Deer Driving

The following information on deer driving comes from Practical Rifle Shooting by Walter Winans. Practical Rifle Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

This is an unfortunate combination of words to describe moving deer towards the shooters. It has led to the “Driving deer into a narrow place where they have no escape” style of abuse of those who indulge in this form of sport. If the writers of such nonsense tried themselves to drive deer, they would find how impossible it is. Deer will not be driven; if they think they are being forced they will break back, however thick the beaters are.

The only way to force deer up to the guns is to make them think you want them to go in the opposite direction.

Instead of being called Deer Driving it ought to be called (coining a word in the German manner) Deceiving-deer-into-going-where-you-want-them-to.

Deer prefer to go up wind, they prefer to climb, when climbing they prefer to climb on the best going. In crossing a ridge they prefer crossing the lowest part. In crossing a river they go for the fords, they do not like crossing human tracks.

Now it is impossible to humour them in all things. For instance, deer prefer to go up wind, so that they can smell if there is any danger in front. If you post the “guns” up wind, the deer will smell them and break back; you must post your guns as “near the wind” as possible without being actually “in the wind.” I have even known putting the guns behind the beaters, and letting the deer break back on them, succeed. The beaters should not try to hurry the deer, or force them too much. If deer look like coming back, the beaters towards whom they seem likely to break had much better duck and creep about than shout and wave their arms; as soon as beaters begin shouting and running, it is all up, the deer are sure to go back through them.

It is important to vary the direction in which a beat is driven; if it has been successful in one way, that is just the reason for not doing it that way next time. There is sure to be an old hind who led the former drive and remembers where the danger lay.

It seems a brutal thing to do, but this hind ought to be shot if possible; an old hind who has been in several drives gets too clever and needs killing off.

The big stags generally come last, and at the least suspicion of danger break back. Most of my big stags have been shot when breaking back through the beaters, I preferring to walk with the beaters to being posted in front.

There is a very effective combination of stalking and driving when two or more “guns” stalk in combination with each other; that is to say, going down a beat in line a long way apart, and waiting for each other as each stalks deer in front of him and turns them to the other “gun.”

It is as well to have an upright short stick, or a few stones piled on each other, in line between where the “guns” are posted, so that they should know in which direction it is dangerous to shoot

Also, whilst I do not consider “lappen,” as the Germans call, the small flags on cords, a legitimate form of “stop” to prevent deer going where they are not wanted, a low stone wall of a few yards may be built across gullies down which deer might otherwise slip away unseen by the guns on either side.

If they are moving without being pressed, deer will turn out of the gully rather than jump the wall, even if it is only three feet high, and so offer a shot to one of the guns.

Of course all these arrangements should be put up at least a week before they are needed, so that the deer may get used to them.

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Deer Driving - Practical Rifle Shooting - Walter Winans

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