Sunday, 9 April 2017




When we reached camp after I had shot my first turkey, Clay disappeared for a minute and came back with a pair of women’s stockings, there not going to fit me I thought!  In fact they were for the turkey, even stranger I hear you say, but by sliding him head first into one of the stockings you protect his feathers from damage, that way the taxidermist end up with a better quality bird and you end up with a better quality mount.  As soon as the turkey was on ice we packed our gear and headed for our second hunting area, about a four-hour drive away, not far from Uvalde, here Clay hoped we might get an older bird, as all we were seeing here were Jakes and hens.


The accommodation at the second ranch was in a beautiful log cabin set among tall Cyprus trees on the banks of a river.  On arrival we dropped our bags and went out hunting, the first signs looked good as we spotted turkeys almost straight away, they were moving from the fields to the security of the trees to roost.  Clay drove me to an area where he thought I might have a chance of a Tom, and gave me instructions on how to get back to the ranch.  I called for a while at this spot but saw nothing, then slowly I walked back to the ranch stopping and calling as I went, I did see a couple of turkeys but only as they crossed my path on the way to roost.  That evening I met Chris the ranch owner, who had prepared a Tex Mex meal for us while we had been away, after the events of the day it was very welcome.


The next morning we were up early and I was in position before dawn, I was sat with my back to a hedge looking over a grass field towards a patch of woodland.  About an hour after first light I saw a group of turkeys, they had come out of the wood and were headed my way, I raised my right knee slowly and rested the shotgun on it to avoid too much movement when they were closer.  I kept calling and when they got close I could see the group consisted of three jakes and two hens, I stopped calling not wanting to give my exact position away and remained motionless, they came to with in a few feet of me before drifting off to my right and through the hedge.  I wanted a Tom and nothing else would do, later that day I had a similar encounter.  That evening we watched some footage shot by a trail camera over looking a game feeder on Chris’s ranch; there were hogs, deer and turkeys, but no Toms just Jakes and hens.  Clay decided we should move to another area, so after hunting the next morning with out success we again hit the road.


Another four plus hour drive took us over the Pecos River to a ranch the other side of the town of Sanderson.  Here the accommodation was an old shack used by the ranch hands and hunters for many years.  We immediately set out hunting, and after glassing from several locations spotted a flock of turkeys, they were close to an old barn and a leaking water tank that were situated amongst the thick brush of the area.  I quietly and carefully got as close as I could before I started to call, an hour later and with no sight or sound of the turkeys I decided to try and get a bit closer, this was a mistake, as I stood up several turkeys that I hadn’t seen spooked and flew, blowing my chances.  The next morning we were up even earlier, we drove for about one and a half hours before turning off onto dirt roads, this was Texas canyon country, and it took us another hour to get to a flat area on the banks of the Rio Grande.  There amongst the mesquite trees and the prickly pear cactus I did my best to call in a turkey, but again all I could tempt were Jakes and hens.  In the afternoon we set up two decoy hens, I sat under a thorn bush twenty yards from them and called quietly, the heat was almost intolerable and after a couple of hours the pain in my legs and backside was agonising.  One turkey eventually showed up, but you guessed it, a Jake.  The following day was my last hunting day in Texas, again it started early but my first hunt before breakfast turned up another blank, by 11AM I was out again, this time the plan was to walk and call, making my way to the barn and leaking water tank.  As I approached the barn this time from the opposite side I came across lots of turkey sign, they had obviously been roosting in these trees, as there were droppings and feathers all over the ground.  I sat here and called but to no avail, it was almost 3PM when Clay arrived in the pickup to move me to my last location.


We drove to an area where Clay had spotted what looked like a good Tom the previous day, as I got out of the truck I realised this was my last chance.  I quickly got into position loaded the shotgun and arranged my calls to minimise movement.  I had just started calling when I heard heavy foot falls, then a small heard of cattle gathered right in front of me, this was all I needed, as there was no way of shooing with them only ten yards away.  I decided not to call for a few minutes, and hoped they might drift away, which after a time most of them did, leaving just two stubborn individuals.  It was now I spotted a turkey, he was moving slowly, and I could see with out binoculars that his beard reached the ground when he bent forward to peck at some small food item.  I started to call very quietly while he crossed diagonally in front of me, a hundred yards out, then he stopped and started to dust bath, after what seemed like hours he got up and crossed back diagonally from left to right getting a little closer all the time.  It was now his disappeared into some thick bushes, unable to see him I dare not move, in case he was looking my way, the pain started to build in my legs and sitting motionless was self inflicted torture, as time went by I was beginning to think he had gone, but he reappeared from the bushes and again crossed diagonally from right to left, he was now about fifty yards away and moving a little quicker.  He was coming straight down a line of bushes to my left, I picked out a small bush twenty yards away and said to my self, when he gets here I’m going to shoot, I raised the gun very slowly and waited.  As he got to the bush I blew gently on my mouth call, he stopped and raised his head, I squeezed the trigger and click, I couldn’t believe it, the gun had failed to pick up a cartridge from the magazine.


The turkey heard the click and quickly disappeared into the bushes, I was distraught, all the time, money and effort to get this far, not to mention the pain I was in should have amounted to something, or so I thought, it seemed like the hunting gods was against me.  I eased back the fore end of the gun as quietly as I could and watched this time as I chambered a cartridge.  I moved my aching legs a little and tried to get comfortable, sliding involuntarily a couple of feet down the bank I was sitting on.  It was to late to go anywhere else, and Clay wasn’t coming back until dark, so I sat tight and continued to call, cursing my bad luck.  Half an hour had passed since I had last seen the turkey, the shadows were lengthening and my mind turned to my journey home which would start all to soon.  It was then as I looked to my left and spotted a turkey through the over hanging branches of the bushes I was sitting under, I could only see it’s silhouette, as it stood erect and facing me, it didn’t look very big and for a moment I thought it might be a hen, but as it lowered its head and turned slightly I saw the long beard of a Tom, I slowly raised the gun.  There were far to many branches in the way to shoot, I would have to wait, I called quietly with a mouth call and slowly he started to come my way, then after what had seemed like an age he cleared the bushes and I shot, I tried to jump to my feet but my legs were so stiff I couldn’t, but I had no need to rush, I had shot for the neck and several pellets had hit his head and neck area killing the Tom instantly.

