All posts by Mark

Mark's bio

Its not over till the fat lady sings

12/12/2017 6:30am
Mate that’s just stunning isn’t it, said Richey as we both stared up into a crystal-clear sky full of stars and a crescent moon.

6:30 am by the barn and the air is so crisp you could cut bread with it. I preferred by Rav4 to Richey’s Discovery as I reckoned on -2 and his said -3. But it’s a land rover so his was probably broken 😊 Rich stalked off to his seat and I loaded the quad to drive to my one at the farthest point on the 130-acre site. The quad is super quiet but sadly the beech leaves crunching under the tyres were not. Still in the seat before it got shootable and braced against the cold.

Today I was trying out my new (SH) Harkula boots which fit fantastically over my Exotherm Arctic thinsulate booties. I had on my normal light weight stalking trousers over Merino wool leggings but over the top of both I had my new German Army fur lined over trousers (£15.00) which I got after seeing them recommended on SD. A little on the snug side fit wise for an XL but the full-length side zips make getting them on and off over my boots a doddle and the 28” inside leg was perfect with the boots. Top side I have HH base layer. Cotton shirt, army thermal top, army fleece and Seeland Keeper jacket. Hands were in my new Seal Skin gloves.

The light came up and glinted off the remaining patches of snow on the ground. My cheap Ray Marine (Flur) thermal was giving stunning contrast and I even picked up robins on the ground at 30m but not a deer in sight. It was noisy as hell as there were probably a dozen+ squirrels running around in the beech leaves and I had a brief moment of excitement when a fox emerged from it’s den 20m away and I thought it was a munti for a split second. He sat on the edge for a moment and obviously thought bugger this for brass monkeys, and went back inside.

9.00am rolled around and my toes were in pain. Looks like ill be going back to the Muck Boots for properly cold days. I can get more thermals in them. The Seal skins are doing OK but again I think my Seeland Keeper gloves are marginally warmer (if a lot less dexterous) The star of the day was undoubtedly my £15.00 fur lined over trousers which are at least as good as my £200 out fox lined over trousers. Top half all good but the toes becoming a big problem.

9:15 I get the radio call from Richie, he’s had enough and heading back to the car. Not a bad plan but I needed some blood flow to my toes, so I decided on a little stalk. Well that was a laugh as walking on frozen and snow-covered beech leave was like walking on Rice Crispies but at least my toes were soon back out of the frost bite zone.

Quad packed and I decided to take the long way back to the car park. Id literally gone 20m when a doe legged it trough the wood to my left ☹ Ho Hum. On to the end ride and down the hill I can see two dark shapes in the wood ahead. A quick look with the thermal shows its three deer. Ones looking at me but the other two are head down. I slipped the rifle off my back and clicked off the safety. No chance of getting off the quad as they were sure to bolt so I rested the rifle on the wing mirror and took aim. The mirror provided a surprisingly steady support and the smaller of the three came head up and presented a perfect side on head shot I just couldn’t resist.

I stalked down and found her on the ground where she had stood. My beloved 70g BT 243s were out of action whilst my scope is fixed, so I was using the 308 with a home load 110g Nozzle BT id developed for head shots. Till now id only tested it on fox but I was pleased with the proper test results as most of the head was missing. I won’t be swapping to the 308 out of choice but its nice to know I have a back up if the 243 is down.

Its now 10am and I have a new permission to see at 11 so I did the quickest ever gralloch and headed back to the car. Fortunately, the appointment was only 5 miles away and I made it on time, but it was a tad close. So, by 12.00 I have a new permission form signed and in my pocket and a doe in the deer tray. Not a bad day at all despite freezing my bits off.

Id all but given up on even seeing a deer today but it just goes to show, it’s not over till the fat lady sings

New graloch station gets blooded

4am Is a rubbish time to get up but good job I did as the M20 was shut and I had to take back roads to Sussex and meet up with Ed for a morning stalk. Ed hadn’t shot there before so I walked him to his seat and then set off back up the ride to my own. All set up by 6am and just in time as daylight filtered through the beech cops.

