SCOTLAND: Early Roe Buck Hunt

UpNorthMI

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I escaped back home to the UK a week or so ago and despite a very busy itinerary I squeezed in 2 days and wanted to get out and see some new ground that was part of a 6,000 acre deer hunting syndicate that I have recently joined in Southern Scotland, traditionally the ground was mainly Roe deer but apparently it now contains a lot of Red deer. I spent a lot of years hunting more rigorous mountain type terrain in Scotland but have just reached my 60th birthday and my knees are not quite what they were, I was excited about some rolling hill type terrain rather than those steep slope climbs.

Roe buck season in Scotland starts April 1 and runs until October 20, recent Scottish legislation has changed this to hunt male deer all year round due to the ever increasing deer numbers in Scotland and the UK in general. My instructions from the estate manager was to shoot all male deer on sight!

My UK home is in Staffordshire, England. An area generally known as "The Midlands", rich green farming ground with an array of shooting opportunities. My journey North was one I had made many times to Scotland for deer hunting, the exception this time was to turn West just after I crossed the Scottish boarder and go West for approximately 90 miles. The general weather in the UK had been very wet the prior week with record rainfalls recorded, I was prepared with my rubber boots and several good jackets.

The day before I left on my road trip I picked up a new thermal monocular in the UK, they have become very popular for both deer and fox hunting. I purchased one in the US some months ago but they are not an item that you can travel overseas with. My UK version was made by HikMicro and was very compact and had a built in laser range finder.

My journey travelling North in England soon reaches some amazing areas, The Lake District in Cumbria is a National Park in mountainous terrain with great views, not too far after the Lakes is the Scottish Border, I'm off West just after crossing the border, over my 90 miles the towns become fewer and things start to definitely become very rural. My original plan was to have another syndicate member show me around but this plan fell apart at the last minute. I was armed with a good map and a good general sense of direction, that would have to do.

My main purpose was to get a feel for the ground and the area as I would probably do a lot more hunting in the later months of the year when the Red stags, red hinds, Roe bucks and Roe does can all be shot after October 20. I had thrown the rifle in just in case I got to see something on this short trip. My UK rifle is a Blaser R8 in .308, my ammo on this trip was going to be my first use of a non lead or non toxic bullet, this becomes a legal requirement in 2025 in the UK but is already mandatory on a lot of ground by the land owners or madatory from game dealers who buy venison from hunters. Things are very different in the UK, there is no public hunting land, there are no permits or tags, all hunting is privately managed, a lot of deer are culled and then sold to game dealers who in turn sell venison to restaurants or stores.

I arrived mid afternoon at my location and started to explore a little using my detailed topographical map, the terrain was rolling with a lot of cover, some large open areas, some woodlands, some clear-cut and some fresh planted areas, there were a number of sizable lakes and a length of river that apparently provided good pike and salmon fishing at the right times of the year. The cloud was heavy, thick and low, it seamed certain that the evening was going to be a wet one, where exposed the wind was getting stronger.

I geared up and headed out for an area between two large woods, the wind in my face, I decided to spend a little time in one wood as the map showed tracks in the woods and the locations of several high seats. there was a lot of deer sign in the wood, both Roe and Red deer, I spent 45 minutes in one of the high seats which gave me a view in 3 different directions, the onset of heavy rain made me climb down from my exposed position and to seek a spot in the large area between the two woods where I could scan for any deer coming out in that last hour.

I found a tree on a slightly raised piece of ground and took cover, I scanned with my thermal monocular regularly to look for any animals, the last hour did not last long as the weather accelerated the darkening. It was time to return and find my vehicle and call it a night, "rain stopped play". I kept scanning while walking the rolling terrain, I picked up the image of 3 deer, they were large and had to be Red deer and about 1,000 yards to my side. Identification would be impossible in this disappearing light and heavy rain, all male Red deer have typically shed their antlers by March / April. Back at the truck it was nice to throw the wet gear in the back and to get out of the rain. I had about 1.5 miles of forestry road to drive before exiting our syndicate ground.

I drove very slow, the road was not too wide and had steep sides, there was no way to actually turn the lights off on these modern vehicles! I scanned regularly by stopping and lowering the side windows so I could use my thermal monocular, I picked up 3 or 4 more deer on my way out but did not try too hard as lowering the side windows only resulted in wind and rain pouring in! What was left of my evening was spent drying off at my Bed & Breakfast for the night, I would be up before dawn the next day and off out again with the rifle, fingers crossed for better weather.

The next morning could not have been more different, it was not raining, the wind had dropped but the ground was very wet with flooding in places. Not being an expert on the ground I decided I would go back to the area I was in the night before. I entered at the forestry road access gate, windows down and thermal in hand, I was driving into the wind and planned to hunt into the wind. Not far after the gate I picked up several deer on my right with my thermal, the images were amazingly good, the problem was they were about 150 yards away and although I could just make them out in my Swarovski binoculars I could not see if they were does or bucks, it was too early, the deer were looking at me, a silhouetted vehicle with running lights, they started to return to the woodland, I drove on, the same scenario repeated itself again about another 1,000 yards later. I decided to stop and found a turning point on the track to park in.

I geared up and took off on foot as the light started to improve, I had a long strip of wood about another 1,200 yards in front of me with a lot of scrub and small trees down the edge of the woodland, I decided that this would be my goal to hunt that scrub strip very slowly into the wind. Before I had gotten even half way to the wood, I picked up 2 deer with the thermal, they were several hundred yard up along the wood from where the forestry track met the start of the wood. This time I got off the track and dropped into the lower ground, I would use the track as cover to get to the point where the wood started. It was slow going and very wet. about 15 minutes later I was low crouching and crossing the track at the start of the wood. I scanned with the binoculars looking for the Roe deer, no sign, but there were many small fir trees about 4' in height. After some slow steps I scanned with the thermal and picked up a very hot curved backend of a deer about 200 yards out.