I laid the turkey out in the last rays of the setting sun and admired my trophy; it had been very hard won, and it was all the more special for that reason.  This was an old bird; his claws were worn almost completely off from scratching in the hard ground, his spurs were 1 5/8 inches long and his beard was just over 10 inches.  Clay showed up at the allotted time and shook my hand and congratulated me, it had been one of the toughest hunts I had ever been on, but one I’d never forget.  I packed my case that night and at 4.30 AM we set off on a 500-mile drive back to San Antonio airport and home.  What a hunt it had been, turkeys really are a challenge of all your hunting skills, you can hunt them using a rifle or a pistol or even a bow and arrow, my weapon of choice was a 12 gauge, as you then have to get your bird up close and personal before you can shoot, making for a very exciting hunt.  There are four other sub species of turkey available to hunt in the USA, the Eastern, the Merriams, the Osceola and the Goulds so I’ll defiantly be going back for another crack at this more than challenging game bird.  




My first morning turkey hunting in Texas started off before dawn with me being taken to a small-elevated covered blind, by Clay Pope my outfitter.  He gave me some instructions and quietly drove back to camp, it didn’t take long for my eyes to get use to the darkness and only a few minutes after Clay had left I spotted two white tail deer.  I let every thing quieten down after my arrival for ten minutes before I started my first string of calls, I kept them very low key and very subtle, that way I could increase the volume and the excitement with in the calls as the morning progressed.  As the darkness receded and was replaced by the dawn of a new day I hadn’t seen or heard a single turkey.  I changed from a pot and peg type of call to a box call, which is considerable louder, and worked up the excitement level in the calls to replicate the clucking and cutting of an excited hen, but still no response.

It wasn’t until a couple of hours had gone by that I spotted a small group of turkeys, they were probably 250 yards away and had just emerged from some thick cover, I had my box call in my hand so I started calling, I got no reaction at all.  I changed to a mouth call and still nothing, finally I changed to the pot and peg type of call, and instantly got their attention.  Their heads shot up as they worked out the direction the call was coming from, I was just purring and clucking on the call, but so quietly you would not have thought that they could of possibly heard it, but they did.  Moments later they were coming my way, and they weren’t hanging round, as they approached I looked at them through my binoculars and I could see that they were all Jakes.  As a male turkey ages he grows what is called a beard from the centre of his chest, the beard is a tuft of long hair like feathers that get longer with age.  A Jake is a male bird of about one year old, he will have a beard of just a few inches long, while a Tom a bird of two or more years old may have a beard of ten or more inches.  I decided I wouldn’t shoot one of these Jakes, even if the opportunity arose, instead I would wait for a Tom.  

The five Jakes in a matter of a couple of minutes had covered all the ground that separated us, and were now that close that I could no longer see them out of the windows of the blind, they were almost directly beneath me.  I had stopped calling when they were about twenty yards away, and now I sat silently for fear of scaring them away with the slightest of movement.  After a minute or two and not having found the elusive hen they started to drift away, when they reappeared from under my blind I allowed them to move off some twenty yards before I started to quietly call again.  The first note the call made stopped them dead in their tracks, two of them started to strut, fanning their tails, lowering their wing tips and puffing them selves up, trying to impress the unseen hen, one of them gobbled, which started them all off and I was treated to an ear splitting display of gobbling by all of them.  They worked their way back under the blind searching for the source of the hen calls, and again I let them drift away again before calling them back, this carried on for a quarter of an hour before they lost interest and slowly drifted back into the thick cover.  I learned more about turkey calling in those few short minutes than in the six months I had spent watching DVD’s and reading books, there is no substitute for experience.

Later that morning I started walking back to where Clay had told me to meet him, I moved slowly and called every now and then, listening for a male turkey to gobble back at me, but the woods were silent.  Clay arrived in his pickup and we set off for camp, as we rounded a corner there on the side of the track were another five jakes, they turned and disappeared into the tree line, Clay stopped the truck and I jumped out.  I set up on the opposite side of the track with my back to a small bush to break up my outline, I loaded the pump action 12 gauge, and with it lying over my legs I started calling using the pot and peg.  The turkeys had disappeared into the trees around fifty yards down the track to my right, I thought if they reappear in the same area I would have the opportunity to raise the gun and call them in to range, but like most best laid plans it wasn’t to be.   On hearing my call they must have doubled back inside the tree line and when they emerged they were only about five to six yards away directly opposite me on the other side of the track, I froze, they were to close for me to even blink let a lone raise the gun.  They looked me over but I sat absolutely motionless waiting for them to make the next move, they crossed the track diagonally to my right, this made shooting for a right handed shooter impossible with out moving my whole body round, so I sat tight hoping for another opportunity.  As they got into the long grass on my side of the road I lost sight of them, thinking I might have a chance to move I swivelled round to give my self a chance of a shot, but I was seen as they were almost on top of me, literally the other side of the bush I was sitting under.  They ducked down and ran for the tree line behind me, passing with in a few feet of where I sat.  I was pleased with my calling success; I just needed a better chance in the shooting department.

