As the deer manager on the 10,500-acre Euston Estate in Suffolk, Chris Rogers is a passionate and enthusiastic advocate of the countryside and country life. Balancing the estate’s red, roe, Chinese water deer and muntjac population, with the estate’s agricultural requirements is a full-time job, notwithstanding his involvement in regional deer management groups, working as a CIC trophy judge and ambassador for Leica Sport Optics and John Rigby & Co. Having recently been appointed as a brand ambassador for Rigby in July this year, we caught up with Chris to find out how he was getting on with his new Highland Stalker rifle.
Chris, you’ve recently started using the Rigby Highland Stalker, tell me about your first hunt with the rifle.
I was originally hoping to pick up the Highland Stalker at the start of April but I didn’t get my hands on one until The Game Fair at Hatfield House towards the end of July. I was very lucky to have seen one of the early pre-production models at the Rigby showroom in London. This was a fully functioning model but the wood was extremely plain and unfinished. When I saw the finished rifle on display amongst the other Highland Stalkers, Big Games and top-of-the-range custom Rigby rifles, I must admit I was surprised at the extent of its final finish. It truly feels like a Rigby London Best and for me it’s simply astonishing value for money.
Having waited a few months to get the rifle, I had been planning my first hunt with it for some time. On the estate we had an old, non-trophy roebuck with an unusual set of antlers earmarked for culling, so it seemed a fitting animal to take with my new Rigby. However on a stalk with one of my clients we came across the buck and I had no choice but to allow the guest to take him – just in case I couldn’t catch up with him again.
As a result, around the middle of August I headed out to see what I could find, it was towards the end of the roebuck rutting season. Although it was a fine morning, the deer were thin on the ground and I’d all but given up hope, when rounding a corner on the estate’s big wood I found a young two-point cull buck. This individual had escaped his fate earlier in the season and I hadn’t seen him since. After a 200m stalk to get to within 140m of him, he had sensed something was up, so I quickly mounted the rifle on my sticks and took the shot.
Which calibre did you choose and why?
Of the calibres available, I opted for the classic .275 Rigby or 7×57. This calibre sits well with the other rifles I already own and having read most of the books by famous hunters, such as Karamojo Bell and Jim Corbett, who all used .275 Rigby rifles, this sparked my interest.
Rigby is such an iconic brand with links to all the great hunters of a bygone era and for this reason I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting anything other than a .275 Rigby.
What ammunition do you use with the rifle?
I’m currently using Federal 7mm Mauser ammunition. A mix up on my firearms certificate lists the rifle only as 7×57 and not also as .275, which means I’m a little restricted for choice. I’m aware Hornady do a .275 140-gr soft point which I would like to try in the future. The Federal ammo is 140-grain soft point, which is perfect for hunting all species in the UK and adequate for several of the European species and plains game in Africa. It shoots a ¾ inch group, which is adequate for the hunting that I and most others do at ranges up to 200-250m.
I don’t homeload as I don’t have the time or interest in ballistics that some hunters do. I’d love for all my groups to be through the same hole but for chest shots, factory ammo grouping under an inch and a half is fine.
Do you ever hunt without optics, using the rifle’s open sights?
The scope I’m using on my Rigby is a Leica Visus glossy 2.5-10x42i LW. This is a really classic-looking scope with all the advantages of modern optics. As I said earlier, I wanted a Rigby because of the history associated to the gun and this scope paired with the rifle achieves that historic look.
I’ve never hunted with open sights, other than on an air rifle but it’s definitely something I want to do in future. I need to fit in some range time before I start down that road, as confidence with the rifle and open sights is vital to making a humane kill.
Tell me which species you have hunted with the rifle and where.
After shooting a roebuck, I shot several muntjac as part of our deer management plan on the estate. Just a few days ago I took a fallow pricket with the rifle; we occasionally get them on a boundary area of the estate and our policy is to shoot any, as long as they are in season.
I recently took the rifle to Sweden where a group of UK hunters and myself were hunting moose and capercaillie in the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance of a moose but I did take a hen capercaillie.
How do you find the Highland Stalker’s handling and shoot-ability?
General handling and shoot-ability is great, which is no surprise considering the design is based on the classic lines of the old Rigby rifles. It’s comfortable to carry and thanks to the Rigby silent sling attachment, with the leather knot, it doesn’t squeak like some of the sling swivels on modern rifles. It’s extremely point-able with both open and telescopic sights and it feels light, considering the quality of the components.
The Mauser action is a classically brilliant design which will cope with all weathers and any dirt that you may pick up in the action by mistake. Some care putting the safety onto fire may be needed in close quarters to any quarry, as it is a little noisy if flicked forward. The forend doesn’t have the overall length of modern rifles which takes a little getting used to when shooting off sticks, but a trip to the range to familiarise oneself with the gun soon remedies these differences.
What particular aftercare is necessary after your hunting trips?
I simply tend to clean the barrel every 50-100 rounds but I always give the outside a good wipe down with an oily rag.
So far, what’s been your most memorable hunt with the rifle?
Although taking the rifle to Sweden has been great, I would say my most memorable hunt with the Highland Stalker has been stalking muntjac when I was joined by my wife, Anna. Her parents were visiting our young kids on half term, so it was a rare chance where we could both enjoy an outing together, just as we used to before having our family.
What’s the next hunt you’ve planned for the Highland Stalker?
I’ll be regularly stalking with the rifle as part of my job, so more muntjac and roe with the possibility of taking a red and Chinese water deer over the winter. I’m also planning a trip to the Highlands of Scotland for some red hind stalking.