23/6/2022

"The prize and adventure is simply amazing"

HTP Will -waterer (2)

By Russell Edwards, the winner of the 2021 GWCT Suffolk Grand Slam Raffle

I was very fortunate to be the lucky winner of the 2021 GWCT Suffolk Grand Slam raffle and having discussed with Will Waterer (the organiser), Friday 25th & Saturday 26th February would be the dates.

For those that don’t know, the Grand Slam is the opportunity to stalk all five species that reside in Suffolk (Red, Fallow, Roe, CWD and Muntjac) over two days (you can enter this year's raffle here). The raffle prize was for two guns, so I invited my old pal and mentor Tony who has shared much of his ground and experience with me over the years.

Here’s how it went…

Excited and loading up the truck with what felt like everything, we left Thursday afternoon for our 100 mile drive up to Will’s farm where we would be staying. Thankfully the Dartford tunnel and A12 were flowing nicely giving us an opportunity to enjoy the sun kissed English countryside. Arriving early evening, we were warmly greeted by Will, discussed the master plan over a cold beer and shown our amazing accommodation.

Must admit Tony and I were expecting to slightly rough it, but were pleasantly surprised by the holiday lodge we were given to stay in – essentially a full on house with master en suite bedrooms, huge open space kitchen and a splendid sitting room. It really was very nice.

Having had a local pub dinner, unpacked the kit ready for a 4.15am alarm, it was an early night.

Friday AM

4.45am and we are eagerly at Will’s farmhouse back door kitted up – his truck was already defrosting and we are soon on the off to meet Will’s friend and fellow stalker John (nicknamed Turnip). The master plan was that Tony and I would split up, with Tony staying with Will to look for fallow and muntjac and me with John out for reds, roe and CWD across the Sufffolk countryside. We say our good lucks and go our separate ways.

Jumping in with John, it’s a 25 minute drive to the red ground and we arrive just as the light's coming up. We move through a hedgerow to view a huge open field lined by woods, but nothing shows. We sneak slowly and quietly to the next fields as the evidence of fresh slots is evident that the reds are about and close. We follow the tracks, bumping four muntjac on the way and then we see them – 20 odd red hinds literally just over the boundary. No shot, but a thrilling track and stalk that only fate could have determined different.

We then head to another farm to pick up our professional photographer who will be accompanying us for the day. After a brief intro, Helen Tinney, a keen stalker from Fieldsports Britain donned with two enormous cameras jumps in the back of the truck and off we go in search of a roe. The farm we arrive at is mainly arable, with large open fields basking in the morning sunshine and its not long until we spot a dozen roe out sunbathing – getting to them is another issue…

HTP Will -waterer (1)

We move past them and stalk down a ride between a wood and cover crop to conceal us, when we spot a decent muntie buck in the wood, up on sticks on an elevated position, I wait for a clear shot in the scrub, when the buck bolts due to a dog walker calling his dog from the other end of the wood, miles off the footpath. I’m starting to think I may have used up all my luck winning the raffle.

We continue to skirt the wood until the roe are in sight and sneak through the cover crop and set up on the sticks. There are nine in a group, with all bucks in velvet. We chose a young doe and its 200 meters to them with a fair 15mph cross wind. Bark goes the 30.06 and they all just stand there – my heart lung shot has clean missed not factoring in the wind, with John commenting seeing the strike in front. I reload and fire with selected doe skipping 20 yards and dropping.

Gralloch done and we are off to the marshes for a CWD. The marshes are vast and we spot many on the open landscape.

HTP Will -waterer (4)

The wind is absolutely howling on the flat ground so we use the reeds to cover our movements - it's not long before we find a buck on his own. Facing into the wind now, 120m the buck does straight down. He’s a decent silver but we move on to get some lunch.

We regroup to find out that Tony and Will have had an absolutely cracking morning in an area only really known for fallow and muntjac. With them arriving at first light, two fallow were out on the fields. Tony took the larger of the two animals with his 308, with the other fatally hanging around unsure what had happened, allowing him a second shot.

Having let it settle for a few minutes, to their amazement a red stag disturbed by the two shots then appeared from the tree line. With permission, Tony fired, the beast staggering for 5 yards and dropping, leaving them with a decent fallow buck, a pricket and a 14 point red stag on the deck within 10 minutes! And they call me Lucky Russell….

Friday PM

After a delightful sausage burger for lunch, I was now out with Will for the afternoon session for muntjac with the hope of a red. First stop was a stunning ancient wood with the sun beaming between the trees. Being a balmy 9 degrees now, the wind dropped to next to nothing and the floor littered with dry leaves, it was time for full on stealth mode. We slowly stopped and scanned the wood methodically until we found a muntie doe feeding in the brambles. With only a head shot available, she was dead before she hit the ground.

