Roe Deer Hunting

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

This is a subject on which I do not much like to write. A roe deer is so pretty, and cries so like a child when hurt, that I very much dislike shooting one. Last year, at a big wild-boar drive in the Ardennes, I was next to a man who has shot many boar and deer. A fine roe deer passed slowly close to him and he did not even take up his gun, although he had a pair, in the usual way, lying cocked on his “rest.” When that beat was over I asked him why he did not shoot. He said that the little buck came along skipping, and, as the wind blew the dead leaves about on the snow, he played about and hit at them with his fore-feet like a kitten, until he could not find it in his heart to kill the little animal.

I have a very tame little roe deer, from Siberia, and he comes up to be nursed, and when his horns are in velvet he likes them rubbed. I suppose they irritate, as they feel very hot and feverish when the velvet is about to be cast. I would not advise any one to make a pet of a roe buck, however, as they are as quick as lightning with their horns, and there are tales of their having killed men, stabbing repeatedly when the man is down.

If a roe deer has to be shot, however, he should be shot with a rifle as befits a deer, not with a shot-gun. In cover shooting, where roe deer and small game come together, and there are a lot of beaters about, this is not practicable, but in such cases I would prefer to say that no roe deer should be shot at, and leave them for another time, and then stalk them properly with a rifle.

A roe deer is very hard to stalk. They are so restless that if you see one in a clearing, and take half an hour to get to him, it is ten chances to one he will be gone when you get there, even if he has not seen you or got your wind. You have to make the stalk as short and simple as possible. In the early morning, or just before sunset, you may get a chance at a roe deer near water or in corn. Roe deer generally go in a family party, and that is another reason why I do not like to kill them. The little doe calls and frets after the buck if he is shot. With fallow and red deer, where one male goes with as large a herd of hinds, or does, as he can keep together, the ladies of his family are glad of an excuse to get away with a fresh husband when he is killed, and do not fret after him, as the well-known French saying testifies. A roe deer is very inquisitive; if you have missed one, and he disappears into cover, follow him up wind silently and you may often see him again, looking back to find if you are following him.

The rifle which I use is the .36 recommended before for fallow-deer shooting, only in this case I shoot for the shoulder. A roe deer’s head is much too small to risk hitting him in the jaw. If he is down wounded in long ferns, where you have to hunt for him like a winged partridge, be careful of his horns.

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