After a little while I heard Clays pickup heading my way again, I unloaded the gun and jumped in, and started to relate my story, we hadn’t gone more than half a mile when Clay stopped the truck and grabbed his binoculars, there on an old stock fence sat a turkey, and on the ground beneath him were at least three more.  We watched as they milled around for a minute before disappearing through the fence and into a particularly thick bit of cover, Clay said there’s water down there, they will be going for a drink.  I left the truck loaded up again and made my way to the stock fence, finding a place I could shoot from I sat down, and started to call, instantly two turkeys gobbled back at me.  The water was in a natural hollow surrounded by thick vegetation and shrubs, and that is where the turkeys were, I continued to call and the gobbling got louder, then I could see the heads of three turkeys coming up out of the hollow towards me, I raised the gun and continued to call.  As the birds crested the top of the hollow they stopped to look around, I levelled the gun and made a single call, there heads went up and I picked my target and shot, two birds turned and ran one remained, his wings flapped involuntary, I had my first turkey.  It was now 1.30 pm I had been out since before dawn with out food or a drink, but none of this mattered now I was ecstatic, I picked up my bird and marvelled at its beauty, I had shot a Jake as there wasn’t a Tom in the group, but that really didn’t matter now. Clay arrived shortly after and took the pictures of me with my trophy.  We loaded up the pickup and headed back to camp, no stops this time.




It was October 20th and I had just paid the deposit for a hunt in South Texas with Pope Brothers Outfitters, I was going to be hunting for hogs, javalina, vermin and Rio Grande turkeys.  I was due to fly out in April, giving me six months to get ready and prepare my equipment and myself.  Not having any wild turkeys in the UK, and not knowing anyone who had hunted them in the US, I started off by reading all the articles I could find on the internet, when I had exhausted these I purchased some DVD’s, these are a great teaching aid, you get to see and hear from professional hunters how you should go about your chosen hunt.  The choice of DVD titles on turkey hunting is huge, I bought a couple that were not as good or as informative as I was hoping, but I also bought some very good titles, the best in my opinion being The Truth series, these are made and released by Primos, the same company that make an array of hunting calls and accessories.  I also purchased some books and was given another by a friend and fellow hunter for Christmas.  All this information was essential for a complete novice like me, if I wanted to be successful. 


Turkey hunting is not a spot and stalk type of hunt, instead you try and call the male bird to you by replicating turkey talk.  Most of the sounds a hunter will make are those of the hen turkey, you play on the male turkeys increased hormone levels and eagerness to pass his genes on to the next generation, by trying to impersonate a hen turkey.  The sounds are produced in a variety of ways, there are diaphragm calls that fit against the roof of you mouth, there are box calls and pot and peg calls that both work on friction, and a whole host of semi-mechanical calls that also rely on friction to produce a realistic turkey sound.

I purchased several mouth calls from Cabelas in the USA, as they are not readily available here in the UK, and using my instructional DVD’s listened to and tried to replicate the various sounds commonly made by hen turkeys when feeding, and in response to a gobbling male turkey.  The mouth calls tend to be the most difficult to master, as they provoke a gag reflex in most people when they are placed in the roof of the mouth, but once that is overcome you soon learn to make the basic turkey sounds, then only hours of practice will hone your skills, and the variety and quality of the calls you can make.  On the other end of the difficulty spectrum is the box call, a good quality one will produce great sounds with very little practice, they work by the rubbing together of two pieces of wood, basically a box and a lid which is attached to the box with a single screw, loosely fitted to make a hinge.  You draw the lid over the top edges of the box to produce the sound.  The third type of call widely used is the pot and peg type or slate call, basically the pot is a sounder box and the peg is a striker or stylus, that is moved over the friction face of the pot, and again depending on how hard you press and how you move the peg, you produce a whole range of life like turkey sounds.

One of the things I found very useful as an aid to learning was an instructional CD, which I played in the car while travelling back and to from work, I would pop a mouth call in and make all the noise I wanted with out upsetting anyone.  Once you have learned to fool a turkeys ears, the next thing is to fool his eyes, for this you need camouflage.  A turkey has fantastic eyesight; if you are not completely covered in camo clothing he will see you.  For hunting in south Texas where daytime temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius, I would have to wear a long sleeve tee shirt, long trousers, a veil, gloves and a hat, on top of that I wore a turkey waistcoat, which is a specially designed piece of kit, with pockets for all you calls and shot shells and a built in seat cushion.  Another essential piece of kit for safely wandering around Texas are snake guards, basically they are gaiters that cannot be penetrated by a snakes teeth, and in terrain where you cannot always see where you are stepping they are vital, the other thing they do is protect your lower legs from cactus spines, which on it’s own is a good enough reason to wear them.  Needless to say sitting waiting for a turkey in all those cloths is warm work, even if you are lucky enough to be sat in a bit of shade. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017




The next morning we were looking for hogs, the North American feral hog comes in many guises, some are almost true wild boar while others are almost pure domestic pig breeds, with most of them some where in between, our method would be the same as for the javalina, but Clay didn’t think we had much of a chance until evening.  We came to a very over grown section of road, and there were hog tracks everywhere, Clay flicked the switch and the spin feeder sprung to life, dispensing corn all over the soft sandy dirt road.  By the time we headed back for a late breakfast we hadn’t seen a single hog, we ate heartily and settled down for a long siesta, until the shadows were longer and the sun was sliding down the western sky.  At around 4PM we made our move, slowly cruising the desert roads looking for any sign of activity at our bait sights, the normal characters had been busy, deer and javalina had cleaned most of the corn up, so we replaced it with more of the same. 


