the dog barked the moment he entered the trees and saw the deer and I could hear him going on and on into the distance. I followed the noise crawling through the tress and prayed that he would not stop barking so that I could follow and find him. This went on for ages and I must have covered ¼ mile at least, downhill almost on hands and knees but eventually I started to close on the barking so he had the deer at bay. A few minutes later I got to them, Burt was stood about a yard from the deer, constantly barking at the buck which was surprisingly calm and lay at the base of a conifer. What a relief and I was able to quickly dispatch the buck and recover him to a relieved and waiting stalker.
You can imagine the dog had heaps of praise from both of us and I was so chuffed with him – my man was happy he completed a gralloch and that would make for an interesting ICR write up for his DSC 2, so naturally he also made a great fuss of the dog and Burt is lapping this up. We walked back in the dark chatting with the dog trotting alongside. Now there is the problem! We are walking through the forest in the dark and I have a young deer dog that has had the biggest fuss made of him for following up a deer, looking at it through his eyes this is great fun. You guessed it, a red crosses right in front of us and is off into the forest hotly pursued by my hound who is off for ‘round 2’, barking for all he is worth. This is my fault and I should have foreseen that, however, hindsight is a wonderful thing! A BMH is a single minded beast and while a lot of dogs lack the confidence to follow for too long away from the master before coming back not a BMH – he will follow a deer across a county boundary. I now have a big problem, it could be ages before he comes back, its pitch black there is no one at home and I have guys coming in and a client with me. The barking continues way into the distance deep into the forest until I cannot hear him, he is that far away. No option, back at the vehicle I take his kennel out of the truck, put my stalking coat into it with a handful of biscuits’ and leave it there at the side of the track. I will come back before first light.
Back at chez Garryloop I relate the tale to a concerned and ‘mickey- taking’ Karl and Andy – who can’t help but continue to take the proverbial out of me about certain parts of my anatomy which are likely to be removed when the good lady finds out! This was not helped by Anne ringing shortly thereafter to tell me she had arrived at her destination and was everything OK and was I looking after Burt – I of course said it was and he was fine! Much banter followed and after a beer, I am not sure, but I do feel that blackmail was in the offing with veiled comments about what is it worth to buy the guys silence! Needless to say as it was late summer daylight hours were long and we got little sleep, Karl and Andy came with me to search the following morning and we got to the ground around 3.45 am. I need not have worried, curled up fast asleep having eaten the biscuits’ was Burt, happy to see me and he jumped into the car as if nothing had happened – I was initially relieved and then cross and then worried just in case the tale got out and Anne found out. She didn’t until about 4 years later when over dinner Andy just could not keep it secret any longer and spilled the beans, she was still cross then all those years later!!!!
Chris Dalton is a highly respected Deer Manager in Scotland and runs 'Ayrshire Stalking'. To contact Chris Tel: 07710 871190
To read more from Chris follow this link: heroes-inspire-a-can-do-attitude