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The day Bruce Potts shot his first deer

Bruce Potts was hooked for life after taking a roebuck as a teenager

Remembering the experience that ignited a lifelong passion for stalking

I first started deerstalking as a gradual progression from pest control and rabbiting on my uncle’s farm in Kent when I was a lad. I used to help out whenever I could, harvesting, potato picking and ferreting with my uncle Lez. It instilled a true love for the outdoors, wildlife, fieldcraft and hard work. My first deer was a roe doe taken on the farm for venison with my uncle, but my true love for deerstalking — and roe in particular — came from my first roebuck.

I had bought a Tikka LSA 55 rifle in .308 Win when I was 17 (which I still use today) and learned how to use it on the farm in all weathers, positions, ranges and stalking situations. Although I often stalked alone, outings with my uncle were very special; his deer kidney, liver and bacon breakfasts in the field were superb. I was just 19 at the time, helping out farmers and forestry friends with their culls, before I was invited by a good friend, Roger, to stalk roebucks just outside Winchester. I can remember vividly the excitement the night before and the early start to travel the 150 miles to meet on a motorway bridge at 3.00am before first light.

Roger’s heel was thrilling. All the woodland noises were heightened, the foliage as you passed smelled delicious and the whole experience had me well and truly hooked. Roger instilled the need to look and really see; to move as quietly as a church mouse while checking ahead, side to side, underneath and behind every tree or shrub for signs of roe.

On the approach to a large field after tracking some fresh slots, we saw three roe out on the field feeding: two does and a young buck. Game on. The wind was dodgy so we had to edge back around the field margin and use the intervening trees and shrubs that bisected the field for cover until, at 60 yards, Roger said to wait for a safe shot and take the buck.

Bruce Potts aged 19

The experience of stalking his first roebuck at 19 has stayed with Bruce ever since

Lithgow LA102 Crossover stalking rifle

Bruce in more recent times with a roebuck

Motionless position

As I raised the rifle to my knees, a fox walked from cover and sat directly in my line of sight. He started nibbling and looked around for what seemed like an age. My heart was racing. But with a good wind and our motionless position he trotted off, and the Norma 150-gr bullet steered by the Tikka with precision dropped the buck where he stood. I have never seen a fox run so fast as that day with his large, plump tail whirling around like a helicopter behind him as he headed for cover.

My parents subsequently moved to Scotland, so there were plenty more roe and red deer on the cards. I started to photograph and video deer as well as stalk them. So that very first roebuck — along with tuition by real and true countrymen who knew their quarry as well as the land they lived in — has kept me getting up at the crack of dawn ever since. I’ve been stalking roe now for over 40 years.

Bruce regularly reviews rifles for Shooting Times and you can find his rifle reviews here.