HTP Will -waterer (5)

We then moved onto another farm that had a field of picked carrots where we spotted a muntie bumbling along the hedge line in the valley. At 196m the young buck presented a perfect broadside and with no wind the shot was on. My 123gr Sako Gameheads didn’t fail me with it rolling over.

HTP Will -waterer (6)

With still an hour's light left, we then moved to another farm for a last light high seat sit out overlooking a cut sweetcorn field. With about 10 mins of legal light left, I could see a deer in the thermal in the far woodland over the field and so using my Hubertus roe caller, gave it a couple of peeps. The deer I had originally seen disappeared, but out of nowhere, a stocky muntie buck came charging up the field.

With the field considerably brighter than the far hedge line, I tracked him in my scope with him stopping about 70m away. Nice and steady on the rail, no wind, the thump of my round was very audible - another muntie in the bag. Having picked it, it was now dark and time to drop Helen back at her car and regroup with the other team.

Tony had had two CWD from his afternoon with John from a seat, so between us the Suffolk Grand Slam had been completed, but the boys were up for tomorrow and bagging the double. A nice dinner with Will at the local pub saw us finish off the evening for an early night.

Saturday AM

Another 4.45am meet at the truck and we are off to John’s house to split back into last night’s teams. Tony and John are after roe and muntie, I’m with Will after fallow and red. We arrive at the fallow fields they visited yesterday at the edge of light. We spot three fallow in the field 200m away and we gain 50m with the tree line to our back. They are just mooching when a muntie starts barking downwind and strangely they all start running towards us. They clock us at 70m and I drop the first one, the two others split with one stopping at 160m for a sitrep – boom down he goes too. We check them and move in the direction of the third and no more than 100m away through the hedge, there she is - nugget shot drops her with a whack.

With it being only 6.30am and a frosty minus two, we leave them where they fell in the hope of catching up with any potential friends of the red stag that Tony met the day before. As we make our way back to the truck, two further does appear from the thicket. Up swiftly on the sticks, but they had clocked us, so a rather rushed and what turned out to be a low brisket shot made her jump and bolt off into the brush. We searched the strike site and found a load of white pins and small chunks of meat but no blood. Brush was very heavy, so with us going to need a dog, a call was made to Will’s pal JP who had a trained tracking dog. With JP being on early morning daddy duties, he would be up to an hour, so we were back on in search of a red.

We drove to a forestry block and scanned on the way picking up two large heat signatures. Unknown if they were fallow or reds, we parked up at the end of the block and stalked slowly with the wind on our faces. The scrub and brambles was waist high with well used paths cross crossing the forest floor.

100m in and we spot a large head pop up 40m away in the dip of the forest – it’s a red! Heart beating like mad, I move my sticks and rifle into position as slowly and delicately as I can. Focused straight at me, I pull the trigger between its eyes – he drops but there is a commotion as another bedded deer gets up and bolts. She stops 80m out between the trees, not knowing I have tracked her all the way there. Goodnight.

So with six deer down within an hour, its now time to extract. We gralloch the first young male red and drag to JP’s truck who has arrived early. We mark the second red hind with my sticks, as we go to collect Will’s truck to move it to the other side of the wood for easier extraction. With two trucks now together, time for a bit of practice with JP’s gorgeous black lab Daisy. The dog tracks left and right picking up the wind and I can see it finding the hind. The dog returns to JP with a parracord collar extension in its mouth to show she has found the deer. I watch in ore as without a word, Daisy shepherds JP to the hind – simply amazing to watch the teamwork. Power drag and we are back in the truck with two reds off to pick up the fallow.

Back at the fallow ground, Will and I wait loaded at the end of the scrub in case the last deer was still mobile, JP and Daisy set about from strike site looking for the lost doe. 10 minutes later the radio squawks – Daisy has found the deer dead 50m into the scrub. Tough through the scrub to retrieve, but we make it.

We get a call from John at 8am to say that they have been successful on a muntie and a roe, so it’s time for a big breakfast and high fives all round. Following filling the tank we drop off the carcases at the dealers – Tony’s red coming in at 98kg dressed, my hind at 60kg and the young red at 40kg.

So, after a successful 26 hours, two Grand Slams completed with 18 deer grassed between us, as much as the boys were keen for the afternoon session, we decided to leave them to it to get home in time for the rugby.

Not only are Will, John and JP top blokes with a lot of knowledge of their ground and an absolute pleasure to spend time with, I have to say that both Tony and I were both hugely impressed with the dedication they put in with regards to scouting and resting the grounds in the lead up to our visit. It was a very memorable couple of days with lots of deer and lots of laughs. We loved every minute and salute you boys.

We may have been exceptionally lucky both completing the Grand Slam, tickets for this year's raffle are available now, so I would whole heartedly recommend buying a ticket - not only is the GWCT a very worthy cause, but the prize and adventure is simply amazing.

Big shout out to Helen Tinner, who was a lot of fun on the day and took and donated the decent photos.

Enter 2022 Raffle →

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