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Deer hunting in Oxfordshire with an 'old' friend...

Picture this: a crisp winter's day in the stunning English countryside of Oxfordshire. It's a touch noisy as you open the gate at the entrance to the permission land that's right next to the road... but as you travel further onto the land the air becomes crisper, cleaner, quieter. You have a date with an 'old' friend, but this friendship is more than a generation apart and is a relationship not just with each other but with Mother Nature. It's the thrill of the hunt that brings you together – you are going deer hunting.



A couple of months ago, I went deer stalking in Oxfordshire with a dear old friend, Stuart Collett, and took Fieldsports Britain along to film.


I first met Stuart several years ago when designing a website for his main wildfowling club, Spalding Wildfowlers. They were very happy with the website and the ongoing service - so much so that Stuart would often bring me a deer carcass for my freezer to say thank you. These carcasses however, needed to be skinned and broken down - something I had never done before (well, I had done it with a retired racing horse to feed the tigers at the zoo I used to work at, but that's another story...!)


So that was my intro to deer - soon after that I also went stalking with my good friend Jose Souto, who showed me how to break down a carcass properly - which is when I realised I had wasted quite a bit of meat before!


After a couple years I realised I needed to know more - and I wanted to go out and experience stalking firsthand. So, I started to go out with Jose just to spectate, and was filled with wonderment! I loved the quiet, the calm of mother nature outside versus my heart beating madly inside! I instantly knew this was something I wanted to do moving forward. I had always bleated on to other people about being able to shoot what you eat - and although I was doing that with other quarry, I wasn't doing it with deer.



Deer stalking, and rifle shooting in general (I had been out on rabbits with a .22 before), is a very different feeling to the buzz of swinging a shotgun in the air. It still involved similar disciplines - fieldcraft and focus. Fieldcraft with birds involves reconnaissance; understanding the different behaviours in different seasons, what food they'll be focused on eating, checking areas to see where they've been feeding, what the weather is doing to affect their behaviour such as strong winds changing flight or rain changing feeding times, are there woods nearby that they will roost in, etc. Fieldcraft with deer also involves almost exactly the same thing.


And the focus - well, after many years of wildfowling on evening flights, I understand the focus required to squint into the dark and ensure you are raising your gun to the correct quarry! The focus involved in shooting a deer means not only do you have to tread lightly, stay downwind, keep an eye on tracks and keep an eye out for external risks such as dog walkers; but also that when you arrive at the right position to shoot, it requires that you can calm your breathing and heart rate enough to take a good shot!


After a couple of 'spectator' years I did my first stalk with Stuart down in Oxfordshire. I arrived around lunch and checked into a nearby inn, then headed over to Stuarts to zero the rifle and check that I was a safe shot. As you can see from the images - not only was the target practice successful, but the evening stalk resulted in my first roe buck harvest (a 'murder' buck), and the next morning, after a 4am start I harvested my second - which ended up being a bronze medal winner!


Recently I headed over to stalk with Stuart again, determined to bag a muntjac after a couple of years of trying with no luck. I decided to take Fieldsports TV along for the ride, as it would be a memorable experience no matter what; but especially so if I managed to shoot my first muntjac in the same place that I shot my first roe buck.



This land that Stuart has permission on is overrun with roe deer and it is only managed by Stuart and one other guy. If we could get a roe doe, it would be perfect as part of managing the deer population, and would still be food for the freezer. However, I really, really wanted muntjac!


You can watch the full episode using the link at the bottom of the blog - but suffice to say it was a fun, interesting, successful stalk. After spotting many roe but not being able to get in the right position for a safe shot, a couple of hours later and at last light we spotted 2 muntjac. I chose the male simply because he was in the best position to shoot (broadside on) and after an initial mishap which resulted in a lot of colourful language which the wonerful cameraman and editor removed from the film, I had a Muntjac down - and it was time for extraction.


So that resulted in my freezer being topped up resulting a lovely Christmas meal for my son when he returned home from college and a wonderful NYE meal for myself and my partner. It also resulted in other wildlife such as red kites and foxes and being fed on the offal and carcass scraps - the circle of life is an important part of Mother Nature's process after all...


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I hope you're enjoying reading my blog! I'm not an expert, I only wish to share my personal experiences, of someone who did not grow up in the countryside nor enter the hunting world in the traditional way.

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