It’s autumn and sportsmen are spoiled for choice but if you want to try something a little different then Howard Day thinks fallow deer may fit the bill!
Autumn spoils the sportsman with a cornucopia of choice: we’re midway through the grouse season – albeit a very poor one indeed due to the spring weather - partridge shooting is well underway and pheasants are now very much back on the agenda. Which is fine if you’re the social sort, but for those who prefer to hunt alone (or with a rifle) October brings with it the peak of the fallow rut.
Fallow are the underrated import (brought in by the Normans), familiarity breeding a contempt that is most undeserved. The most integrated of the foreign invaders, fallow are widespread in England and Wales, and even across the border to Scotland in places. Sport on your doorstep, as it were, with the palmate antlers of fallow bucks poking up across this green and pleasant land.
Fallow bucks travel for their ladies, clocking up the miles in search of females. It’s these peripatetic tendencies that herald the rut, so estates and stalkers keep an ear out for the boys as they’re more likely to be heard long before they’re seen. The mists that arrive with autumn help to carry the fallow bucks’ signature low guttural belching great distances as they gather on historic rutting stands to engage in the annual battle to mate.
We start reconnaissance of our favourite areas in September, using not only Shanks’s pony and binoculars, but also trail cameras to keep an eye on things. By October, fallow hormones are flying around and mating’s in full swing with establish stands and ruts busier than Tinder on a Friday night.
Proximity and a booming population make fallow some of the most affordable stalking: outings start from £145 and all you need is some quiet, non-rustling, drab clothing - the Laksen Kudu from Farlows is highly recommended - and the ability to move with soundless stealth, of course. Fallow are a suspicious lot, and the large numbers of eyes in a herd make sneaking up on them a challenge. One false move and the whole group will turn tail as one and disappear off into the autumn mists.
For the beginner, fallow are a great introduction to the sport of stalking, incorporating many of the joys and required skills of the art form. We recommend an afternoon/evening session with a start on the range to give the novice the chance to get on terms with the rifle before attention turns to the bellowing bucks. Absolutely no experience is needed as Outside Days’ experienced stalkers accompany every stalk. However, a willingness to spend time crawling through the undergrowth to get into position is useful!