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Roe and Muntjac Stalking

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Replying to an advert off a forum is always a step into the unknown. In blind faith I had signed up four guns for a 450-mile round trip that would take three days from each of our weeks and had sent a £150 deposit to a person I had never met. Committing the other three to part with their hard-earned cash and time puts some pressure on; but whilst I have experienced varied success on stalking trips, even in failure the camaraderie and good company of our expeditions makes them memorable experiences. The group consisted of a semi-professional deer stalker, a seasoned fox-shooter, me, and a lady that had never shot a deer before.


We all bunked off early from work, a perk of being self-employed, to meet at 1400hrs for the four-hour journey south to Norfolk. My VW Sharan was favoured over the four-by-fours due to the space inside. A sheep trailer was hooked up to the tow bar for bulky items and a large roof-box held our most valuable equipment. Inside the car we had four people and five dogs, so space was limited but spirits high. Due to traffic we didn’t arrive until 2000hrs. Once there we were welcomed by Jimmy and Colin, their set up is basic yet professional. The sight of dozens of deer surrounded us as the light failed. Reds, muntjac, roe, it was teeming with life. A few beers, chats about Africa and adventure, then a whiskey nightcap and we eventually hit the hay. This was a surprisingly apt euphemism as our digs were camp beds in a derelict stable block: the old door didn’t close and it entertained me to hear mice scurrying about as we drifted happily off to sleep beneath House Martin nests.

Morning Stalk

At 0400hrs we woke, dressed, and downed coffees to make a quick departure. Driving towards the woods was spectacular. The landscape is incredible. It sounds like bluster, but it was such a lovely scene that it had made the effort and expense of the journey worthwhile before I had even been dropped off from the vehicle. I stalked along the margin of a turnip field with Marcel, a South African member of this syndicate. Within a couple of minutes we were amongst deer: a group of reds were dwelling in the corner of the field at 300 yards, a muntjac doe was browsing through the turnips in the middle of the field, and a fine roe buck was contently walking through an small patch of white grass between fields. Marcel indicated for us to push through: the reds were obviously out-of-season; the muntjac sky-lined; and the roe buck was heading in the direction of an area my pal was stalking towards.

We carried on into ride cut through an old woodland, the deer population was evident through the omission of an understorey. Magnificent pines and deciduous trees formed a broken canopy soaring above the herb-layer of verdant bracken and brash fox-gloves. The cover was very dense, unseen Muntjac were all around us calling. We crept along silently, each spotted through thermal monoculars… glimpses of beasts undetectable to the eye. Suddenly a doe crossed the ride 50 yards ahead, I was able to get my .270” SAKO 85 up onto the sticks but looking through the 8x56 Klassik she was largely obscured by a small ridge in the track. With mainly her back visible and the rising nature of the shotpath at that range I let her carry on her busy way. We proceeded to a high seat, sitting for 40 minutes with just occasional glimpses of animals in the heavy cover. I spied a muntjac paused through the fork of a tree at 120 yards, switching to the rifle I centred the cross hairs solidly for high shoulder and then asked Marcel for confirmation. He replied immediately, but the chance was already gone. Ten minutes later another chance presented as a small buck trotted across the path, it slowed for a second and I swivelled quickly in the high seat to get onto him. Just as I sent the round he stepped forward, about to disappear into cover. The 150-grain bullet hit him hard through the lungs, I could see the impact and knew it was 2” behind where I had wanted but the beast was down lifeless. I was delighted to take my first muntjac. We picked him up and stalked through the woods and clearings, nothing presented and so we headed back to the rendezvous location for 0730hrs. Whilst we waited another muntjac buck was spotted, happily feeding in a meadow filled with reeds, wildflowers and white grass. It was slowly heading away, towards a large pond but we couldn’t stalk it until we knew the exact position of the other guns. When that was ascertained, I was cleared to commence the stalk. It ended with a simple shot from sticks at 120 yards. Despite being an open field, with low cover and the animal folding, I lost the carcass for a few minutes. With it being so clearly visible I carelessly had negated to fix two navigation points and set a line, instead wandering off with the contours in a banana-shape.

We heard a distant shot and 20 minutes later my friend appeared in the pickup. She had never shot a deer before and, empty-handed, confessed that she had missed a shot. Her racing heart and lungs had pushed the shot just over the tiny deer. My heart sank for her, I knew a miss (especially in front of a guide) can really sap your confidence. I went to put my bucks into the pick-up and spotted another deer laid in the back, a lovely little muntjac buck. My friend watched my surprise and delightedly told me that, “oh yes, but after that miss Jimmy was sure to get me onto another one and I made no mistake the second time.” It was a perfect heart shot, her first deer and she was very happy to tell the other two guns: her husband, and our mutual friend.