This is the moment when things definitely pump faster and excitement comes, I needed to make sure it had antlers before I shoot, the last thing I want to do is to shoot a heavy pregnant doe. It's slow steps and constant glassing. The deer has now disappeared, the cover seems a little heavier, thermal is amazing but you cannot see through thick cover with it. I remain calm and proceed very slowly, estimated distance is now 100 yards. I stop to avoid bumping the deer, at my first sighting there were 2 deer, I've only seen half a deer since getting closer, I desperately need to see those heads. Back on the thermal, scanning slowly right to left, again another hot spot, back on the binoculars. I eventually can make out a grey patch and realize it is fur that I'm seeing in a small gap in the brush, Roe deer are exactly the same color as the surrounding cover, nature is pretty clever. The deer starts to move towards the wood, a head appears, I finally get a proper view, no antler, I feel cheated. The question of what now is in my mind, I remember a second deer. The first Roe doe is now out of view, she was last seen about 75 yards in front and about 50 yards from the woods. I pick up the pace a little and think let me get 50 yards closer and see if the other deer is still around.

After my 50 yard advance I am scanning forward looking for that second deer, nothing, I'm back on the thermal scanning, on tip toes peering over the brush and small trees, nothing, then I hear movement off to my left, there are 2 Roe deer jumping the low fence into the thick wood, one has antlers!! I guess that is why we call it hunting and not shooting. It's still early but now fully light, I'm trying to work out what I should have done better this morning to have been successful, as always, some of it is skill and some is just luck, I decide not to dwell on my disappointment and to spend the morning looking at other parts of the estate.

Back at the vehicle, I unload and throw the rifle on the backseat of the pickup, my goal is to stop and survey the ground that was on my right not long after I entered the road gate. I drove a little and pulled off the track, the hilly ground would provide cover for me to sneak up on the lower ground towards the estate entrance, effectively I would be peeping over the rise in the ground with the wind all wrong blowing on my back, I had little to lose and needed to learn the terrain. As I crawled up to the top of a crest I got a reasonable view of the open ground below me, I was maybe 1,000 yards from the main entrance and a long wood ran to my left about 200 yards away in the direction of the gate. I scanned the rough open ground slowly, I saw nothing, I raised a little further to see into the closer pocket of ground directly under and in front of me, there were 2 roe deer both looking straight at me, one was definitely a buck, things happened quickly, they bolted out of there for the wood line 200 yards away. I quickly zoomed my scope in to the maximum power of 6 and found a reasonable shooting position. I followed the deer and as so often happens they stopped just outside the wood to look back, I focused on the chest and squeezed the trigger, the rifle kicked and as so often happens when shooting with a sound moderator the sound of the bullet strike is load and clear, the deer drops instantly, the adrenaline kicked in and my mind and breath are racing. Wow that all happened so quickly.

Then the questions start, did I shoot the right one? I'm pretty sure I did but the last thing I was focusing on were the antlers. Time to stop asking questions and to get down there and confirm the facts. I'd learned a long time ago when culling lots of deer to take a mental picture of the deer location at the moment of the shot. I went back for the pick up, left my jacket and set off with the rifle from the closest point on the forestry track. I walked right to my deer and quickly confirmed it had a nice set of small 6 point antlers. My ammo was home loaded, I was using a Maker Tipped T-Rex 130gn non lead .30 caliber bullet, this bullet has 3 large slits down it, this was the first one shot at a deer, they were remarkably accurate on my range and chrono graphed at over 3,000 fps. A lot of concern with the use of non lead bullets is expansion, the Maker Tipped T-rex had certainly expanded well, a Roe deer is not a big animal, the bullet placement was spot on and the Roe was dead in it's tracks.

After gutting and trimming a few lower legs it was time to drag and load the deer and gear, I had 5 hours of driving and should be early enough to beat the worst of the Friday evening traffic before catching up with a large group of family for dinner. I had time to drop the deer with a local village butcher who would provide tasty cuts for many of my friends and family to get a taste. Hopefully there will be some back straps left for me in the freezer.

I'm looking forward to several more trips and working out how to mix up these hunting opportunities between Michigan bow and rifle season later this year. I'm looking forward to exploring a lot more of the 6,000 acres that I never got to see. Scotland hunting has a special place in my heart.

My son and I are off to South Africa in a couple of weeks for a Buffalo cull and Plains Game hunt, I will do a report.

Roe Buck 2.jpg
Roe Buck 1.jpg
Land 2 South.jpg
Land 1 South.jpg
 
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Scotland is such a beautiful land. Thank you for sharing!
 
Scotland is such a beautiful land. Thank you for sharing!
You are very right about Scotland, I started hunting there about 38 years ago, wish I could still climb those mountains and hills like I could back then. I've taken so many US hunters over there they are always amazed at the beauty, the quality of the hunting and the fact that it can be done for a reasonable cost.

I'm now having a go at hunting the "Lowlands", I hope to have as much fun as I had in the "Highlands".

I like your car, a true classic that has truly appreciated in value!
 
Love your story. I’ve been to Scotland twice and it feels like home to me. I guess some genetic throwback as most of my ancestors were Scottish. They emigrated (or were transported maybe ) in the 1700s.

Besides return trips to Africa, I really badly want to hunt Scotland someday. Stalking is the highlands would be amazing. Someday

Thanks for the story. I enjoyed it!
 
My instructions from the estate manager was to shoot all male deer on sight!
That guy is wonderful person!
(y)

Congrats on your hunt!
 
Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 
Glad you are enjoying your new property. It’s always enjoyable exploring new places. Congratulations
 
Congrats :D Cheers:
 

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