I always drive slowly into land I’m about to hunt over. So that I can just scan around and look for anything out of the ordinary. I stopped along the concrete drive to snap a leggy young roe doe feeding in the silage meadow, surrounded by dandelion clocks. She lifted her head to watch me, totally unfazed – as if she knew I meant her no harm. I didn’t know then that she would give me some amusement later , when her behaviour made me question whether ‘she’ was actually a ‘he’?
On the drive out to the pine wood, I watched pairs of red-legged partridges scuttle into the green barley crop. There is a healthy population here. Sadly, there are no grey (English) partridges. Yet I’ve seen them in nearby fields, albeit rarely. Entering the pine wood on foot, I stopped to search in my bag. It was one of those mornings where the bug-life danced in the shafts of sunlight and I decided to spray my exposed arms and neck with a Deet formula. The Norfolk gnats are nowhere near as troublesome as Scottish midges but I still like to stay off their menu. Just inside the treeline I came across my first foxglove of the year. Poisonous from root to flower, digitalis is a handsome plant and excellent for pollinators. The woods here are resplendent with both purple and white foxgloves throughout the summer. I was here to check a fox den which (while showing evidence of use) certainly wasn’t housing cubs. There was none of the carrion littered around the earth that advertises a nursery den. As I stepped away I heard a pheasants alarm call at the edge of the wood. A carrion crow was picking through the grass next to the wood. Never one to miss an opportunity I leant against a trunk and followed the bird in my scope. It was hunting for the pheasants nest, I was sure, about 55 yards from my position. The .22LR Eley subsonic round found the engine room, no problem.
I love this little gun, my CZ455. It is totally reliable. As I prefer to hunt ‘up close and personal’ I keep her zeroed to 20 yards, which gives me a flat line out to 50 yards. Just point and shoot. And if I load a clip of CCI Stingers I can shoot from 20 yards to 100 yards without having to re-zero for the noisier round.
From the pine wood I drove down to the arboretum to check for grey squirrels. I had remembered to pack some WD40 and gave the gate latch a spray on the way in. I had disturbed a trio of greys on the flint wall on the drive down. So now I headed back up inside the wall from the wooded side, treading slowly and quietly. Then I just leaned against a tree and waited. Before long one of squirrels scampered out into a clearing near the wall and squatted. An easy shot. I left it where it was and waited patiently again. Before long I watched a pair chasing around the base of a tree. I knelt to prepare myself as they dashed up and down the trunk. One stopped at the base to wash its whiskers. A fatal bit of grooming.
From the arboretum to the oak grove, close to where I had seen the young roe earlier. Pacing slowly down a manicured ride, my presence flushed a squirrel from the bracken which ran towards a T-junction in the paths. It dived off into the ferns on the opposite side, which in turn flushed a small muntjac. The deer fled right, along the path I couldn’t fully see. As I took a step forward, the muntjac sprinted back from right to left, chased by the young roe I’d seen on arriving. It stopped and barked at the muntie, sniffed the air then looked in my direction. By now I had raised the camera but it turned back round and galloped back up the right-hand ride. All very comical and it left we wondering whether this was a very young buck (no pedicles) acting territorially or just a psychotic doe? I thought that would be last I’d see of her but that would prove to be wrong.
I walked back to the car without firing another shot and on the drive back out I passed the covered sileage bales. I caught a flash of rufus from the corner of my eye so stopped and reversed slowly backwards. There was the little roe again, lying in the shade and shelter of the bales.
© Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, May 2022