Best fallow in 50 years

Paul Wilkes in "the cap"
Paul Wilkes in “the cap”

Paul Wilkes’ story as related by Marcus O’Dean

I feel privileged to know Paul Wilkes, a deerstalker of great pedigree and experience. 69 years young, Paul is fitter than many 21 year olds and has always walked when going after deer, whatever the species or circumstance. He and his close mate Peter Birchall, also an accomplished hunter have recently joined my service rifle club after years of fullbore target shooting. They like the fact that it is a more seat-of-the-pants type of target shooting that tests the shooter in field positions with rifles more akin to those you’d hunt with. They’ve both taken to shooting our rimfire service matches with relish, keen as teenagers to get as many rounds downrange as possible, the difference being that they make a vast majority of their rounds count.


Now the time had come just a few weeks back to do a fallow cull shoot in a particular NSW location and these boys were up for it, eager to improve the herd genetics, cull excess does and fill their freezers. Then on the first day of the hunt, when Paul was skirting a steep hillside, he paused to glass movement he detected in the distance. Focussing and scanning, Paul did the classic double take.


At 2.5km distant, he spied a cracker black fallow buck moving in and out of the scrubby treed area and feeding on what seemed the greenest feed in the area and distant from a small mob of does. With the prevailing air drainage in his face, his years of experience summed up the situation and a stalk plan presented. It was still early morning, Paul did not want to be above the buck as the air would still be drafting downhill, so he picked his way using all available cover to a position that gave him a good observation of the buck uphill at around 200 metres.


As luck would have it, the buck moved towards him and started to feed into the open at 150 metres above. As Paul was primarily there to cull, he was carrying his Tikka M55 in .243 Win., loaded with Hornady 95gn SSTs. He would need precise placement on a big fallow buck, which are infamous for taking off even when well hit, when adrenalin kicks in.


Not being comfortable resting against a tree fork, Paul slowly sat down and placed the rifle over his knee, being steady, took a deep breath and waited to take that crucial shot. Paul waited until the perfect shot presented, but a broadside was not in the offing. Steeply uphill, the buck was facing 45 degrees to the right, so the crosshairs came to rest just inboard of the front right shoulder, a handspan above the brisket. The bullet poleaxed the buck, taking out the top of the heart and the lungs. The hunter sat up, let out a sigh, lifted the bolt, unloaded and had a sip from his water bottle as the remainder of a nearby small mob of does took off up the hillside to safety.


Tikka .243 and fallow where he fell
Tikka .243 and fallow where he fell



Mentally marking the spot where the buck lay, Paul started the short climb up the steep sides of the hill to be with his prize in fairly short order. It was only once he was upon the dead buck that he realised that this was the best he had ever put on the deck. Mind you, he’d had an inkling. Paul stated that a hunter’s emotion kicked in for several seconds. Later confirmed by an official scorer, the black fallow buck ran to 253 2/8ths DS, definitely the best he had ever shot by some margin, but proof of Paul’s methods and experience.

The score
The score


Now Paul is a hunter, not a keen photographer, so he did not set up a trophy shot with himself beaming with the buck. Nevertheless, you get some idea of the magnificence of this animal from what is presented here.


Scroll forward a week and there’s a young man in our club who has caught the hunting bug and been out after deer without success until now. He was at the range and I introduced him to Paul. Then I witnessed him sharing his years of knowledge with Byron. It could be encapsulated by saying, ‚ÄúGet fit. Go slow, always into the wind, glass a lot, sit often and wait over likely spots. Learn and research your quarry’s habits. While your mates are sleeping, you get out and walk the hills in the pre-dawn dark, wait on first light and observe, and you will eventually be successful. The more you hunt and apply these lessons, the luckier you’ll be.‚Äù


He then entertained us with a vocal duel between two red stags, playing out first contact through to the stag coming in to the caller. It was great to see and hear, definitely the highlight of my day at the range.

Paul Wilkes - what a spread!
Paul Wilkes – what a spread!







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Marcus O'Dean