Fallow Buck Stalking During the Rut

Matthew Rogers stalks Fallow Buck during the height of the Fallow Rut and secures a Muntjac Doe for appetizers. 

MRFallowWoodP

With my primary preference being Fallow at the moment, I was delighted to hear County Deer Stalking had recently taken on a 300 acres of ancient woodland in Oxfordshire. Pretty and picturesque, it somehow manages to sport all the mod-cons of a developed and well managed stalking woodland but without having been recently shot. Shooting platforms and high seats have been expertly sited on fantastic long runways between dense woodland, allowing stalkers the opportunity of sitting back and letting the quarry do the work.

Arriving with a few hours before sunset, we kitted up and prepared to head out. Autumnal stalking presents the difficult choice of Wellington boots versus waterproof hiking shoes, but fortunately this ground is stream-free so shoes won out. Its also more comfortable climbing ladders in shoes, so this is something worth bearing in mind when heading to the Oxfordshire ground.

With a few hours to while away until afternoon lapses into early evening, we set out on a gentle and alert stroll through some of the main thoroughfares, cautiously glassing the occasional fallow doe glaring back at us before leaping off into the shadows created by the rich and tight canopy above. These woods are absolutely perfect for Fallow deer with their natural camouflage for the dappled light and shadow. 

MRMuntWoodpPicking slowly through a patch of glorious woodland, we seemed jinxed by the winds gusting around us. Moving forwards, backwards, left or right, a gust seemed to carry our smell off into the woodlands and no doubt drive off anything in the local area. An early break for a coffee seemed on the cards; Peter pursed his lips in dismay as another gust came up behind us; so much for sneaking in undetected.

(Above: A Muntjac Doe for appetizers!). 

Then – there it was – a Muntjac! Against all odds, a little Muntjac doe was tottering through the glade about seventy meters from our position, oblivious to our quiet muttering and cursing. I was momentarily hesitant about taking the animal, given I had set out with the goal of a nice Fallow Buck, but Peter was being the dutifully efficient guide and had already set the sticks up assuming I was eager. Unable to resist, the ‘Muntie’ looked fantastic through the scope and a split second later was down with a shot to the lower neck.

sako85250The .308 Winchester is arguably a little heavy for such a small deer, but it is better to over-kill than under, and the job was performed efficiently and humanely.

(Left: The estate rifle a Sako 85 in .308 Calibre - a little heavy for Muntjac but perfect for Fallow Buck)

One cup of coffee later and we set out again – this time with an eye for the big prize – one of the Fallow Bucks that have been in residency lately. Peter already has the measure of this new plot and has a good idea of the movements and timings of the quarry (not bad considering it’s a new acquisition for County Deer Stalking this season).

Approaching our high-seat of choice, we could just make out the distinctive 'groan' of a Fallow Buck in the distance. Not wasting any time, we hurried into the seat, and quickly glassed a small group of does prancing on their way through the woods. Would a buck follow them?

Time passed. We settled in, binoculars dialled in, rifle re-loaded and laying comfortably across my arm. Then, less than ten minutes in to the watch, was movement on the periphery of a ride some ninety meters from the chair. Fallow Buck!

With clear ground of only about fifteen meters to cross (of which it was indeed planning to cross given its gentle amble and lack of interest in feeding), I had to act quickly. Showing no signs of stopping, I would have to either issue a call or whistle to stop the beast, or take a calculated shot. Mentally assessing the speed and direction the buck was taking, I placed the crosshairs about a meter and a half in front of it and waited. Sure enough, a perfect view of the ‘boiler room’ presented itself and with a nice safe backdrop. Safety off, breath in, half breath out, squeeze, shot!

The buck kicked its hind legs high in the air, leapt, and darted into the woods while the echo of the shot was still ringing across the woodland. There was no distinctive “thwack!” that accompanies many a successful hit against a deer, which worried me instantly. I thought I had missed.

Reload, and wait. Peter glassed the area carefully, assessing any movement, before we climbed down to check on my fortunes.

Walking the path to a DSC1 and stalking maturity requires careful and considered thought and self control. Peter began considering the target area, direction of travel, signs of disturbance on the ground and any material matter distributed from a strike and likely organ damage. I must confess my brain was thumping with the singular question – “did I get my buck!?!”

Before any considered analysis was needed, Peter spotted it, down and out for the count some way into the woods; I was delighted! Having only shot a fully-antlered Fallow buck once previously, this was to be the highlight of my stalking year thus far.

fallowtrail250Interestingly, the tracks leading through the woodland were distinctive and pronounced. Our buck had clearly made heavy work of his last spirited dash before dropping, leaving a trail of material that could also be followed should a full follow-up have been necessary.

(Left: it's not always 'Paint and Pins' that give away the direction of travel of a deer's last dash)

So all in all, a great day out with fantastic results against two brilliant species in picturesque settings; real pleasure to take out such a beast. With that comes the transition to winter and the adjusted focus on does; as highlighted by Peter in the November Deer Stalking Almanac, (To read the Almanac Click on this link:  deer-stalking-november-almanac)  it is important to target the does the winter to ensure a proportionate balance throughout the woodland. To some the stalking of does may be a bit of a chore as it will not produce large trophies for the wall, but to me, any time spent stalking is enjoyable. I am looking forward to it already.

For more information about Fallow Deer Stalking follow this link: fallow-deer-stalking 

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