As day light turned into twilight we parked the truck and quietly walked to a position where we could see down an over grown track, it was the one we had seen the most hog activity in that morning.  As it got almost to dark to see with the naked eye we spotted movement, looking through our binoculars we could see a group of hogs feeding on the corn.  Clay pointed out the biggest animal and I drew a deadly bead on it, I squeeze the trigger and down it went.  Photographs taken the hog was loaded up on the pick up, on the way back Clay switched on his spot light, and we soon saw some eye shine in the distance, Clay said it’s a racoon go ahead and shoot, I jumped out of the truck and fired at a spot just below the eye shine, I had my first racoon.  Over the next few days and nights we were to see many more racoons.

The next morning was almost a rerun of the previous one, we were up early driving the now familiar roads, spin feeding all the likely looking spots and a areas that had seen a lot of over night activity.  We did see a pair of coyotes, but by the time Clay had stopped the truck they had made it into cover.  The afternoon to was devoid of any hog sightings, as evening drew in we again got our selves into position to watch an area where there had been some recent activity.  Right on schedule just as the last rays of light were fading the hogs appeared, we quickly looked them over with our binoculars and picked out the largest boar.  I swapped my binoculars for my rifle and now watched through my scope for a chance to shoot.  I was using a Blaser R93 rifle in .243 Win with a 3 – 10 Swarovski scope, the ammunition was a home load firing an 85 grain Sierra hollow point.  I considered the .243 Win a little marginal for hogs especially if you shoot for the shoulder, but I had all ready decided that I would only take neck shots, and for that the .243 is very capable.  I had brought the .243 with me because I felt it was the best compromise for a hunt comprising of hogs, javalina and predators, e.g. coyotes, foxes, racoons, bobcats etc.  A couple of minutes later and shooting from a sitting position I fired at the largest boar, he dropped where he had been standing.  We loaded him into the truck and returned to camp, where I had Clay take a couple of pictures of me with my hog, before he got to work skinning and jointing it. 

Later the same night we set off for a few hours of predator calling.  I was given the job of driving while Clay worked the lamp and called from a raised platform he had attached to the back of the pickup.  He would direct me by flicking the beam of light in the direction he want me to drive, a flash over the wind screen and I would stop, another and I cut the engine and join him on the platform.  We used mouth calls and electronic calls to coax coyotes and foxes into rifle range; I particularly wanted a bobcat, but try as we might we never got one, still there is always next time! 

The remainder of the trip I hunted turkeys by day and lamped for predators by night.  We hunted on two other ranches and covered some 500-road miles; I ended up hunting on the banks of the Rio Grande close to the town of Sanderson in order to get the final trophy of a great hunting adventure. The accommodation like the temperatures had their highs and lows, but that said it just added to the whole experience, the sport and the level of effort on the other hand were a constant high, Clay pulled out all the stops attempting to put me on quality game.  I can highly recommend Pope Brothers Outfitters for their level of service and for the vast amount of land that they are able to hunt over; in the end it was this that gave me a chance to fill my tags.  In the second part of this story I recall my turkey hunting in South Texas, in Jakes and Hens. 





Clay was already up when I got up; he had taken another turkey hunter out and had come back to camp to collect me.  That first morning we drove the desert roads, looking for signs of hogs and javalina.  In the areas where we could see some activity Clay would spin feed, that is to say he had a hopper of corn fixed to the front bumper of his pickup, when he spotted the tracks of pigs or javalina he would flick a switch on the dashboard and the hopper would dispense some corn.  We continued to do this covering a distance of around 15 miles, then we doubled back to see if our corn had coaxed any pigs or javalina out of the almost impenetrable bush.  The animals that were taking full advantage of this free breakfast were the white tailed deer; they were mopping up the corn almost as fast as Clay was dispensing it.


We had covered most of the 15 miles back to camp when on rounding a corner we spotted a dark shape on one of the dirt roads, Clay stopped the pickup and grabbed his binoculars, I steadied mine and realised I was looking at my first javalina.  It was a boar and a big one, Clay signalled me to get out of the truck, and we began our stalk.  Now javalina are not the most difficult animal to stalk, as their eye sight is poor and their hearing does not seem to be very acute, we simply walked slowly in plain view up to a distance of about 110 yards, where I took an off hand neck shot, hitting the boar behind the ear and dropping him in his tracks.  Clay went back for the truck and I walked on to check the javalina, my shot had killed him almost instantly.  While looking at the boar I noticed a strong pungent smell, and on examination I found a large sent gland in the middle of the boars back.  When Clay got back with the truck and cameras, he took the obligatory trophy shots; we loaded up the boar and headed back to camp for breakfast.

While I started on a plate of bacon, eggs and biscuits, Clay went to pick up my fellow hunter; he had driven down from his home in Pennsylvania, and had hunted pigs and javalina earlier in the week with Clay.  This was the last morning of his hunt, he had been out trying to call a tom turkey with in shotgun range, and he had been successful.  On his return to camp we exchanged stories and relived the events of the morning, I still had my turkey hunting to look forward to, and seeing his bird really whetted my appetite.  I had been practising my turkey calling for the last six months, determined that I would be good enough to call my own bird into range.  I had bought instructional DVD’s, CD’s and books on how to call, and had purchased several types of calls from Cabelas.  I had, at least in my own mind, mastered the mouth call the pot and peg and the box call.  All of these require different techniques to replicate various turkey sounds, like clucking, cutting and purring.

