James Mott highlights the importance of checking your equipment and making yourself familiar with borrowed kit before setting out stalking.


For many, taking a deer stalking outing is an infrequent event. Months can go by without touching a rifle, let alone practicing using it on sticks. It is therefore important, that when you do take to the woods that you carefully inspect the equipment offered to you by a professional stalker/friend and give yourself time to get familiar with it. When someone offers you their equipment to use, simply accepting that it is in clean and servable condition, without question, can lead to trouble.

(Left: John Hammond using the new Quad Pod - look out for our review coming soon) 

I remember many years ago when starting out, that I was invited on a stalk with an engineer I had been working with. His reputation as a world class target shooter proceeded him and I felt sure I was in good hands. We met at sunrise on a local estate in Surrey and he handed me his old and trusty .243. Parker Hale.

Not wanting to appear fussy, I simply slung the rifle onto my shoulder and we set out. Just as we were about to end the session and return to our vehicles, we spotted a young Roe buck couched up enjoying the morning sunshine. I raised the rifle and looked through the scope.

Well, I would have looked through the scope if I could have!!

I would like to assure the reader I am not exaggerating. What looked like the remains of last night’s dinner appeared to be smeared across the eyepiece lens, along with a collection of dust, dog hair and general grime, baked on. It was impossible to see anything let alone shoot a deer. Bitterly disappointed I explained I couldn’t see and that he better take the shot, which he did successfully. I learnt an important lesson that day (and never went stalking with him again as it happens!!)

Here are some simple checks I recommend you carry out for safety and your own piece of mind.

The Rifle


(Above: The new 'R8 Professional Success Monza' from Blaser and quad pod from John Hammond. Click on this link for Rifle Reviews: rifle-reviews)

Make sure the rifle is generally clean (not clods of mud attached to it)

Check to make sure the sling is securely fitted

Look down the barrel to make sure it isn’t obstructed with mud, old cleaning patch etc. (obstructions in the bore can lead to exploding barrels)

Check the breach to make sure there isn’t access oil.

If the borrowed rifle is threaded, ask whether there is a sound moderator to use (always better to use a mod if possible). Ascertain whether the rifle has been zeroed with the moderator on or off (it makes a difference to the POI)

Ask what range the rifle is zeroed to. Some stalkers zero at 100 yards, some at 200. Whilst the zero matters little for a heart/lung shot, should the only option be a neck shot (only more experienced hunters should consider this) you will need to make adjustments accordingly and change your point of aim.

Safety catch, familiarise yourself with where and how the safety works. Some catches can be stiff and there’s a ‘nack’ to using them.

The Sound Moderator

Check to see it’s the right moderator for the calibre of gun being used (.243 mod’ on a .308 would be an explosive combination!). If owners have numerous guns and moderators, fitting the wrong moderator is an easy enough mistake to make.

Make sure the moderator fits well and in particular is firmly seated on the thread/ barrel shoulder

Inspect the bore for any blockages

The Rifle Scope


(Above: Quality optiks - the Swarovski Z6i. Click here for Reviewswarovski-z6i

Make sure both the eyepiece and objective lenses are clean.

If the scope has variable magnification make sure it is set to suit the situation. For woodland stalking a magnification factor of 6-7 is perfect.

Focus. Makes sure the scope is focussed to suit your eye. This can be adjusted by turning the eyepiece on most riflescopes.

The Ammunition

Make sure the guns magazine is fully loaded (most guns take between 3-5 bullets) with bullets and that you have some more spare, just in case.

The Sticks

Shooting sticks (rests) come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from a single stick to the now popular quad sticks. Whatever sticks you are using, make sure you can deploy them quickly and be able to unshoulder your rifle and get ‘on target’ swiftly. Always do some dry practicing before setting out stalking. The quad sticks (a clever design and very stable) in practice are tricky to use for those who haven’t practiced using them on a regular basis. When a shootable deer presents itself, I would suggest that’s not the time to start fiddling or reading the instruction manual!

The Binoculars

Swarovski EL RangeInspect the lenses and clean them if necessary

Check the strap is secure and adjust to suit you if necessary

Adjust the focus to suit your eye.

For this article I have concentrated on the main pieces of equipment used for stalking deer. Of course there are others things a stalker requires such as knifes, first aid kits etc which I will look at in another article.

(Above: The Swarovski EL Binocular, Click here for our review: swarovski-binocular-review)

Carry out these simple checks every time you borrow equipment. It only takes a matter of minutes and will ensure your familiar and confident using the equipment you have been given. Happy stalking.

For more from James Mott click on this link: the-seven-deadly-sins-of-deer-stalking



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