Chris Dalton considers the difficulties sometimes encoutered with the follow up of shot deer. 


You will probably have gathered by now that the basis for quite a number of these articles follow discussions over dinner at Garryloop after a stalking outing. Conversation usually flows after a full day in the forest, nice meal and a glass or two of wine. Working on the principal that if my guests are interested in these topics then I imagine other folk are as well. The subject that generated a long debate last week concerned reaction to shot and subsequent follow up, and how many of these deer were not actually recovered; this brought to mind a doe I shot in January this year.

It is unusual these days for me to be out with the rifle, most of the time I am talking other people out or witnessing for DSC level 2 and the like, so that fact I was stalking was out of the ordinary.

As it happened, one of the areas we look after has recently been clear felled and a large area replanted during the last few months, so it was an area in which the deer required very close control. I had stalked there with clients several times over previous weeks, mainly with guests who were doing an introduction to stalking course, and had seen four or five family groups of roe in the area. For various reasons we had accounted for only 2 roe followers on these outings, this was mainly due to the inexperience of my guests. Roe in winter coat on a re stock site are very difficult to see even for the experienced hunter, add that to unfamiliarity with handling a rifle, it takes a long time to get totally comfortable and set before taking a shot, especially when shooting from sticks. None of this is their fault and we all have to learn.

So I was acutely aware that with a cold snap forecast a few more of these roe needed to be removed from this area and as a free evening coincided with a lull in the rain I went out. The ground has a fairly steep hill side on which conifers and a few areas of hardwood had been planted across a total plot of around 1300 acres. This was bounded by a track and some conifers planted about 7 years ago and on the other side by a belt of mature conifers close to felling. The hill caught the afternoon sun and was always a good place to try in the evenings, deer would often lie out in the trees on a warm day or if not you could catch them coming out to feed in the evening from the trees at either side. 

markingthespotOn this evening a fairly brisk and cold wind blowing across the slope to the mature conifers at the top of the hill but from a quarter which would just about allow me to stalk in-between the mature trees and the replanted site at the top of the slope. I stalked very carefully along this edge and glassed the slope every few paces as a new vista came into view, it’s a tactic I have used before, often with good success but not on this occasion. The dog indicated once and had obviously winded deer but I could not see anything .

At the end of the plantation the ground dropped away into a sheltered valley which was tucked out of the wind and at least two top coats warmer. In front of me was a quiet glen and mossy bank which just felt right. I recall thinking to myself if I were a roe this is where I would be tonight, so I found a tree stump and settled down to wait. I suppose I had been there about 30 minutes and put the glasses up for the umpteenth time and scanned across the bank and browsing quite happily was a doe about 250 yards away. How many times has that happened, she was 25 yards from cover in full view, how long had she been there! Roe are commonly called the Elves of the Forest and the more I stalk the more I know why.

Anyhow, I glass her for a while and establish we have an old doe with no follower, so she is in the plan and can go. I walk forward slowly along the tree line, moving only when  she does or has her head down feeding and freeze when her head comes up to look round. I am a bit concerned about the wind, which is just drifting a little too close to her direction for comfort and get to an upturned tree root at about 140 yards. That’s as close I dare go, any further forward and I am in plain view and the wind is not good. So from here I set up the rifle on the sticks from a kneeling position and wait for the broadside. 

For ages she continues to work down the bank but will not present the shot, I feel a gust of wing on my neck and her head is up – she has winded me, nose testing the air and looking intently in my direction and then stiff legged turns left. Fortunately and still curious she pauses for a last fatal look back, which gives me the safe broadside shot and I hear the satisfying crack of the strike. I catch sight of her dash right and then she is gone form view down the bank.

The dog is looking at me expectantly, but as always we wait, allowing things to settle down and any other deer in the vicinity to move off, you gain nothing by rushing in. After around 10 minute we move forward and I am fully expecting to see the doe laying dead just around the corner, but after an initial search I can find nothing, no paint or pins and I cant see the deer. Somewhat puzzled I send Oscar, my Weimaraner, who does not need asking twice, head down he moves forward and at last after around 45 yards we have a nice blood trail and a little further on a large piece of lung. Relieved, I now fully expect the dog to came on to the deer in a few yards  but no he continues to hunt, nose down through the trees in a long loop, out the other side over a stream and starts to work towards some trees almost 200 yards away. I call him back a little miffed that he is messing about , take him back to the bit of lung and cast him off again with the instruction ‘where is it’ and ‘steady’ his command to seek a deer in cover. He kind of gives me one of those looks and follows exactly the same line he did before, I still can’t believe the deer has run all that way but I trust him so off I go. I really should know better by now, but 45 yards further on from where I called him back laid dead under some thick young conifers is the doe.

When I measured the distance, the doe had made 247 yards from a perfect heart lung shot and in so doing had crossed a small stream twice, run a loop through some conifers and across a valley and into a thick block of trees. Without a dog I would never have recovered her and I would still be puzzling about it now. You would have been searching in totally the wrong place. I have recovered thousands of shot deer and am in a position where often I am watching deer as a client shoots them and see first hand their reaction to shot, and whilst she had winded me and was ready to run, even so I would never have imagined she would go so far.

Chris is a highly respected Deer Manager and runs Ayrshire Stalking. To contact Chris call: 07710 871190

To read Chris' previous article click on the following link: the-joys-of-a-deer-dog



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