When the heat of the day was in decline around 3 PM, Clay and I set off again in pursuit of javalina.  We followed the same basic formula as in the morning, driving the dirt roads that covered the ranch, feeding here and there.  We came across a large indigo snake crossing one of the roads, and Clay jumped out of the truck and posed for a picture with the snake before letting it go its own way.  Later in the afternoon we came upon a group of javalina feeding in a dirt road, we stalked as close as we could and watched and waited for a chance at a big boar.  There were females and young in the group and a couple of smaller boars, they constantly argued amongst them selves, and bared their large teeth in threat displays.  After may be five minutes of watching a bigger boar gave me a chance of a shot, again I aimed for the neck, and the boar dropped in his tracks.  Two is the limit for javalina in Texas, so that was the end of my javalina hunting, two great trophies and some great memories to relive with my friends back at home in the UK.

We still had some daylight left, so Clay suggested I sit up a high seat for the last couple of hours, to see if I could get a shot at a hog or a coyote.  We drove to one of the many high seats that had been erected on the ground, the one he chose looked over a shallow draw, I sat quietly for the first hour or so, and watched numerous white tail deer going about their business, the last hour I started predator calling intermittently, I saw one coyote off to my left, but it was only a fleeting glimpse, I never had the chance of another shot that evening.




For almost as long as I dreamt of hunting in Africa, I had dreamt of hunting in America.  I had lived out my dream of hunting in Africa, having taken three safaris’ for plains game, two in South Africa and one in Zimbabwe.  Although the urge to book another safari in the Dark Continent was very strong, I decided a trip to America was long over due, and began scouring the Internet for hunts that would be with in my price range.

The truly big game of North America like moose, brown bear, big horn sheep, dall sheep and elk all command a sizeable fee in order to hunt them, and most require a tag to be drawn in a lottery system, that may take years of entering before your successful.  The white tailed deer is of course America’s favourite species of game animal, with many thousands of hunters going to the woods every year, with an array of weaponry to bag a buck.  I looked at all these species but decided that they were all a bit too much money ‘they were not out of reach, but they would require me to save my pennies for a while longer before booking.

One species on the other hand that did not require me to successfully draw a tag, and was with in my price range was the wild turkey.  There are four sub species of turkeys in North America, the Rio Grande, the Eastern, Merriam’s, and the Osceola.  I chose the Rio Grande, as it inhabits a large geographical area of the southern states of America, and can be hunted at reasonable rates.  After wading through various outfitters on the Internet I found one who offered turkeys, vermin, hog and javalina hunts as well.  Having taken warthog and bush pig in Africa and wild boar in Europe, I was keen to add two more pig species to my collection.  I realise that the javalina or collard peccary is not a true pig, but it does get grouped in with the pigs in Safari Club International record book.  A package of two turkeys, two javalina, unlimited hogs and vermin was in my opinion the most bang for my buck in the USA.

Six months later I got my first view of the North American continent, as my British Airways flight passed over Goose bay in Labrador, a couple of hours later and I was in Chicago, then on to San Antonio, home of the Alamo.  I was collected from the airport by my outfitters wife and his mother, who loaded my baggage and me into their pickup, before setting off to Laredo, a four plus hour drive.

We arrived in camp at about 2.30 AM local time, and after a short chat with my outfitter Clay Pope of Pope brothers outfitters I went to bed.  My bedroom being a steel-shipping container, with a bunk bed and an old air con unit in it, not the Ritz, but adequate considering how little time I was to spend there.  Three and a half hours latter I was up and dressed and exploring the camp, now in the half-light of dawn I could see that it consisted of several steel shipping containers and a static caravan, arranged in a U shape under a steel roof, to keep off the midday sun.  At the back of the caravan there was a skinning area, consisting of a steel frame to hang game from, and a hosepipe to wash away any blood.  The camp was located in a huge expanse of south Texas desert, nothing but prickly pear and thorn bush as far as the eye could see in every direction.




In the UK, when we talk about muntjac, we are talking about mintiacus reevesi, or Reeve’s muntjac.  John Russell Reeves first brought Chinese muntjac to the UK in the early 1800s, and hence they were given his name.  It was the 11th Duke of Bedford, who introduced them on his estate at Woburn Abbey in 1894 that really got the ball rolling. Although introduced as an ornamental deer, and part of the Dukes collection, they soon escaped and started colonising the southern counties of the UK.   Muntjac are a very prolific deer species, with many sub species, all belonging to the Muntiacineae family of deer.  Reeves muntjac is an Asian deer, living in China, India and Malaysia, but other less known species like the Fea’s Muntjac come from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.  Another interesting muntjac species is the Giant Muntjac; this deer was only discovered in 1994 in northern Vietnam, being well over twice a big as Reeves Muntjac, with mature bucks weighing around 110 lbs.  The muntjac is considered to be a very primitive deer species, with a fossil record going back as far as 15 million years.

Muntjac in the UK do well in areas with mixed woodland, with plenty of ground cover, brambles being one of their favourites.  On estates where the local fox population is kept under control for the purpose of rearing pheasants, Muntjac will thrive with the absence of predation to their young.  Never ones to miss an opportunity, Muntjac will readily exploit any easy food source, pheasant feeders are a favourite. On an estate where I shoot regularly, while sitting quietly in my high seat, I would be alerted to the presence of Muntjac by their banging on the bottom of the drums, used to hold the wheat for the pheasants.  The muntjac would get their heads under the drums, and to encourage the wheat to flow through the springs, which are designed for the pheasants to peck at, they would head butt the drums.  This would not endear them to the game keeper, who would try and stop them, by the addition of wire netting around the feeders, as a final resort, we would move a high seat to over look the area, and shoot the offenders. 

Never under estimate the tenacity of muntjac, although I am one of those people that believe that, a .22 centre fire is enough gun to kill muntjac cleanly, but as with all calibres you still have to put the bullet in the right place.  The .243 is probably the most popular calibre, and a good choice against these compact little deer.  A muntjac once wounded will seek out the thickest patch of cover it can find; it will take a dog to discover its whereabouts.  But you’re problems don’t end there, it’s not unheard of for a muntjac buck to gore a dog when cornered, and do it some serious damage, so shoot straight and avoid the need for a follow up. 

