Harry Huddleston spent two seasons trying to shoot his first buck – only to bag two in one night
For two seasons straight, dad and I had been going to the same place around one night a week to try and shoot my first buck. There was a high-seat that overlooked a long field and two small woods either side that we persisted in going to. The boundaries of Lennel estate in the Borders are beautifully marked with rows of newly planted trees and the estate is filled with natural beauty and gently rolling hills. Earlier this year, we tried once again.
Just as the light was starting to go, dad and I arrived. It was a still and warm evening, making it a bit harder to stalk as there was no wind. We parked at the same double gates outside the flat stubble field just as we had done for two successive unsuccessful seasons. From this point on, there was no talking. The equipment was taken quickly and doors were shut silently; or as silently as one can be when closing an old Land Rover door. A short walk along the quiet road led us to the other side of the wood, which ran perpendicular to the road. After we clambered over the barbed wire fence, we prepared for a slow and observant stroll along the side of the wood, which continued on for a good few hundred feet.
The field has three natural hidden dips where deer often hang about. It is very easy to spook them as they can see you before you can see them so we took a lot longer when approaching the dips. I walked in front as I had the rifle. As I got closer to the top of the gentle ridge, I began to belly-crawl until I could almost see down into the dip. Edging closer and closer, I peaked over the ridge and saw nothing.
I got up and we continued onto the next ridge, scanning all around us as we did. Same scenario – dad took a knee and I dragged myself up to the ridge with my rifle. I very slowly raised my head to see into the dip when I got there, and again, no deer in sight. I stood up and, with my dad, began to slowly walk to the final ridge. As we did, a sudden commotion inside the wood broke the silence and startled us. Dad pointed in the direct of the noise and I nodded. We were so occupied searching in all directions for any signs of deer that we forgot about the final hidden dip. By the time we remembered it, we were standing almost on top of it.
My dad froze instantly and I accidently walked into him. We stood there, motionless, staring at a browsing buck. We must have stood there for about five minutes, watching it prance about on the sprouting wheat. As slowly and as smoothly as humanly possible, I unslung my rifle, rested the end of the .243 on my dad’s shoulder and lined up the crosshairs. The beast stood still and stared at us, trying to figure out what we were. I flipped off the safety catch and aligned the centre of the reticle with the heart and lungs; just behind the top of the front leg, and squeezed slowly on the trigger.
The beast went down instantly thanks to the hollow-point ammunition and there was a brief moment of relief and silent celebration. When we got to the beast, we noticed that it hadn’t moved at all, the reason for which became apparent when we gralloched it and saw a hole straight through the heart.
We left the buck where it was and went onwards to where we planned to walk to – the high seat. We were only about a hundred metres away, but it would take us a while to stalk through the overgrowth. I slipped on my pair of Mechanix gloves before wading through head-high waves of nettles and brambles to protect my hands. As we emerged from the canopy of trees and into the open, we scanned through the thermal imager, as the light had almost gone. We spotted a heat signature about 120 metres away and so knelt behind a fallen dead tree, sitting the little Krico on its bipod. It was interesting spying the buck for a while, watching it chew the grass, wandering about as it pleased.
After a while, an unexpected doe ran down the side of the hedge-row towards us, attracting the buck’s attention. The doe obviously sparked the buck’s interest as he bounded towards her. Unfortunately for him, he spooked her and she ran off in our direction, merely four metres away. He stood there, about 60 metres in front of us, side-on. He didn’t chase her, but decided to start eating again instead. I took advantage of the opportunity and snapped straight to the heart and fired. Again, the beast dropped straight to the floor without moving anywhere.
When we got there, I removed the knife hanging from my belt and passed it to my dad so he could remove the innards. Both livers were in great condition, so we took them with us back to the Land Rover. The 500 metres back to the vehicle seemed even longer when dragging the beasts.
Slumping back in the seat felt rewarding but almost frustrating – we spent hours and hours over two seasons sitting in the high-seat, waiting for a buck to show up, when all we had to do in the end was stalk around for an hour.