A Swede's First Hampshire Stalk
- Monday, 16 December 2013
James Schneider takes friend and neighbour on his first ever outing deer stalking in rural Hampshire.
In 1877, my Great Grandfather Anders Johan Ljunggren emigrated with his wife and 10 children from Hylletofta Jönkoping Sweden to the Northern Minnesota frontier.
A farm was established in Barnum, Minnesota and worked by the family from Monday to Saturday. Every Sunday was spent in the woods hunting deer to supply the railroad with fresh venison for their laborers. Anders would use these “bucks” as they would become known in American vernacular, to barter for provisions and other items essential for survival.
My neighbour Carl is a Swede living in London for the past few years with his wife and children. Carl knows well both Jönkoping and Minnesota, having lived in the latter for several years as a student. Recognising a sort of mystical circle, I decided to complete the loop by taking him along on a woodland stalk with the objective of providing a nice fallow deer to our village butcher.
After much banter at the local rugby ground, an outing was arranged for the following Tuesday and we were soon off to an area around Stockbridge, Hampshire for an afternoon in the field.
Familiar with the danger of outings in the northern bush, Carl informed me he was prepared with matches, a knife, tarpaulin and a rope in his Duluth bag. The conditions were slightly hazy, a bit overcast and my temperature gauge read 7 degrees. We agreed that if things got really dodgy out there, a quick sprint 400 metres across the adjacent barley field would land us bang at the door of the 'Pig and Whistle', a suitable place for warmth and nourishment. Having confirmed our survival plan, I used the GPS to guide us to the border of my license while Carl checked Google maps and caught up on some email.
It was a pleasure to introduce Carl to the Hampshire countryside, and we soon arrived in Stockbridge for lunch at The Greyhound on The Test, Michelin Guide’s 2014 Pub of the Year. Upon opening the door we were met with a Christmas wood fire scent and low beamed ceilings, a great experience indeed. Shortly after an enjoyable minute steak, we arrived on our ground and prepared for our stalk.
(Above: The survival plan! - The Greyhound on the river Test)
The wind was southerly, un-usual for the ground, and this provided a unique opportunity to stalk into a triangular field that has many fallow, but is often difficult to approach due to the wind direction and boundaries. This day, however the opposite was the case and if we could move quietly enough we would end up right in the sweet spot from where the Fallow like to bed and observe.
The stalk was text book, a mile slowly down the hedge and then a crawl into the edge of the field to glass for movement. We rose slowly and watched the heather bordering several rows of corn. Nothing apparent, but it was the kind of landscape you look at just knowing there has to be a deer there somewhere.
One short step to the left confirmed this, as three fallow does bolted out on our right hand side from seemingly nowhere. The lead doe turned away and bounded up the edge of the field dipping back into the heather. I was quickly on my sticks and after a few seconds she stopped to observe, presenting a clean and safe broadside shot at 100 yards.
“It was so quick!” Carl said after the shot as we waited for the beast to expire. He was beaming and had thoroughly enjoyed the moment of truth.
Successful cull complete, I was able to then demonstrate the DSC best practices around suspended gralloch and inspection while emphasizing hygiene. Carl was impressed with how my Napier Apex Auto Click avoided any ground contact and cross contamination as the prepared carcass was moved from gambrel to sanitized tray, to the back of the vehicle and to the butcher’s larder within two hours of being shot.
In his day, Anders Ljunggren would have returned to his farm house with grain and sugar bartered for venison. After our successful day in the field, Carl and I returned to our Free House with a bartered chicken from the butcher and drank our grain and sugar while recounting stories from the day.
And what a day it was! Few things are more enjoyable than introducing someone to the beauty of woodland deer stalking and having them participate in the rich field-to-plate experience so unusual in our age of processed foods. As a result of our efforts, this weekend Venison is being served on plates across our village and for that satisfaction we are truly grateful.
For more information about Fallow Deer Stalking follow this link: fallow-deer-stalking