June Roe Buck Stalk
It certainly couldn’t be described as dark when I left the house at 3.25am on my way to meet up with Johnny Readhead for a roe buck stalk over local farmland near Cupar in North East Fife. There’s something uplifting about the early morning light in June and July in Scotland. You see the bats flitting around against the indigo blue sky and it never seems to get dark and if you are very lucky, the air is warm.
We parked up at the farm and headed out across a nearby field. This area of fife has a rounded, curvy landscape and at this time of year it is rich in colour from crops and rape seed. It was 4am as we crossed over the fence and headed out on the track between the fields of barley.
We took our time as we made our way to the next line of trees between the fields. Johnny scans the landscape through his binos for activity; visibility was excellent and the westerly breeze was to our advantage as we headed towards the trees. The cool blue tones of the sky were replaced with an exotic mix pink and orange hues as the sun rose in the distance.
Johnny spotted two young bucks in rough grassy wetland some distance from us. As we watched them a fox appeared from the long grass heading straight towards us. We tucked ourselves closer into the trees to watch. The fox was carrying something in its mouth as it headed away from us uphill towards another clump of trees. We let him go on his way as the bucks started moving in our direction. Using the trees for cover we headed downhill on the edge of the barley field stopping to watch a much bigger buck chasing a doe around.
At the end of the line of trees we settled into the long grass to watch the young bucks as they chased one another around. Their high spirited antics spooked the buck and the doe who took off in the opposite direction. We sat tight, tucked into the long grass studying the bucks. One looked as though it had a limp and both had very poor heads. The two bucks were inferior and would be culled as part of a responsible deer management plan to make way for the genes of the bigger, stronger buck we had watched earlier chasing the doe. We were still hopeful they would settle and we could get in closer but they continued to challenge one another before heading back in the direction from which they came.
The bucks were heading towards a clump of trees and the ruin of 15th century Lordscairnie Castle, it was going to be a challenge getting in close to them as the only cover available to us was a strip of rough grass. We kept low and made our way along the edge of the barley field. The bucks were on the move again, heading in our direction. I lay down in the long grass and pulled the hood up on my Stoney Creek bush coat ( I love this coat, I’ve used it for stalking all year round and on wintry shoot days) and watched the bucks through my camera lens.
The bucks finally settled down about 150 yards from us. Johnny suggested I stay where I was and he’d crawl in closer. With his Steyr Mannlicher pro hunter over his back, Johnny headed along the edge of the field on his hands and knees.
As he settled down in the long grass to take aim I continued to watch the bucks, they had hardly moved. He took the first shot at 140 yards, followed by the second at 100 yards. Two clean shots. As Johnny gralloched both bucks we talked about their poor condition; they both had scarring on their heads and bodies, one had an unusual growth on its leg and the other had a strange texture around its heart.
We took the carcasses to the edge of the field and headed back to the farm to collect the vehicle to return and pick them up. As we walked back to the farm we reflected on the stalk and the condition of the bucks compared to the usual Fife roe buck.
After the bucks were loaded into the back of the truck I poured two cups of coffee from the flask and flicked through my photos. It was only 5.45am, what a cracking start to a warm June day!
Linda Mellor’s Bush Coat supplied by UK Gunworks
Johnny Readhead used a Steyr Mannlicher pro hunter 7mm-08rem Leupold VX 111 4-14x50mm scope.