We went back to base to gralloch the animals and hang them to cool. Everyone had been blessed with success: two of the group had our first muntjacs, one his first roe and the last her first deer. Delight filled the air over a hearty breakfast of sausages, liver, bacon and eggs. In preparation for dinner Bilal, a syndicate member and guide, started browning a quartered muntjac, seeing the skill and complexity of his endeavour I asked what he did for a living, “oh, I have a little restaurant in central London…”

Marcel wanted to test his zero after changing to a new stock on his 6.5 Creedmore and so invited us all to their range. It was a sociable event, an opportunity to try each other’s guns and ammunition. A fancy Garmin Xero C1 Pro was sat on the shooting bench. It works by a doppler system, continuously projecting a 24 GHz microwave signal downrange, accurately picking up the bullet speed with no intrusion. My friend’s Howa was pushing his 110-grain .270” bullets at 800 fps faster than the 150-grain bullets left my short barrelled SAKO at. Rain started and so we packed up. Heading back through the woods we spotted a cull-quality roe buck feeding in a field of radishes. I asked if I could stalk it, Colin checked with everyone and then agreed, surprised at my eagerness. No direct approach was possible so he guiding me in a horseshoe through the thick nettles in the woods and onto my sticks less than 100 yards away from the buck. Due to the height of the cover at this time of year and it being front-on, I was instructed that a neck shot was the best option. As the beast was calm, my rest solid, and my zero certain, I felt confident to take the shot. It fell on the spot, the soft-point smashing the vertebrae.

I had dressed two muntjac in the morning and my efforts were ragged, by the roe my eye was in. The larger beast made the gralloch easier and I felt proud of a neat job. At 1730hrs dinner was ready, it had been cooking all day on a gas stove and suffice to say the Lebanese stew was phenomenal. I wolfed down three large portions, the buttery meat falling from the bone, the broth was aromatic and flavoursome.

Evening stalk

I spoke to Jimmy and said that as I had shot three beasts already that, if it was ok, I would only shoot if something special appeared. He was perfectly happy with this, I suspected he would be but I wanted to check first. The four of us set out again, each with a guide and a sector to cover. Two of us were already content, one wanted a roe and another a muntjac. It was a beautiful evening, Marcel and I walked slowly to a low seat on account of our full bellies. We arrived and chatted for a couple of minutes, watching the grass sway in a beautiful bowl-shaped valley ahead of us. During the morning stalks we had been so focussed that not a word had been spoken apart from whispered “sticks”, “there”, or “low neck.” My rifle was not yet loaded, and a beautiful mature roe buck ran straight to the seat, appearing from cover seven yards away, stopping on a six-pence. There was a moment that we all looked at each other, then I moved, picking up the rifle. The buck burst back out of the woods into a field of turnip. We picked up the sticks, gun and binoculars and set off after him. He had paused 150 yards out, trapped in a huge field bound by a road, a footpath, our wood, and then the trough we were shooting into. He was a beautiful beast, heavily set with thick antlers, deeply forked and elegantly balanced. Apparently he was far superior to what they would expect on their sandy soil, more famed for Norfolk Reds than trophy roes. We lay in the grass and nettles at the edge of the woods watching him safely sky-lined. For the first few minutes he stood tense and board, then as he eventually relaxed, he dropped his head and started grazing in small circles. We reckoned we could wait him out, as patience was on our side and eventually, he would need to head into the bowl or come into our woods.

After 45 minutes of crouching however we decided that, perhaps it would be best to return to the seat, as the only safe shot was into the valley anyway and so we may as well enjoy the comfort. It was a small surrender but Marcel said “if you are meant to shoot this buck he will cross into that bowl.” As 2100hrs arrived we were radioed to pack up, he still hadn’t materialised. In front of my seat had passed over a dozen shootable muntjac, and a roe doe. We walked out of the woods casually, wistfully I scanned back with the thermal and as I did so I spotted our boy. In the same spot. He stared at me stood out in the open and then made a break for it, smashing back into the woods some 300 yards ahead. Marcel and I hot-footed it after him and 100 yards from where we last saw the buck started slowly moving forward, scanning into the wood with our thermals for a heat source in the dark shadows. Progress was slow and it wasn’t until almost the last point when a huge, indistinct heat source became visible in a thicket of nettles. We manoeuvred to get an angle but just could not see it with our optics, so manoeuvred again, crept closer, manoeuvred… crept…manoeuvred. Was this really him? It was certainly too big to be a muntjac. The excitement was extreme. We were too close to the animal to risk speaking or making any noise. Eventually through the thermal the deer moved, filtering through the trees and presenting the beautiful silhouette of a male roe buck. It stepped out onto the field margin and my rifle was already loaded, on the sticks and cross hairs waiting to meet him. For the second time that day I felt my heart drop, the antlers were spikes and the beast thinly set. “It is not your buck” whispered Marcel, “he’s small, you choose.” I flicked the safety back on and lifted the rifle. We shook hands with a wry smile. “Are you disappointed it wasn’t him?” Marcel enquired, “I was in the moment, but now not at all” I responded, “we have had a fabulously successful day, great food, lovely company and then an evening watching majestic animals, an adrenaline filled stalk. I am delighted. The big buck lives on, and he deserves to.” Marcel replied “Yes, and he is a good one to leave on the ground.”

When we got back to camp everyone had had a great evening, with the first roe and first muntjac shot. A roe buck with interesting antlers had been spotted in the morning then lost, she returned to the same location with Jimmy, they worked the ground and eventually found him. A solid shot from sticks and he was down, a lovely trophy and memorable stalk.

The muntjac had not wanted to make it easy for my friend, it had no intention to pause as it went through thick cover. Rifle on the sticks, Bilal whispered to my fox-shooting friend a warning: “when the lamp goes on you have four seconds to shoot the vixen or it is gone, are you ready?” He nodded and a loud ‘oi’ echoed across the valley, the buck popped his head up, the bullet hitting the base of the skull side-on before the silent count had even begun.

The day ended with some sundowners and then a quick sleep before we rose early to head back home: carrying nine deer but countless great memories.







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