By Jon Snowdon
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
When deer stalking, highs and lows are part of your lot - and its this sort of uncertainty that makes this activity so worthwhile and rewarding.
However, I have often said in Sporting Gun that every one of us can, and will, miss a shot from time to time.
The missed shot is okay and only our pride ends up hurt. However, when an inaccurate shot results in a wounded deer that can’t be found, then we are always left with regret and reproach.
I was in the good company of a guest who had visited Greenlee before and on that occasion he enjoyed a very successful trip. This time, unfortunately, his stay didn’t get off to a good start at all.
We were out at dawn and I chose to start in a ground butt (shooting hide). After about 20 minutes I decided to have a quick look at a nearby ride and left my guest on the bench just in case a buck put in an appearance.
Guess what… on my return, and some distance from the butt, I could see he had his sights on a roebuck obligingly standing broadside on. From where I stood there appeared to be a little too much ground cover for my liking but my guest, of course, could well have had a totally clear line of sight, so I didn’t interfere.
All the pre-shot tension was there for both of us and when, at last, it was taken the buck’s reaction suggested it had received a low heart/lung shot: he dipped down, spun round and ran into cover.
As he did so he looked as though he had suffered a leg injury, high up - a result that can often be seen if a shoulder or leg is hit on the bullet’s exit. Usually the animal will manage to get into cover before dying within 20 yards or so from a chest shot of this sort.
I waited a little while before moving closer to talk briefly with my guest about the shot and the buck’s reaction to it.
After letting things settle down to allow any other deer in the vicinity to move off undisturbed as well as allowing the shot deer time to leave this world without any further disturbance, I went back to the truck to get my dog, Alfie.
We returned to the point of shot expecting all the signs of a killing shot, blood, hair etc.
There were only a few pieces of hair and worse, a splinter of leg bone, no blood at all.
This was just about the worst sign a stalker could get; we had a wounded deer on our hands.
It happens, but it is what you do about it that counts.
I went into the cover and let Alfie off his tracking lead because it was too dense and the lead would have tangled up, or worse, injured the dog if he was running to an injured deer.
He bounded off, obviously on the deer’s trail and went worryingly out of sight and sound for 30 minutes and I spent 2.5 hours sweating in cover being poked in the eye by branches and crawling around on all fours.
In spite of that we didn’t retrieve the deer!
Alfie had obviously been chasing it in cover but did not connect. There was dejection all round, my guest was not happy with himself and I, too, was unhappy about losing what was obviously a badly wounded deer.
Next day after a tricky stalk my guest killed a difficult buck with a perfect heart shot - and this was after zeroing the rifle for the second time to confirm it was sighted in correctly, which it was.
But we still had that nagging reminder there was a wounded deer out there somewhere. I was on the ground a number of times during the week trying to find it because I was convinced we stood a chance of seeing it again and putting it out of its misery.
Well, the following week I was again on the estate with my guest Mo, a flight sergeant in the RAF just returned from Iraq. We had seen numerous deer and at one stage had the rifle on the sticks waiting for a good buck to move into a safe shooting position - which he didn’t!
On Mo’s final morning stalk, Alfie started to show a lot of interest in a glade that I hadn’t planned on visiting.
The wind was not right for it but then a little voice in my head was saying: “Come on Jon, if the dog’s interested it has to be worth a look.”
A few minutes later and we had stalked to the top of a dene, just above the glade. By now Alfie was getting seriously interested and that could mean only one thing…deer. We were glassing the glade when Mo gestured that he had a roebuck ahead of him in the gully, I was about 10 yards to his left and couldn’t see what he was looking at, but by now his gestures were getting quite animated!
Could he shoot it? I nodded yes because the ground down there offered a safe clear shot.
Crack, off went the rifle, quickly followed by a huge beaming smile on Mo’s face. This was his first deer, a very good shot off a stick - definitely a high for the both of us.
Even better was that it was the deer that had been wounded the week before, still around and moving incredibly well considering, albeit only on three functional legs.
The shot had creased the brisket and shot through the upper leg.
Roe deer are tough animals but on inspection I was surprised it had survived the wound it had received. It is always a grim thought what the animal had gone through in the week, but looking at the damage it may well have survived the year.
The massive wound was healing, dry with no sign of it festering.
What went wrong with my guest’s shot the week before? He had aimed correctly, had a good rest and is a competent shot with a zeroed rifle.
SO WHY DID THE SHOT GO SO LOW?
The answer is cover: just a very slight touch will deflect even the heavier rounds and nearly always downward.
My guest, in the heat of the moment had looked through his telescopic sights forgetting that what you see is not always a true reflection of what’s between you and your quarry.
Remember the barrel is some two inches below the sight - so always check your view down the barrel; it could be pointing directly at a branch that you can’t see through the scope.
If that should be the case then you end up with either splinters in the eye or a wounded deer – neither is a good result.
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