Keep Calm and Carry On

Stalking the other evening with a Norwegian client of mine highlighted an interesting anomaly regarding deer behaviour.

The incident arose when driving through the estate in the 4x4 we passed a group of six or seven Fallow Deer sat up in woodland to the side of and not 30 yards from the main drive way to the Estate House. As I drove past I explained to my client Ivan that I couldn't pause or stop as any unusual behaviour would have the deer charging off into the next county.

It is amazing to me how accustomed Deer become to regular activity and how they will on occasion tolerate quite close proximity to vehicles and even people on foot provided they are not assumed to be a threat. The moment we start crouching and stalking, deer will be on their hooves and away, yet I have seen walkers pass a plot of woodland brazenly chatting away to each other whilst deer simply watch them pass.

It has often had me thinking that I might be better simply strolling around in bright clothing and chatting away to my fellow hunters. Never more is this point better illustrated than on this occasion with my Norwegian client Ivan.  

Having spotted the deer beside the drive, we took the long route around to arrive about 100yards below the deer on the other side of the drive. All in all this took us best part of an hour and so I was surprised to see the deer still in situ' albeit frustratingly silhouetted against the skyline.

With the apparent sixth sense that Fallow seem to have they were on to us straight away and a couple of the deer began looking guardedly in our direction ready to take flight. With no safe shot available due to the deer's position I made a snap decision to take advantage of our position and the anomaly that I have described.  

Requesting that Ivan trust me and follow I walked brazenly out of cover and strolled purposefully up the middle of the drive in the direction of the deer and toward a position that I knew from the drive would provide a safe shot. The route however would require walking straight past the deer at no more than around 30yards!

Rather bemused and no doubt somewhat sceptical of my intended plan my client followed. Indeed twice I had to turn to him and urge him to walk purposefully as he almost unconsciously began to revert to a stalking crouch! To his astonishment and I have to admit a little to mine the deer held their ground watching us as though we were simply part of the comings and goings of the regular Estate traffic going about our normal business.

50 yards to go and still walking boldly I asked Ivan if he felt he could take an 'off hand' shot if the opportunity arose. 'No' was his reply and fair enough, I would never encourage this unless someone was happy, added to which his heart was probably beating like a drum from adrenalin and our brisk stroll up the rise.  And so with the deer now only 30 yards away I warned Ivan to make ready before stopping abruptly and promptly setting down the shooting sticks! Precious seconds past as Ivan tried to locate a deer in the Scope before the deer sensing our departure from normal behaviour could hold their nerve no longer and were off!

However by good fortune we were about to benefit from another anomaly in the deer's behaviour which meant that having made 100 or so yards the deer promptly stopped for a look back!

That was all it took and this time Ivan was able to find his mark and took an excellently executed shot at one of the leading does. Another mad dash and it was all over for this beast who had fallen victim to a bit of seriously crafty stalking.  

As with their adaptation from day time feeding to nocturnal feeding with time, like all animals, deer learn to adapt and evolve their behaviour however on this occasion the deer's behavioural adaptations were to its detriment and resulted in a well earned if slightly unusual cull for Ivan who incidentally had just been describing to me how it had recently taken him twelve days to stalk some highly skittish Reindeer!  

 

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