“At the beginning of August, the fallow buck season joined the roe buck season, which began on 1 April. This heralds the full swing of the deer season, with the fallow and roe does coming in later in November.
I picked up a new rifle this season and I need to sight up my scope. Making sure a rifle is sighted properly is important when buying or changing scopes or even changing the ammunition. I drove up to Houghton Hall to meet my friend, Head Deer Stalker Julian Stoyles and Assistant Deer Stalker Jeremy Elliott. Julian was away working so Jeremy and I took the rifle out to sight up on targets at 100 and 200 yards. This did not take long and soon after we went out on a stalk.
Houghton’s deer management programme works on the basis of always looking to keep the most well-proportioned animals. These animals will produce the strongest bloodlines and therefore insure a healthy herd. The surplus animals are harvested for the Venison market giving us a good supply of good quality venison. This form of good deer management always insures that Houghton has the correct number of deer the estate can comfortably sustain.
Jeremy and I were looking for young roebucks or young fallow bucks on our stalk. Walking through the woods we saw many fallow does (females) but no bucks (males), but then we came upon a field of fodder beet. As we scanned the beet I spotted a roebuck feeding about 350 to 400 yards away. As the deer lifted his head both Jeremy and I caught a fleeting glance of the bucks antlers before he quickly lowered his head and continued feeding. From the angle we were looking at the buck, it looked like a young one or two-year-old which could be taken. We moved further along the edge of the wood to get a better and closer look. Again we stopped, the roebuck lifted his head and looked over his shoulder in our general direction. This is when we saw him in all his slender a six point adult buck this was prime breeding animal in fantastic condition.
I put the gun down and we both spent 15 to 20 minutes watching him feed until he got wind of us and made off crossing a track 50 yards in front of us. Norfolk is not an area known for good quality roebucks, but this animal was a very good example of a good quality animal and therefore an animal that will produce good offspring. This is testament to the selection and management Houghton practices on all its deer.
We continued working our way back into the woods; here we spotted two fallow bucks. A prickett (which is a young one to two-year-old) and a sorrel (which is a two to three-year-old). Jeremy had a better view than I and we both held our breaths as I moved into position. Both animals held for a few moments, but then seemed to merge quietly into the gloominess of the dense woodland. For the next hour and a half we saw many deer but all out of season does, until we came upon a group of some 15 to 20 animals on the edge of a wood. The way the animals where situated meant that we had to pass by them at a distance and then double back along the edge of the wood to come in view of two bucks that were feeding in a field of barley. This took us some time and the light was drawing away from us to be able to see and have a safe shot.
As we neared the edge of the wood both Jeremy and I laid down and crawled through the grass holding our breaths in a desperate bid to keep quiet from the 40 or so pairs of ears that were around the corner. Just then, a young fallow doe popped out of the wood about 20 yards in front of us; we both froze laying down in the wet grass to conceal ourselves. She looked right at where we lay and then turned back into the wood. I turned to Jeremy and breathed a sign of relief saying, “I think we got away with that.” Seconds later, the doe reappeared. This time she did not only look at us, but barked a warning cry to the rest of the herd and they were off!
Such is the game of stalking and hunting deer in their natural environment using as much skill as we are capable of. Even though we were not successful that evening, it was great to see these healthy herds of well-managed animals and the highlight for me was the fantastic roebuck that we had seen earlier. My thanks to Jeremy, Julian and the Houghton Estate for a great evening. I hope to have better luck next time.”