An Appraisal of Stalking with County Deer
- Sunday, 30 September 2012
Coming from a shooting background centred around shotgun sports (with a little low calibre rifle pest control on the side), stalking deer was a departure from the norm for me. At first I was naturally pensive and inquisitive. Would it work for me, conceptually, would it "click" with my shooting appetite?
The short answer is "yes" - more so than I had expected!
The longer answer is actually interesting, or at least will be, for those new to the sport but are seasoned hands at other shooting sports.
Many years ago, while being "classically trained" in project management, we used the TCQSRB method to keep track of what was important. Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Risk and Benefits. I've always liked this, and have carried it over across careers, and am going to see if I can use it to make a whistle stop tour of starting out in stalking.
Time - Stalking is like wildfowling, in that it's very time-boxed. There are clearly defined times of the day when you are likely to see the quarry, and other times when you are not. While at first this seems constrictive to the rough-shooter, used to roaming around at any old time, it actually makes outings with County Deer Stalking something to look forward to in the diary; it becomes a shooting "event" like the glorious twelfth, but a lot more often!
Cost- The cost can vary depending on how successful you are, and indeed, what it is you have culled. The most direct answer to this is give Peter a call and get an idea, as after all, it is a business with a lot of variables. But contextually, it's possible to take some lovely animals without breaking the bank at all - and I have actually been pleasantly surprised a few time, especially with Muntjac. On my first outing Peter politely probed my budget and expectations, and was able to outline what would be achievable as a result (should it present itself). Conversations can be had as late as while spotting through the binoculars, so you are never going to find yourself with a nasty surprise at the end. Comparatively, it's still a lot less than a premium bag driven day!
Quality - Personally, I find the quality superb. In this sense it's the experience of the whole outing itself, right from the personal service and attention to detail, through to the healthy, beautiful animals we are working with and culling. There may be times when you simply cannot take an animal, but actually, watching the out of season doe stroll off into the trees is completely different from seeing the high bird pheasant break the line despite your both barrel attempts to curtail it. The experience is also one on one, meaning you get the equivalent of the gamekeeper by your side for the whole trip and can explain how the whole species operates and behaves - surely that's personal service!
Scope - there are several different species of deer in the British Isles (I'll leave it to Peter as the resident expert to identify them all and their differences, sometimes subtle), including a few with an open season (i.e. they can be shot all year round). So really, while there are some high points, and natural quieter periods, there is always the chance of coming across something, and hopefully a shot. County Deer Stalking has access to a number of different estates, each with its own character and feel, so it's difficult to get bored especially with the changing seasons and quarry.
Risk - there is, as ever, a chance you will not take an animal. This is a quality, not quantity, sport. Deer aren't being flushed through trees by beaters, they are living their lives in their own habitat after all. However this is really the largest risk when stalking with County Deer. Health and safety, including firearms, is second to none and Peter has very sensible standards and expectations for the safety of his guests. Another risk that is present is the consequence of a non-effective shot on target, that is to say, a wound and not a kill. Prevention is better than cure in this instance, but can be mitigated significantly by following the advice of the professional stalker and using your judgement for when not to shoot.
Benefits - At the end of a successful stalk, you will have the opportunity to purchase the meat, and (season and animal dependant) trophies. For the new to stalking, trophies will probably amount to Peter working to present you with a completely cleaned and white skull (or actually half, so you can mount it) with the antlers displayed. This process takes a while, so isn't instant on the day, but something to look forward to. Personally I really enjoy taking the trophies, as aside from the obligatory photographs and chance to take some meat home for cooking, it gives it that little extra edge over just taking a brace of pheasants at the end of a shoot. I'm building up a nice little collection of wall mounts, and each one tells a story.
So all in all, stalking does actually amount to being worth the diversion from the shotgun or vermin control world. It is rare enough to be a treat, but long enough to be fun; it won't break the bank; the experience always feels premium; there's tons of variables to see; it's safe and understandable; you get great memories and hopefully something to take home with you.
Of course, I'm never going to hang up my sidelock ejector for good; but I will be hanging a lovely set of Roe antlers on that empty spot of my office wall sometime in the future...
Matthew is a regular client of County Deer Stalking and enjoys writing reviews and treatise on subjects of interest to stalkers and the wider shooting community. He has some twenty years experience as a generalist shooter but only recently converted to stalking.