Heroes Inspire a 'Can-Do' Attitude
- Saturday, 20 June 2015
Chris Dalton from 'South Ayrshire Stalking' takes two servicemen with a 'can-do' attitude stalking for Roe Buck during last years rut.
(Above: Simon with his first Roe Buck)
Regular readers will know that I do a quite a bit of stalking with serving members of our armed forces and I have, for a good number of years, welcomed servicemen and women coming back from operational tours and taken them stalking, for some well earned down time after the rigorous and stress of these duties.
I know from my time serving as a commissioned officer in the RAF, that it is great to get away and do something different after a 3 or 6 month tour on active service. However, recently we had a first, after I was contacted by Mark a SNCO with the Cold stream guards. Mark asked if we could cater for both him and his pal Simon – Simon was about to be medically discharged from the Army, having lost both legs in an incident in Afghanistan and one of the things he really wanted to try was deer stalking. I further learnt that both these guys were active in raising money for fellow servicemen and naturally we were keen to do what we could.
A date was set and arrangements made at our end - which also included plans to film the event – sadly we had to cancel this at short notice, as both guys were required for ceremonial duties after some of their colleagues were killed while also serving in Afghanistan. Fortunately we were able to rearrange for late July, which gave us the added bonus to possibly catch some of the Roe rut, unfortunately I was committed to another group and we could not get the filming done; but Tony stepped in, assisted by Dean for the stalking, with Donna providing the accommodation at ‘Breafoot Cottage’. Simon and Mark were with us for a couple of days, so we planned to alternate them between seat and stalk and hopefully we could give them both a good chance of getting a deer.
"Now one thing I know about servicemen is generally they have a great sense of humour and a ‘can-do attitude"- Simon was very much in this category. I think a lot of us would not even have contemplated trying stalking with no legs, and would probably feel very sorry for our lot, but not Simon! He was up for the challenge. Tony had done a fair bit of reconnaissance during the preceding week and had tried to earmark areas were we had a likely buck or two who were in places which were not too difficult to get to. At this stage we had no idea how mobile Simon was, but had tried to cover all the bases. When he arrived and after an initial range session – you can imagine that shooting the rifle was not much of a problem – we realised that difficult, clumpy heather and undulating ground was just too much for him to negotiate – it’s bad enough for us, so we concentrated on relatively flat tracks where we could get easy access to ground boxes or vantage points.
We had not planned on stalking the first evening, thinking that after a long drive and range session a stalk would be a bit much – Simon was having none of that, it was a fine warm evening and both the guys wanted to get out. So off they went. Dean was not free until the following morning so Tony took Simon out and into a high seat in a quiet deer glade and drove with Simon down close to a box on the edge of a young conifer plantation. The plan was to stalk slowly along a track and try calling for a while and then move a little further to a ground box. Tony had noted a bit of chasing in this area so we knew there were some bucks around and in the mood. The weather had been very warm for weeks and this had certainly started the rut off early. The guys slowly worked to a grassy mound and got settled, sticks deployed and Tony started to call, he got no response initially to the contact call using the Buttalo, and so switched to the Nordic roe and tried the agitation/agony call. That did it and a burst of red, almost immediately, had a very nice buck come straight in to around 60 yards to see what was going on and which interloper was on his patch. Simon had to manoeuvre a change of position, not easy for him, but managed it and within a few seconds the buck lay dead. I do like it when a plan comes together! Frequently it does not, however we had a very happy chap posing with his first deer after minutes into the first outing – a good buck to boot; I think Tony was equally delighted to have been able to bring that about. It is of enormous pleasure to any stalker to have the privilege of taking a guy out for his first deer but this was all the more special.
(Right: The Buttalo Roe Call)
The following morning before first light the team were off again to a different forest block, Dean took Simon to a raised tower and Tony drove further into the forest to stalk along some heather rides with Mark. During that stalk they encountered a number of deer but all female, mostly hinds and calves, so a nice morning but nothing shootable. They were close to the vehicle, had almost given up and were contemplating breakfast, when Tony spotted a small, yearling Roe moving along the tree line in front of them which just disappearing under the canopy, clearly off for his morning nap. A ‘peep’ on the buttalo had him back out in order that he could try and ‘strut his stuff’. He was nervy though; a small yearling at this time of year needs to be, he will have felt the wrong end, literally, of the other bucks on this patch! This was his undoing, had he charged in as often bucks do, he would have been difficult to shoot and probably escaped however, his caution allowed Mark to get set on the sticks and when he finally presented the broadside shot there was no delay, the rifle cracked and he was down. A great result and two very happy stalkers.
We later learnt that Simon and Dean also had an eventful morning. They had enjoyed watching a hind and calf followed by doe and twin kids which browsed for quite a while before drifting off into cover. A period of no movement was then broken by the sudden appearance of a buck who Dean said came from nowhere! How often does that happen? Roe are not called the ‘Elves of the forest’ without good reason’? Unfortunately, he was always moving away, so the only option was to try and intercept him, but the ground was gorse and deep ditches. Not to be outdone the intrepid pair hatched a cunning plan and decided to try and stalk the uneven, heathery, gorse and ditch laden ground with Dean giving Simon a piggy back while Simon carried the rifle. All went well, until they fell into a ditch head first, ending up in a heap and then collapsing in mild hysteria, needless to say the buck was not amused and left!
These were two great guys and we wish Simon the best in his new career, (they departed a little early to allow Simon time to get to an interview for a new job). So next time you have a whinge about something when you are out stalking – think on! You ain’t really got much to complain about.
Chris Dalton is a highly respected Deer Manager in Scotland and runs 'Ayrshire Stalking'. To contact Chris Tel: 07710 871190
For more on Deer Stalking in Scotland follow this link: outings-scotland