- Saturday, 23 March 2013
'Every step you take, every move you make'...more than likely there'll be one watching you!
It was no more than a small brown blot at first, barely observable with the naked eye, deep within the tangle of fallen trees and shrubs about 70yards ahead of us. I stopped mid step. David stopped a pace behind sensing that I had spotted something.
Slowly raising my binoculars to my eyes I rolled the focus wheel with my finger to bring clarity to the image. There it was, two eyes and in between a distinctive dark 'V' on the forehead. Watching us intently from its supposed place of safety was a Muntjac buck. Minutes passed with not a word being spoken between David and I. David is a seasoned hunter and well accustomed to these moments and was therefore in no need of explanation.
(David his .243 Mannlicher and a hard earned and slightly damp Muntjac Buck).
Gradually the eyes shifted their gaze and turned away. The Muntjac Buck had relaxed, clearly unsure of what if anything had at first caught its attention. Slowly at first, not taking my eyes of this little deer I shifted alongside David and explained the situation.
The thick tangle of undergrowth was to be the obstacle here. Anyone who has done their DSC1 will be aware that they should refrain from obscured shots. We needed to move.
Just 10 paces ahead of us and a foot or two to the right a broad oak tree between us and our target. Using a well tested method we stepped off to our right and approached the ten yards toward the tree, the cover of the trunk providing us obscurity.
Slowly I set the shooting sticks in place, a step off to the side, an economical slick movement of the rifle and David had his .243 Mannlicher rifle set in place and a bead drawn on the location of the last sighting. Where had it gone? I scanned the undergrowth convinced that it would not have ventured far. Moments later a movement, yes there it was again, browsing the low lying branches and shrubs, oblivious to our presence.
Still no clear shot, we watched this shy little deer as it set about its business of foraying for food. These are the moments that you learn about your quarry. Watching them behave in manners and ways that you might not expect. To my surprise sure enough one such example, a new behavioural trait for the memory banks.
With surprising dexterity the deer began to cautiously scale the trunk of a fallen tree. The tree in question was at an angle of around 30 degrees and I watched in amazement as this little deer clearly driven by the incentive of some other wise out of reach shoots, nimbly traversed the foot wide trunk to a position where, with strained neck, it could nibble at the branches some three or four feet off the ground.
Some memories I know will last with me a lifetime and never seem to dull with time, so engraved on my mind are these spectacles.
Moments later it was down and lost from sight. Once again we waited patiently with Binoculars trained on the vicinity.....There it was again, this time it was heading down a bank toward a little clearing in the undergrowth. I whispered quietly to David. "If it comes clear of those branches you'll have a shot" I heard a faint click as David switched off the safety catch. Sure enough a few more steps a pause and then a few more and our quarry stood broadside and unobscured in the open.
A 'crack' from David's Mannlicher and an 80grain bullet sped toward its target, 'thump' and the Muntjac rolled down the bank out of sight toward the stream below. "Well done, well done!" I whispered, both of us exhilarated by the excellent conclusion to this tense stalk.
A few minutes wait and we strode forward confident of success. There it lay a young Muntjac Buck half submerged in the stream at the bottom of the bank having fallen prey to a nicely placed heart shot.
What I have learnt of Muntjac stalking is that if you are in an area frequented by this deer you should be clear in your mind as you enter their territory that they are there.
I try to explain to beginners that if we don't see one of these creatures then we only have ourselves to blame. An easy get out for a professional stalker perhaps? However chances are that a negative result will simply have meant that they spotted us first and will have discreetly blended away into the undergrowth unnoticed.
Muntjac stalking is a slow and cautious pursuit. Chances are that even if you don't know it there will be eyes trained on you watching your every move as though their lives depend upon it!