The county of Suffolk, based in East Anglia is notarised for its distinct lack of hills, its low-lying lands are largely covered by arable farmland. To the North of the region, the Broads, are one of the UK’s largest wetland habitats.
Nestled on the north-west edge of the county is the 10,500-acre Euston Estate, home to the Duke of Grafton and his deer manager, Chris Rogers. Notwithstanding his involvement in regional deer management groups, Chris works as a CIC (International Council for Game & Wildlife Conservation) trophy judge and ambassador for German optics brand Leica and London gunmaker John Rigby & Co.
It’s late April and the roebuck season has just started as we catch up with Chris to hear how his season is going so far. “As part of our management plan, we try and finish at least half of our roebuck cull prior to the beginning of the rut, this is to take out undesirable individuals with poor or genetically abnormal antlers.”
“As with all proper deer managers, the improvement in antler growth is something we take pride in. At the start of every roebuck season, I have a number of bucks I like to remove before they have a chance to breed. But one particular buck has been evading our attempts.”
“Some bucks are lucky, and some are clever, but this individual in question is a little or both. I can’t say that I remember him from previous years but after watching him since the end of the winter, it’s clear that he isn’t progressing positively from an antler growth perspective.”
The buck can be identified by a single dulled spike on one side and another dulled spike with a two-point fork on the other.
With healthy client numbers, Chris rarely gets a chance to shoot any roebucks but decided that now would be a good time to air his Rigby Highland Stalker that has been cooped up in his cabinet. “Stalking with a Rigby is a great experience”, adds Chris, “Holding traditional wood and steel, rather than a soul-less working rifle makes stalking more memorable.”
It’s a perfectly still, crisp spring morning, the sun is beginning to rise and a low mist is hanging on the ground. “Normally you can see for hundreds of metres over the fairly flat terrain, but unless the sun burns through the fog, the stalk could be trickier than we originally hoped.” Says Chris.
It was now or never in our pursuit of the cull buck, if we didn’t catch up with him today, it could be a next to impossible task later in the year.
As we continued to a well-known area the buck regularly frequented, the wind was in our favour. We could feel the sun’s warming rays shine upon our faces, so it was time to pull up our neck rolls to hide our faces.
Something caught our attention from the field’s left-hand hedge row. The body shape immediately indicated it was a buck, and Chris’ Leica HD-B binoculars quickly confirmed it was the buck we had set out to find, he was too far to shoot.
The buck in question who was nowhere to be seen. We definitely hadn’t seen him move out of the field and we couldn’t see him lying down, therefore assumed he had moved through the ditch and onto the other side of the hedge to catch the morning sun.
Peering around the hedge, we spotted the buck wandering, away from our positions. He was heading away up a hedge line which had petered out and was now just a deep ditch. To make matters worse, once at the end of the ditch he would meet a quiet country lane, which made Chris’ chances of a safe shot impossible. The only option we had was to follow the buck up and hope he crossed the lane and into the field beyond where he could achieve a safe shot.
The buck dropped down into the ditch which was some five-foot-deep and pretty weedy, we totally lost sight of him. Considering his initial distance from us was around 200m, we pressed on to get to within 50m but still there was no sign of him.
By now the modern world was beginning to awaken and we could hear the sound of traffic. The area we were in was now very open with no hedging to conceal our positions. We stood still for a couple of minutes, as Chris contemplated his next move, but time was now pressing on.
Chris decided to call off the stalk, as there was a risk that if we continued it would spook the buck.
With his mind made up, all of a sudden we heard an explosion of sound from the ditch ahead, we had walked right onto the buck. Rather than running across the road, he made his getaway across the field to our left. Without time to do anything else Chris swung his Rigby onto the sticks, set up the rifle and gave a loud shout. On hearing this, the buck pulled on the brakes and skidded to a halt, he looked across to our position and Chris took his chance.
The soft un-moderated bang of the .275 Rigby rang out. Chris immediately reloaded while watching the buck as he continued forward, he followed his reaction which was a textbook heart/ lung shot. Applying the safety, we watched the buck tire and lie down 40m from the shot site.
We waited a few minutes before approaching but there was no need to delay in retrieving him as the bullet placement was good. Following a rich red trail of blood spots, and patches of fur we found the buck in the same spot as we had seen him drop. Chris dragged him to the nearest hedge and gralloched him, propping his now unloaded rifle up against a tree. “I thoroughly enjoyed that stalk, it will be one of my personal hunting highlights of this roebuck season. For me that’s what makes Rigby special, it’s a rifle with which you can share highlights with. The stock is starting to collect dents and scratches, the first is painful but the rest are great memories,” comments Chris.
For more information about stalking in the UK with Chris Rogers email: firstname.lastname@example.org