I had given Ed a radio but multiple attempts to touch base failed even going up and down one station in case he had altered it by mistake. This turned out to be a great shame as it turned out he’d gone up two by mistake. 🙁 . The morning was mild, dry and not too windy and I watched hawks circling and a fox strolling nonchalantly past but no deer were presenting. Then some movement right up in the top wood caught my eyes and four or five fallow trotted past too fast and too deep in the beech wood for a shot.

Id said 9:30 stop so I came down from the seat and started to walk up the ride to Ed’s position. About 100m before getting to the top of Ed’s ride T, I heard movement and a fallow doe came bounding out of the brush heading straight for Ed. I stopped and waited for the shot but none came and I had had no way of warning Ed of the incoming as the radio still refused to work. I stalked to the top of Ed’s ride with my hat off so Ed wouldn’t mistake me for a Fallow unless he thought it was doing a hand stand and my white hair was its arse 😀

I could see Ed about 70m down the ride and I managed to catch his eye and signal that I’d stalk round the end of the permission and try and push the doe back to him.

I did my best but had to hug the lower bank in case Ed needed to take a shot. I didn’t want to be in the line of fire. Having made it all the way to just behind his seat and seen nothing, we gave up.

Ed came down and I decided to show him the rest of the 60acres and the high seat spots. We walked with no apparent stealth down to the lower end of the wood and just as I was explaining that deer often laid up in the now removed willow cops, a doe jumped up from the cops and lept behind two trees. I could just see her nose. Ed didn’t have sticks so I deployed my just purchased single trigger stick and put a cross hair on the tip of her nose.

She couldn’t resist moving her head forwards to take a peek at us, and the 70g BT knocked her clean off her feet. Got to say I loved the trigger stick. So quick to use and adjust. I agonised over a conventional set but I am now glad I went for the single stick. Speed of deployment being a greater concern in the dense wood rather than outright stability.

This ended a three-week drought at the site, so it was a very welcome surprise. I am pretty sure it was the same deer we saw earlier and it must have hunkered down rather than move when I tried to push it back to Ed. Note to Ed, and something I learnt the hard way, always have a shooting stick with you even if it’s just a walk back to the car 😀  

We walked up to the doe and there was still some leg twitching so I put another one in the back of the head just to make sure there was no further suffering and then we left her whilst I gave Ed the full tour and waved him off home.

Another upside was I got to blood the gralloch station and I am pleased to say it worked great. (despite the embarrassment of running out of petrol in the Quad L) Beech trees don’t offer much in the way of branches for a suspended gralloch and I am getting old, so single handed lifting even a small doe like this can be a struggle these days.

All I have to do now if figure out a way to lower it direct into the boot of the Rav4 😀

New Low Seat & New High Seat

2016-03-28 16.23.53

The Low Seat at Imberley is a fantastic spot but dammed uncomfortable so I thought id build a platform big enough for two to take full advantage of the location. Please note you need a collapsible chair when you go. I have put a gun rail and two raised sections on the platform so depending on your collapsible seat height I hope you will have a comfortable gun rest.

Sadly no trade mark “Chasey coffee shelf” 😀 so you will have to make do with the old low seat bench 😀

2016-03-28 16.23.36

Over at the Farm

The high seat in the lower field has seen better days. I rescued one of the older metal high seats from the now defunct Convent permision and altered it with a few lengths of 6X3 I had knocking arround to make it free standing. Its less than ideal but a lot more comfortable than the other option.

 

2016-02-18 12.25.35

 

 

Old Cops Doe from the Pond Seat

IMG_2853

Having broken my duck at Old Cops the week before, I put Pete in the main ride high seat so he had the best chance of a shot from the position we had seen the most deer. I set up in the Metal High seat on the pond and was frankly just waiting for a shot to ring out from Pete’s position.

To my amazement at about 8.00am I noticed a half dozen does moving through the wood to my right. The group were spread out through the wood up to the main ride and I thought if I waited for one of the group to the rear the herd might move off in Pete’s direction, so I waited patiently for them to move across in front of me.

After a few moments one of the deer crossed no more than 20m away from me. I had been tracking it through my scope and she stopped and looked straight at me in the high seat. I felt it likely she could spook at any second taking the herd with her so I took the shot head on with the 243 BT just above the eye line.