It was seventeen years ago I went after Muntjac for the first time, apart from pictures in books and magazines I had never seen one before, so I was a little apprehensive as to weather I could recognise one, from all angles.  I know that sounds a little silly to you stalkers who stalk muntjac, but put yourself in a similar position to the one I found myself in.  I had travelled down to Hertfordshire on the Wednesday morning from my home in Clwyd, I met Martin for the first time that afternoon, he was the guy that managed the deer population in the area. We decided that I would sit in a high seat that evening, and watch a ride that he had cut a week earlier.  That afternoon Martin arrived at the pub where I was staying; from there we drove to the wood, parked up and walked to the high seat.  After taking me to the seat, Martin pointed out where he thought the most likely crossing places were, and left me to it.  The high seat was situated under a large larch tree, at the junction of two rides, my view from seat was straight down the freshly cut ride, for a distance of 160 yards, before it curved to the left and disappeared.  To my left I could see for a distance of 80 yards, up the other side of the block of woodland.  Large old growth patches of brambles skirted the edges to the rides; the ground beyond the brambles was a mixture of nettles and long grasses, growing below sparsely planted larches, so my chance’s of spotting a muntjac anywhere but on the ride was slim. 

Through my binoculars I could see the entrances to tunnels, which went into the brambles, at any moment I expected to see a muntjac’s head appear from one of these, but as the hours went by, and the sun started to set, all I had seen was a number of fallow deer.  Then in the last few minutes of shooting light, a small dark shaped appeared on the ride, I couldn‘t make it out at first, it was a deer, but was it a muntjac? It wasn’t until it went broadside that I could see it was a very small fallow calf.  It sounds hard to believe that I could make that sort of mistake, but in poor light, and with a lack of previous experience on muntjac, I defy anybody to have told the difference.  In my defence, I did not shoot the unidentified object, nor did I point my rifle at it, so apart from a little egg on my face, nobody or anything was in any way hurt, due to my lack of experience.  The following morning, Martin again picked me up and took me to another high seat, it was situated looking down a very over grown ride, by that I mean, the trees on both sides met in the middle.  This tree cover meant that this ride took a little longer to brighten up in a morning, to the point that you could see through your binoculars, or scope.  After 45 minutes watching the ride a fox appeared, I wasted no time in shooting it, but in the back of my mind I thought I’d probably blown my chances of a muntjac this morning.  A mear 10 minutes later, out stepped a muntjac buck, not head up and alert like a roe or a fallow buck would be when about to cross a ride, but head down and almost oblivious to where and what he was doing.  I had been warned by Martin that muntjac do not as a rule spend much time on rides, and in most cases they just go straight across, so I had decided that if one was to appear, once positively identified I would make the final decision to shoot or not while looking at it through my rifle scope.  The buck turned out to be a youngster, with about two inches of antler growing above the pedicle, the 150 grain Sierra Game King bullet from my .270 win put the little deer down in it’s tracks. 

Now some of you may well be thinking, that for me to point my rifle at an animal I haven’t decided I want to shoot is wrong, you may think I should have scrutinised and judged it through my binoculars, and made a decision that way, and in an ideal world you would be right.  The problem with muntjac in a woodland environment is they do not afford you luxury of time, so it’s my opinion, with what time I do have, I spend preparing for a possible shot, that way if I decide to shoot, I am less likely to miss or worse, wound a muntjac through rushing the shot.  Providing you have made a positive identification, and you are sure that what you are looking at is a muntjac, and not the game keepers dog, then I see nothing wrong in making the final decision on whether or not to shoot while looking through your rifle scope. 

The other point I wanted to make about muntjac is, when I took my first one, it was literally just a few minutes after shooting a fox, so the buck I shot must have been very close to the ride at the time when I shot the fox, and yet he still he came out.  Over the years since that first muntjac, this is a phenomenon that has occurred many times.  I have shot muntjac just as they have emerged on a ride, only to have another adult muntjac walk around the body of its dead companion just seconds later, to get onto the ride.  No other animal species that I have ever hunted as ever shown such a blatant disregard for the sound of gun fire.  Red and fallow deer can some times mill around after the first shot, if they are unable to pinpoint the danger, but I do not believe that they would calmly walk out of thick cover as if nothing had happened.  I have seen it happen far to many time’s with muntjac, for it to be a few blasé individuals, it seems to be a trait of the species. 


Muntjac venison is very under rated, and very few game dealers seem to want to take it, I think this is probably due to the amount of work they have to do to the carcass, compared to how much venison they can sell from it.  From my own experiences of skinning and butchering, I know it takes me almost as long to dress a muntjac, as it does to do a fallow, at a recreational level that’s not a problem, but if it was business, then it’s a different matter.  When I’m butchering a muntjac, I like to keep the haunches for roasting joins, the saddle I bone out and cut into steaks, and the front legs and the trim I mince to make sausages. 
Whether you like or dislike these little deer, they are here to stay, they have given me an immense amount of pleasure over the years, and I only wish I had some a little closer to home.  They may not come over as the most intelligent of our deer species, they may not produce large impressive antlers, or large quantities of venison, but considering how long they have been around they must be doing some thing right.  One thing they do is, they give you an excuse to go some where you would never have any other reasons to go, you will meet new people, make new friends and experience a great hunt, what more do you want?





