By Linda Mellor

My interest in wildlife stretches back more than 50 years, and as a country sports writer and photographer, Scotland’s Roe deer have featured in my work many times.
When I became product ambassador for Venator Pro, I was asked if I would like to stalk Roe deer in Perthshire with Kenneth Larsen, Venator’s MD. 
I said: “Yes!” without hesitation. I had been out on countless stalks over the years with stalkers and understood why there is a need to control deer numbers and importance of a management plan; Scotland provides a great habitat for the Roe deer, and as there are no predators, the numbers flourish.
In ideal conditions and a lack of prolonged harsh weather, a Roe deer doe will often produce twins or triplets so, in a short amount of time the population expands. 
Kenneth has deer management plans in place on a number of estates and is keen for more people, especially women, to experience deerstalking.
My introduction to deerstalking started with an informative briefing by Kenneth about rifle safety, shot placement and stalking techniques. 
I have shot game and clays with my Beretta shotgun, but have never used a rifle. Time flew during the morning briefing in the Venator office in Perth; we had lunch then we drove to the rifle range on farmland towards Crieff.
Kenneth set up the rifle and talked about shooting and the importance of calm and steady breathing. I couldn’t wait to shoot with the rifle, I don’t know why, but I have always enjoyed target based sports and activities; I still have my catapult from years ago.
With the target in place, I got myself into the prone position on a mat in the long grass with Kenneth’s Tikka T3 .243 rifle with Zeiss Diavari 3-12x56 scope. 
The rifle was fitted with a GRS stock; it is an adjustable stock that can be altered to fit. I was pleased about this because I understand the importance of gun fit from my lessons with Iain MacGregor, the professional shotgun coach.
Everyone is a different shape and what fits one person isn’t likely to fit the next person unless you are an identical twin. 
The GRS stock was adjusted to fit me, its comfortable position boosted my confidence, and I relished a new shooting challenge.
I settled myself in, took my time, and remained calm as I slowed my breathing down with deep breaths. As I focused, I emptied the air from my lungs and squeezed my first shot. It felt great!
It was a nine at 80 metres followed by a great three-shot grouping. I shot off sticks at 103 metres, and, then again, in the prone position. I felt pleased with my shooting; it’s a more intense process than shotgun shooting as there are additional factors to consider and, safety is paramount at all times.
Getting yourself into a focused and calm zone to shoot and following through by shooting well gave me an incredible sense of achievement. Kenneth was a great coach, he was calm and gave lots of well-timed advice. I know from experience this makes a huge difference to your ability to take on new information and understand it.
We packed our stuff back into the Land Rover and, as we drove away from the range on the dusty farm track, we saw an old buck chasing a young buck out from the woodland and across the open fields. Kenneth said: “We need to set a date for your live stalk.”
Two weeks later, it was 03:30am when Kenneth and I travelled to the Abercairny Estate, 16 miles west of Perth. The beautiful estate, with a mixture of arable and mature woodland, provides a prime habitat for Roe deer. The light from the morning sky was good as we drove into the estate; we passed through thick forests before parking up close to a large potato field. We quietly left the vehicle, taking the rifle, shooting sticks, my camera (I find it impossible to go anywhere without it) and stalked down a track.
The trees and hedgerow provided us with cover as we looked through our binoculars over the fields and woodland edges for signs of deer. The birds were singing, and three Hares hopped around the field but no deer. 
After a while, we backtracked and headed west towards a large open area of old game cover crop. And there, browsing in the cover crop, were two bucks. 
We stalked in closer, crouching down and using the tall grass for cover. We selected the bigger of the two. Quickly and quietly, I set up the Tikka T3 .243 rifle on the sticks approximately 90 metres from the deer. 
As I steadied myself by taking slow, deep breaths, I was telling myself, ‘Focus, this is it!’
I looked through the Zeiss Scope, watching and waiting for the buck to move. Slowly, it turned full broadside, Kenneth whispered: ‘Take the shot.” 
I calmly exhaled, held my breath and squeezed the trigger. The buck jumped up, ran a few metres then dropped down. I reloaded, watched and waited. Ten minutes passed.
We walked over to the buck, Kenneth touched the eyeball with his stick before pulling the beast out from the tall nettles. 
As a mark of respect, I picked some nearby leaves and placed them in the buck’s mouth, we took our hats off, and Kenneth and I shook hands.
It was a perfect cull buck as the antlers were deformed and pointy; this would have caused severe damage to others in a fight. It was had been a healthy beast but not as big as some I have seen. As Kenneth gralloched the deer, the midges started to bite, and it began to rain. Our timing had been perfect.
The venison has been stored in the freezer or eaten, and Kenneth cleaned and mounted the head for me. It was an honour to stalk my first Roebuck, and I shall be out again soon.