In Search of Sika

Peter Osborne sets off to Dorset with a well zeroed Sauer 404 in search of Sika.

Peter Osborne Proficient Deer Stalker

Deer Stalking, at least for me, seems to have a defined set of activities that start well before you arrive at the ground, load the carefully packed rucksack on your back, set the shooting-sticks to the correct height and then settle the rifle strap on your shoulder.

I find as I start selecting and prepping the required gear, my mind begins to imagine the stalk, the type of terrain, potential wind directions and most critically, how I will respond when I sight a deer. First and foremost, I zero my rifle to ensure I only need one shot!

Bisley Rifle TargetI live near Bisley, which can be both a blessing and a curse, as I probably zero my rifle far too often, and always before a stalk. On this occasion, I was to be setting off to Dorset in search of Sika deer, and a shot on the range promptly confirmed that the rifle and scope were aligned, and the only differential factor was me!

Stalking engages with so many of your senses, the rush of adrenaline and the need to control your breathing, the need to walk quietly to ensure minimal sound transfer, continually scanning the horizon and then targeting specific areas with your binoculars and thermal (if you have made that investment plunge), listening for any untoward movement, always trying to optimise the wind to your favour and then, most critically, just absorbing the atmosphere of the moment.

This constant focus is what makes stalking so exhilarating and why each time I still need to manage both my breathing and heart rate, so I can place a perfect shot.

However, I digress. On this occasion, I was to be stalking Sika Deer on the Ilse of Purbeck Dorset - a truly beautiful location to stalk Sika.

As part of the Capreolus Club programme of events, this SSSI Nature Reserve offers some of the finest Sika stalking anywhere in the UK. The day started with an informed briefing for the guns, who after kitting-up, all relocated to their designated stalking areas, ensuring there was good coverage of the ground and most critically to ensure absolute safety when a shot was taken.

I was designated as a walking gun with the option of a high-seat, I did relocate to the seat near the end of the afternoon to reflect on the day, as well as to take a well-earned breather – but more on that later.

We started the stalk just after lunch and then taking account of wind, Peter Jones (my guide for the afternoon), and I headed out in a clockwise direction around the estate.

I believe stalking is both a science and an art and given Peter’s experience, I spent a lot of time observing when to walk, when to ‘glass’ and when to pause and when to crack the odd anecdote!

Luck was truly on my-side, and we spotted a few Sika after stalking for just 20 minutes, testament to the quality of the ground.

After setting the sticks and rifle, I ensured the scope was focussed and then waited, but as is often the case with live game, there was no shot. We, well Peter, decided that it would be best to skirt a few mounds and after a short while, we saw a small group of Sika in some tall grass and smaller trees, I setup again and waited. I noted a Sika that was separate from the group but was face-on, so the wait began – this moment is so exciting and as luck would have it, the Sika Hind turned, but was slightly quartering-on towards me – I aimed a few inches left to offset the quartering and took the shot with my Sauer 404 using a Hornaby 150gr SST cartridge.

Sika Deer Purbeck

The animal dropped and I was elated that the shot was good and in parallel. I was sure Peter was watching my every move as a Scottish fishing Ghillie would do, when he watches your ‘cast’ and all you are just hoping for, is not to splash the water with your fly and draw the inevitable “tut” followed by the dispiriting “bad luck sir”.

I paid my respects to the animal and noted that Sika deer are really beautiful and graceful – at one with their environment. I was very privileged to be here in this moment, having successfully stalked this fine animal.

After prepping the deer for collection by ATV, we continued the stalk and I managed to shoot a further two deer over the next few hours, each, after well-orchestrated stalks that were really great fun and really intense. The feelings, coupled with the opportunity to take a safe shot and cleanly dispatch the animals, were exhilarating. Each of the successful stalks were in very different settings, one was near a small copse with the animal flitting in and out of cover browsing, and the other in a forest of small plants, grass and bushes, where opportunities were limited and each time the management of the adrenaline and breathing fundamental to ensuring a safe, well-placed shot.

Reviewing the three stalks, the third deer was perhaps the most pleasing, as it required tenacity, constant moving and setting up, as the deer were moving between small trees and large shrubs grazing and only offering short glimpses, before disappearing again, something that forced me to constantly reassess whether to stay or move. On that occasion I decided to wait and was rewarded after a few minutes, when a hind appeared and then turned side on - luckily, I was prepared and took the shot.

After all this excitement, I decided to retire to the high seat, as it was now 5pm and sunset was not far off – I was genuinely not expecting to see much more, as the gloom and cold slowly descended, but using my thermal, I was stunned to see a herd of about 15 to 20 Sika heading straight towards the high seat – unfortunately the wind was unfavourable, given their heading and after getting to within 200m of the seat, the lead hind stopped, seemingly looked straight at me and then in unison the herd broke right at pace and within the blink of an eye disappeared into a dense copse!

A truly memorable ending to a great afternoon of stalking in the Ilse of Purbeck.

The Capreolus Club have stalking opportunities on the Ilse of Purbeck several times a year and based on my experience, I can personally, strongly recommend that you give it a try!

You can find out how Peter Osborne got on with Fallow Deer by following this link: deer-stalking

Alternatively, if you’d like to become a trained hunter, then why not consider taking the PDS1 Deer Stalking Qualification? You can find out more here: deer-stalking-course

To find out more about Capreolus Club membership contact: 0203 981 0159 / 07789 747709 or to read about the many benefits of membership click here: membership-benefits

 

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