I had been driving the 250 mile journey to Wigtown every six weeks through out the roe buck season, for three years, some times with my brother David, some times on my own.  Each trip consisting of four stalks, from Friday night to Sunday morning, then back home Sunday afternoon.  I would take most of my annual works holidays up there as well. The frequency of my trips, had made me a familiar face, and I had made many friends, so it was always a pleasure to be there.  I was stalking on ground controlled by Jim Stewart, initially Jim had taken me out stalking, but as I started to know the ground, and Jim’s trust grew in me, he would let me go on my own.  We would discuss where the most likely places were going to be, and where any bucks had been seen, and come up with a plan.  I enjoyed a lot of success over the years, taking many four point bucks, and spikers.  Two years to the day that I took my first roebuck with Jim, I had my first six pointer.  He was nothing special in trophy terms, but he meant the world to me, and still does. 
I had left Jims at about 3.30am and driven a few miles to the east of Newton Stewart, I left the main road and drove up a dirt track, that took me up the side of a hill, at the back of which was a long rough field.  I parked the car before I got too close and readied myself with all that I needed for the stalk.  My only rifle then was a Weatherby in .270 win, although I don’t have that rifle any more, I do have a .270 Sauer model 90, as it’s a favourite calibre of mine.  The sun was just starting to illuminate the field as I got to the gate.  The breeze, what bit there was, was almost in my face as I looked down the field with my binoculars, I couldn’t see any sign of deer.  The wind could be very fickle on this field, as it was situated between two hills. From my position at the end of the field; the hill to the right was heavily forested, with mature lodge pole pines.  They blanked out almost all the light beneath them, causing a very sterile environment, hence the roe that lived in there, had to come to the field to feed.  The hill to my left, was covered in gorse and brambles, and had its own resident roe deer.  This meant you could have deer coming onto the field from both sides.  It’s the way these hills can channel the wind that makes stalking difficult on there sometimes, making the wind swirl, and seeming like it’s blowing from all directions at once. 
Decision time, should I climb the gate into the field and go and sit behind a hawthorn bush that gave good cover, and a safe shooting angle into both hill’s, or do I stalk the length of the field, and see if I can spot any deer moving in the maze of gorse.  I decided to stalk, I loaded my rifle and set off slowly, keeping under the lodge pole pines.  The thick carpet of pine needles deadened my foot falls, so I moved almost silently.  I constantly stopped and glassed every nook and cranny between the gorse bushes on the other side of the field, as well as on my side.  From end to end the field was about 400 yards, and around 150 yards wide.  I intended this 400 yard stalk to take me about three hours, so after every couple of steps, I would stop and watch, and wait for any sign’s of movement from in the gorses.  After covering the first hundred yards, I spotted that tell tale sign in among the gorse; it was the white cordal patch on a roe deer’s rump.  As I stood motionless watching, it soon became apparent that this was a doe, with her anal tush protruding.  Was she with a buck?  I sat down quietly with my back to a tree, and spent the next twenty minutes looking, but no avail.  It was during this time that I became aware of the midges, I had forgotten to put any repellent on, and was paying for my mistake with blood.  Any one, who has not experienced being eaten alive by Scottish midges, will not understand how maddening and soul destroying they can be.  Without a midge net or repellent they get in you eyes, your mouth, your ears and up you nose.  They are always worse when you are stationary, so convinced there was no buck with the doe, I started walking again.  I kept up my walking stopping and glassing routine for another half an hour, until I came to a small area of broad leaf trees.  A few birches and scrub oaks blocked my view of the opposite hill, growing as they were on the edge of my side of the field.  Brambles and bracken had grown between them and now formed a three feet high wall; they covered a distance twenty yards long.  As I had almost reached the end of them, I heard the alarm bark of a roe deer, I froze as I tried to work out where it had come from, it sounded like it was right next to me, in fact it was just the other side of the brambles.  It was completely hidden from my view and me from it’s.  I got the feeling we were waiting each other out, who was going to crack first?  Both of us straining our senses to get the upper hand, time seemed to have stopped.  We were separated by less than ten yards, I hardly dare breath.  Then I saw movement and it barked again, it was running into the centre of the field.  I still couldn’t see it properly, so I quickly turned and retraced my steps past the birch trees.  Again it barked, and now I could see it was a buck, it was half way across the field and heading towards the gate.  I took the rifle off my shoulder, and braced myself against a tree, taking aim I waited, hoping he would stop.  He did, for good measure he turned and barked one last time at his unseen adversary.  The 150 grain Sierra found its mark; he fell where he had last stood.  From the first bark, to the crack of my .270 took less than a minute, yet when I relive it in my mind, it seems like hours.  I reloaded and slowly walked down to where he lay; he was my first six pointer, a beautiful animal, in his fox red summer coat.

Now this animal was not in trophy terms very good, he had six points all right, but they were short, and the head carried no mass.  But the excitement, and pleasure I got from this hunt would not have been any greater, if he had turned out to be gold medal head.  The size of a deer’s antlers, do not make him any more difficult to stalk, they do not dictate the intelligence of the deer, or heighten his senses in any way.  We should all appreciate every deer we shoot, as to be seen not to leaves us open to criticism from toughs people who would like to see an end to our sport.
I set out at the beginning of this article to try and show you, that trophy hunting has been around for generations, and is still a large part of today’s stalking scene.  I would be lying if I told you that my heart didn’t miss a beat when a trophy buck steps out in front of me, or I didn’t see the beauty of a large set of antlers.  I have coveted other people’s trophies, and specifically hunted a known animal of trophy proportions.  The point of this article is, that every animal is a trophy, it’s just the way you view them, size doesn’t matter.    




