Roebuck Stalking - When is the Best Time to Go?
Toby Worthington looks at some of the highlights of the Roebuck season and considers the best time to go deer stalking.
(Above: Roebuck during the winter months are still in velvet)
Roebuck stalking represents some of the finest deer stalking available in the UK. Having hunted deer throughout much of the UK, including Scotland and England and having held long leases on land in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey, I have learnt some valuable lessons about the best time to stalk deer.
First and fore-most, I have learnt that during April the Roebuck (Capreolus Capreolus) are at their most visible. Still in loose family groups and forced to venture out of cover due to a lack of browse in the woods, Roe appear more visible that at any other time of year. This can prove to be somewhat of a temptation for the inexperienced, however it is not the time to be shooting your best bucks. Roebuck at this time of year are looking pretty scruffy as they moult from winter coat into glorious summer pelage, further-more their antlers will still be in velvet for another month to come. By all means take a few weak heads, ‘murder bucks’ being an obvious example, but if you want a trophy to be proud of, do not be tempted to shoot your prize beasts.
By the end of May Roebuck will have transformed into magnificent healthy beasts and, having gorged themselves on the new spring foliage, will be in prime physical condition as they jostle to establish territories. May is a great time to be stalking Roebuck, however, the action at this time of year does not last long, maybe a couple of weeks, after which things again start to settle down as an uneasy calm descends over the world of the Roe deer.
(By May the Roebuck are usually free of velvet and in splendid summer coat)
This calm usually continues right through June and early July as, in an attempt to gain weight ready for the rut, the deer become lethargic and inactive. The careful deer stalker will still find his beast, however, in my experience this is not done as easily as during May, when a simple stroll through the countryside might result in a sighting. Instead June and early July require the method of ‘still hunting’ a tactic that requires that the stalker inch his way carefully through the undergrowth in the hope that the twitch of an ear will betray the presence of a Roebuck couched up in cover.
July, and it is once again all change, as the long-awaited Roe rut takes hold. This is the highlight of the Roebuck season and stalkers descend on the countryside anxious to catch a glimpse of what is one of the most treasured spectacles that the UK countryside has to offer.
Roebuck can be seen nose to tail with a doe in heat, as the buck follows the doe relentlessly until she eventually stands and allows him to cover her. It is a sight not to be missed and for me, along with hunting Red Stags in the Scottish highlands during the Red rut in October, is one of the most special spectacles that the UK countryside has to offer.
(The mid summer Roe rut in late July and early August is the prime time to be out deer stalking)
Of course, at this time of year, most stalkers will be carrying a Roe call of some description and if executed with some degree of skill, this device can be a highly effective tool. I have heard many stalkers speak of Roe Calling as though it were a mystical art. I do not think that this is the case, instead it is predominantly about getting your timing right. Put simply, if the rut is not on, then you can be the best caller in the world and nothing will respond. Conversely, if the Roebuck are in heat and it’s a warm summers day, even the most lousily executed call will draw some attention.
If you are a recreational stalker, and you only get out once in a blue moon, then I would advice you book a stalk sometime between July 25th and August 10th, its no guarantee, but you’ll at least be in with a good chance of catching some of the action. Thereafter with the deer utterly exhausted there will be precious little Roe stalking for a month or so, while the animals recover from their antics.
By September and October, the end of what is a long seven month season, most stalkers have their minds on other things, including the forthcoming rut for the herding species, and rightly so. By this time of year Roebuck stalking in the UK has past its best. Roebuck stalking is not an autumn event, instead it is a much-treasured summer highlight. Yes, there will be some activity during the false rut in October as the young males experience a temporary rise in testosterone however, in my experience shooting Roebuck in the autumn is, as is true of April, somewhat of an anti-climax.
Whatever the month that you decide to take the plunge, I hope that you’ll discover something of the joy that I have felt over the last twenty years or so of following this charming little deer.
To read more about Roebuck Stalking follow this link in which Peter Jones looks at a Gold Medla Roebuck taken in 2017: gold-medal-roebuck