The weekend that the UK lockdown was announced I found myself in Thetford Norfolk with my best friend and hunting buddy Daniel Wallace, I was his guest and as ever Dan was fantastic company. For a few years Dan has been aware of two Muntjac bucks on a specific piece of ground he has access to that we call “The Res” one of these bucks is extremely dark in colour and very striking but is still long in the pedicle so I would suggest still relatively young but already a medal class animal. The other rather is a light coloured buck almost blonde. This chap is however a much older boy and down on his pedicles a very big boy indeed says Dan, he’s definitely a gold medal mate! So today he is our target.
Do you fancy a try for the king of the res Pete? Says Dan I think I know where he will be so we are in for a good chance. We decided to retire him for two reasons. Firstly the bucks will be casting by the end of the month and there’s no guarantee he would ever reach the size he is currently and secondly we both feel the dark buck who shares the same ground should rightly be allowed to come on and take his rightful place as the new top dog.
I arrive in Norfolk late in the afternoon and meet Dan. We load up the truck and take the short drive to our location. Immediately as we enter the gateway we see the dark buck standing around 30 yards out of the tree line head down browsing on the edge of some cover crop that is starting to shoot without a care in the world. We drive around the edge of the field away from the buck in order to get out of his line of sight and eventually park up. We are both fizzing with anticipation at the thought of stalking in to the buck in order to get a better glimpse of him. The stalk would be 200 yard plus but fortunately most of it tight to a tree line out of his view so he will have no idea we were there or so we thought. After an anxious stalk making sure we avoided anything that could give us away we got to a spot where we could spy our boy only to find he was gone? We stood there dumbfounded scratching our heads as to what happened? The wind was in our face what little there was and the stalk was textbook yet he got the drop on us. I personally think he just wandered off rather than ran off. Just as we were cursing our bad luck our blonde pretender to the thrown came out of the trees directly in front of us at 246m but it was just a fleeting glimpse as he quickly disappeared from whence he came.
Ok says Dan sensing my growing frustration at least you have seen the two bucks I’ve been telling you about mate! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the dark buck’s headgear because he had his head down but he was big in the body with a thick neck so the indications were definitely positive. The blonde boy (Boris) looked enormous even at over 240m he looked big I mean really BIG!! We quickly head back to the truck and decide to drive to another place and let the area calm down with a view to return later before last light. Both bucks were unaware of our presence so there was a good chance they would return on or before dark.
After a fruitless session elsewhere we returned to the res we scanned the vicinity with binos and thermal imager with not a single living thing to be seen, my heart sank. Let’s make up the ground quickly as possible get in to position and get the rifle on the sticks as you never know one or both could still step out there’s time yet mate says Dan looking a little concerned at the lack of any deer seen today. We get to our spot and the moment I put the rifle on the sticks the treeline in front of us explodes in to a chorus of barking dogs! A dog walker was in the woods with at least two dogs going berserk. We looked at each other I won’t say what was said but the air went blue! After everything we had done only to have our final chance of the day ruined by an unseen idiot was just about the last straw. Well I’m sorry mate that’s “Bleep bleep bleeped that!” what do you want to do call it a day or hang it out? whilst there’s light there’s always a chance buddy I said optimistically.
Fate must have been on our side because within 15 minutes of the dogs disappearing we glassed a roe doe browsing on a field edge to our left a sure sign the disturbance hadn’t scared every deer off for a country mile. Then all of a sudden Dan spotted a Muntjac and taps me on the shoulder, I swing the rifle around and it’s a doe. I need one for the freezer mate so I’m going to take it range me Dan – 180m he replies. Just as I was about to slip the trigger the doe starts acting rather oddly.
Hold fire Pete somethings up, she was trotting a few paces alongside the tree line then stopped looked back then repeated the process several times. Think the dogs have spooked her mate Dan tells me I said possibly or she’s trying to attract a buck? No sooner had those words left my mouth when the blonde buck emerged from the exact spot he came out of previously. This was the first chance I had time to look at him I have to confess that for a split second I thought I was looking at a UK record he just looked enormous! My knees buckled it was exhilarating and nerve wrecking all at the same time “Jesus Christ Pete it’s him whispers Dan” adding to my ever growing sense of tension look at the friggin size of it! Wait until he presents a shot and take him. The buck and doe were so intent on their courtship dance they had no idea we were there but unfortunately they crossed from the tree line diagonally across the field before disappearing through a gap in a hedge to our right at one point no more than 30m away, we tried shouting to halt the buck but he was so intent on his doe he wasn’t stopping for anyone, our chance was gone.
Get the rifle on the gap in the hedge they are heading straight towards us Dan confirms eyes glued to my Leica HD-R binoculars, all of a sudden it was back on! A few moments later the doe walks past the gap, surly it was only a matter of seconds before the buck followed… sure enough right on que he casually walks in to view and I slip the shot using Dan’s .243 T3 boom the buck takes a solid engine room hit. The doe runs off leaping over a patch of bramble followed by the buck but he collapses just out of view no more than 20m from where he was shot.
He’s down Pete, breathe mate Dan says clearly trembling with excitement. We walk over to see our prize and I have to say it was a moment I’ll never forget.
Two grown men almost reduced to tears at the sight of the buck laying there. Relief, joy, remorse, pride, adrenaline, and for Dan a deer he’s been monitoring for almost four years finally retired what a moment. Dan is not only my best friend he’s a true gent and when he said if anyone was to take him I’m glad it was you mate and to share to the moment with you means more to me than shooting it myself, I know he truly meant it. Ok not a UK record that was just wishful thinking however almost certainly a gold. My current PB is 64.3 I pray he goes a little better. A 70 cic is my dream but alas he won’t make this dream score.
I’m interested to see the final size once he’s correctly measured. He will also be turned in to a full shoulder mount – a permanent reminder of the king of the res and the session that resulted in his downfall.
Thank you Dan.
As it turns out later that night the lockdown gets announced so he will be the last deer I get to shoot for the foreseeable future – what a way to end my stalking for the moment!
Stay safe and be well.