More buck for your bang

Sam Walker

Sam Walker

Sam Walker is BASC South West’s regional officer and previously worked as BASC’s deer officer for three years. He has a degree in conservation ecology and has worked as a single-handed keeper for a number of years, producing days of mixed partridge and pheasant shooting.

Sam Walker offers some advice on how to maximise your roe stalking opportunities.

UK roe stalking opportunities

Here in the UK deer stalkers are spoilt for choice with some fantastic stalking opportunities. The roe in my opinion is not only beautiful but a perfect size in many ways. It’s not too big to carry but big enough to feed the family for a while.

I think we may underestimate roe and, come to think of it, all deer species. It’s as if they seem to know when they are in season and exactly when to keep their head down. You may have spent the last month of the doe season watching and noting the exact movements of the bucks on your ground, but come the beginning of the buck season, they seem to vanish.

Roe buck behaviour

Roe bucks tend to be most visible through April and May, as the cover is still relatively low and not all the trees are in full leaf. Through June towards the end of July, bucks can be difficult to find with the cover up high and enough food in the woods so the deer don’t need to travel too far to feed. It’s through this summer period before the rut when they are generally less active, too.

So, what are the options available to us when in pursuit of good roe stalking opportunities?

Stalking on foot

Roe buck stalking on foot really means you have to be focused on the job ahead and put yourself ‘in the zone’. 

It may sound strange but there are some mornings when I go out with confidence and in the zone, but just know it’s not going to happen. (This is usually confirmed with the bark of a buck clearing the rest of the wood as he goes). 

But, there are times when you and the deer clock each other at exactly the same time (the stand-off) and it comes down to who breaks first. I often find that freezing and waiting for the deer to move is the better option than rushing to get on my sticks. A buck may bark and move off a little but he will often stop to have a look back and this may present you with an opportunity for a shot.

Learning from experience

Experience gained through time and having a good understanding of the deer’s natural movements can give you a huge advantage while stalking on foot. Spending time watching deer and learning how they move and feed can really help. The same can be said about knowing the piece of ground you’re stalking on. Being familiar with the land and having a fair idea where the deer may appear also helps immensely. Some stalkers talk of a sixth sense or a heightened awareness. I believe this awareness is created as a result of great concentration and developed through previous experience. Either way your roe stalking opportunities will increase.

Having a planned route while working upwind is important – but remember in a woodland or valley the wind can whirl round and put any best laid plans to ruin. You should approach every opening and turn in the ride as if there’s a deer the other side, as the second you drop your concentration then sod’s law dictates a buck will be staring straight back at you.

Remember to use your binoculars each time you stop, even through what looks like dense cover. It’s amazing what can be seen behind and beyond what our normal field of view can take in. It also pays to look behind as this may open up a new view and catch out those bucks you may have missed. I would recommend reading BASC’s deer team blog on what to carry when deer stalking to find some other useful tips.

When stalking in a woodland – and particularly through the summer months when the cover is high – deer will often appear at close range, so, if you have a variable power scope, turn it down to a lower magnification. If you’re solo stalking, don’t forget to take the appropriate precautions and read BASC deer officer Audrey Watson’s blog. 

High seats/vantage points

When it comes to choosing a spot to place a high seat, knowing where the deer have been showing and areas where damage has occurred is key. Having a good relationship with the estate/farm staff can really help, especially if you’re not on the ground as much as you’d like. Certain woodland edges catch the sun first thing in the morning and it’s often these locations where roe come out to warm up.

High seats can offer a safe platform to shoot from in areas that are relatively flat. There are numerous types and styles of high seats available, from towers to portable designs. Read BASC deer officer James Sutcliffe’s top tips on picking a high seat.

Calling

Most stalkers will have tried calling roe in the rut and from my own experience this can be effective. There are also times when I’ve been calling muntjac and a young roe buck has come along.

The roe rut usually occurs sometime around the end of July to the middle of August, but can vary depending very much upon weather. I’ve found this period to be the most successful when it comes to calling – usually during the mornings while the bucks are still active.

There are lots of calls on the market to try and all can be successful on the right day. People swear by certain techniques and calls but a call that may work in one location may not in another. The Buttolo or the Cherrywood are great calls to start with, and I’ve also had some great results with a beech leaf, although this does take some mastering.

When calling does work, there’s nothing more exciting. Although I often wonder if that buck would have just naturally walked by without me going to the effort to call.