She dropped on the spot and the herd stopped and stared. I could have taken a second deer but again I was hoping they would move off towards Pete as I didn’t have room in the chiller at the moment and if Pete got one as well wed be struggling for room in the car.

Instead I got out my phone and took some video of the herd.

 

 

 

 

First Doe at Old Cops

It felt like a long time coming but in the end it was worth the wait. On a cold December day, I walked down to the main ride high seat at Old Cops and set up for the morning before work. Pete and Olli had seen a small herd on the main ride the weekend before so I was hopeful of a result after four weeks of trying hard and achieving little. I had arrived at 5:30 in the dark and by 8.15am the cold was seeping into my bones. I heard the distinctive note of a chain saw starting up to my right letting me know the forestry workers had arrived and It was time for me to get off to work as well.

I started to pack away my things when some movement caught my eye to my left. Six does emerged from just past the holly and crossed the ride. Being left handed it was an awkward angle, but I quickly had the crosshairs on the back of this does head and took the shot from about 30m as she paused at the top of the far bank.

The sense of relief at finally breaking my duck at Old Cops was enormous. Having seen deer here at every visit and not yet having one in a position to take a shot I had been getting a bit down, but this doe in excellent condition has proven that patience is a virtue.

IMAG0566

 

Last ditch buck for April 2016

2016-04-19 17.21.24-1With the weeks slipping past quickly an afternoon visit to a DAGS permission in Sussex produced the last Fallow Buck of the early 2016 season.

A beautiful warm & sunny Tuesday afternoon I managed to slip off work early and arrive on site at about 4 p.m. The previous evening, I had spotted a small herd of Fallow sheltering under some bushes at the bottom of a steep incline. The path into the site borders this area so on arrival I stalked carefully down the wooded path emerging at the top of the field edging the trees. A quick check on the wind had it blowing across my position and whilst not ideal it could have been a lot worse. Taking care to hug the tree line I stalked up along the top of the field where a small rise prevented me being spotted from the bushes below. Once in position directly opposite the bushes I set up my sticks, stood tall and scanned the area with my bins.

Nothing came immediately to view but with a little patience I did manage to see movement about 5m into the bushes and woods below. Dropping down on hands and knees I crawled to the top on the rise until even my low could have given me away. Then pulling the scrim up over my face and slipping on to my belly, I commando crawled another 20m to a shootable position.
Setting up on low sticks I focused in the Swaro scope on a doe who by now was right on the edge of the bushes. For a hart stopping second I thought id been seen as she appeared to be looking straight at me in that typical frozen stance of a deer on full alert. Thank fully her head dropped and she began grazing again in earnest. Than unexpectedly from her right in the open field I spotted two more does casually walking into the opening. With the scope on max power X 15 I searched for evidence of a buck without success.

Cross hairs resting perfectly on the largest of the now four does in front of me, I was rueing the weeks before when they were in season and where simply nowhere to be found. I have always wondered how they know?

Some 20 minutes had passed and hands were beginning to sweat and eyes itch when in the background I spotted the unmistakable antlers of a mid-age buck in the woods. Far too many branches and twigs were in-between my 125g 308 and it so I took a rest and laid down looking at the sky and soaking in the sunshine. A crafty glance with the bins found the buck to now be right on the edge of the wood and about six does already outside grazing on the new grass.

I checked the turret position on the Swarovski and made sure the scope was set to 100m before rolling over and mounting the rifle again with agonisingly slow movement. The cross hairs settled on the head of the buck as it was dipped down to eat. I waited for it to move into a better position and sure enough it came head on and again its head dipped to eat and I wasted no time in taking the shot just above the line of its eyes.

The most satisfying thing about a well head shot deer is it just hits the ground hard. No pain no running. Just munching away one minuet and gone the next. The does stood for a moment startled by the shot then bounded off into the woods behind. There’s not much point in waiting when you hit a deer with a 125grain 308 ballistic tip head shot but just in case I observed the deer through my bins for ten minutes before setting off to get the quad for the extract.
All clean shots are satisfying but this deer was being planned in the car on the way there and the plan went exactly as I’d hoped. A rare thing as we all know. All in all, a great way to end the early 2016 buck season.