From mans earliest history antlers, horns and tusks have been utilised for making tools and decorative articles.  Antlers have been made into head dresses and picks for digging; horn has been used for everything from drinking vessels to the making of bows, and wild pigs tusks are still used to this day in places like New Guinea, for the make of ornamental tribal necklaces.  But apart from being materials for turning in to decorative and functional items, man has always found beauty in the raw, untouched commodities of antler’s, horn’s and tusks.  For this reason through out history, he has decorated his mud hut, round house, cottage, castle and two bedroomed semi with them.  I feel sure that early modern man would have looked at a larger than average set of antlers on a deer, he had just killed, with almost the same admiring eyes as a modern stalker.  Stories will have been told around campfires, and the prowess of the hunter would be gauged by the size of the trophies he had taken.  Nothing has changed really, we all like to spin a good yarn, whether it be about the one that got away, or the one that hangs over your fire place, we embellish and elaborate to make the story come alive, and keep our audience enthralled in our adventures, and tales of daring do.

In more modern times, the size of antlers, horns and tusks have been recorded in record books, the most famous being Rowland Wards book of trophy animals. Rowland Ward came from a family of taxidermists, and opened a shop in London Piccadilly in 1872.  Rowland died in 1912, his shop stayed open, but with the decline in popularity of taxidermy over the years, it eventually closed in 1976.  His book first published around 1880 is still in print, and list’s most of the world’s big game species.  Each animal’s entry has had either its antlers, horns or tusks measured, and are listed together with the hunter’s name, and where it was taken.  Animals such as lion’s and crocodiles are also listed, having no hardware as such to measure; they tend to be measured from nose to tail.  If you ever get a chance, Rowland Wards book is worth reading, and you won’t believe just how big some of the record animals are.

Another organisation collecting records of big game, and publishing them in much the same way, is Safari Club International.  They have a slightly different way of measuring, which could be argued is a little more comprehensive than Rowland Wards on some species.  SCI started in America in 1971, and now has chapters all over the world promoting hunting and conservation; one of the newest chapters is here in the UK.  Daniel Mulholland is running the London Chapter, which is the first in the UK.
The fascination with large trophy heads, as we all know, is still very much alive today.  If you only target the medal class animals, then you will need a bank balance that is equally as impressive, or if you are not so well off, you will spend most of your time saving up, and very little time actually hunting.  For me it’s the actual hunt, the stalk, and the being there that I gain most pleasure from, and if I am lucky enough to connect with an animal that is above average, then that’s the icing on the cake.  Some of you I realise do not have much spare time to go stalking, and when you do go on that precious once or twice yearly stalking trip, you don’t mind paying a little extra, to increase your chances of a trophy animal, and that is understandable.  If on the other hand you have the time to go stalking regularly, and are prepared to put the hours in, on ground that is not renowned for producing large heads, and therefore a little easier on the pocket, every now and again you will be rewarded for your efforts.  This is what happened to me a few years ago in the Scottish borders. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017




The European and Scandinavian method of hunting tends to be through hunting clubs, the club will either own or lease the ground and set a cull figure.  This method means that hunts are very well organised, and when driven hunts are employed for wild boar and deer they need to be.  These methods have been used for generations, and are carried out with military precision.
As long as everybody sticks to his or her instructions it is a safe and productive method of hunting.   It is not unusual after the hunt for the meat to be divided between the members of the club, in this way even if you were not one of the lucky hunters, you will still get a share of the spoils.  Individual hunting is of course possible, and the standard of the game in trophy terms can be very high, but so to are the prices, when compared to the UK.

Another restriction, although some would argue it’s a good thing, is the European tendency toward a formal test for hunters, they have to pass a practical and written examination, before being allowed to hunt, this exam has to be retaken periodically to maintain the individuals hunting licence.  With out such a licence they would be breaking the law.  Compare this to our system, where we have no formal test set by the government or any body else; we do however have the deer-stalking certificates level one and two, which are with out doubt a step in the right direction. Although they are a voluntary undertaking it does show, that we as sports men and women, realise that we need to be seen to be actively self-regulated, and in so doing, we are supplying education to improve awareness and professionalism.  Thus we do not need rules thrust upon us by a largely uninformed and anti hunting government.

That said though the bulk of the public who live in areas where field sports take place are not anti’s, if fact they are very much in favour, because they can see the benefits.  In the remote areas of Scotland, stalking, bird shooting and fishing are major forms of income for estates and individuals alike.  Then there are the hoteliers, pubs and restaurants that all rely on the visiting sports mans pound, the knock on effect is that small communities have a sustainable income that keeps people in an area that would otherwise be devoid of methods of making a living.  It is only through the continuation of field sports, that the countryside will remain as we and the rest of the general public know and love it.

Shooting and fishing here in the UK is a multi million pound industry, it is the quality of our natural resources that draws both national and international sports men and women into our countryside.  For individuals who’s bank balances look more like international telephone numbers, there is world-class sport to be had.  The UK has salmon fishing on the most prestigious beats, it has stalking on estates that produce some of the world’s largest trophy deer, and its game bird shooting is second to none.  The spin off from this, is sport that is within the price range of ordinary people, salmon fishing can be purchased for as little as £10 a day, stalking can be purchased for around £40 a session and game birds can be hunted on walked up days for very reasonable prices.  Add to this the abundance of sport that a lot of us enjoy for free, many farmers are only too happy to see their rabbit and pigeon populations reduced by responsible hunters.

So the next time you think that the grass is greener elsewhere, take a moment to reflect on what we have here, and I’m sure you will find a wealth of exciting sport that will compete with anything other countries have to offer.  We have a beautiful country that still has some truly wild places; we have an abundance of game that has not been over exploited, and we have a great future to look forward to.  So lets enjoy what we have, and be moderate, so future generations can enjoy the same levels of quantity and quality of sport that we have today.