Prym1 camo test - Spring roe stalk
- Credit: Archant
Rifle Shooter magazine tests the amazing new Seeland Hawker Prym1 camouflage clothing to the limit with some up close action on spring roe bucks
As we settle into the high seat, a compact Thetford, deep in a forestry clearing, the sonic assault is spectacular. The birdsong is so loud, so diverse, as to be almost overwhelming. Finches flit through the branches nearby, while a woodcock croaks past on his morning patrol of his territory. The ride in front glistens with frost and the first blushing fingers of dawn creep through the canopy, driving the fog of sleep from my bleary brain. There are countless reasons why I love stalking, but to be in beautiful English woodland as a late spring dawn breaks is definitely right up there.
We are in Hampshire, mid May, with Seeland and a select group of partners to put to the test their all-new range of camouflage clothing in the striking Prym1 Woodlands pattern. We've seen (and worn) plenty of Prym1 gear in the past couple of years, but Seeland are the first manufactuer to bring it to the UK market. You can read more about the back story later in the article, but the essence of the pattern is to use organic shapes, stippling and blending to aid dynamic hunting - disguising movement and allowing you to get close to your quarry.
Given the kind of action served up by woodland roe stalking, we are sure to put that to the test! Hosted by the guides at Cervus UK, we are after roe bucks. There are plenty of good trophies on the ground, but this is also about the cull - and helping to ensure we grass the right bucks, not just any old buck, is part of the management strategy that ensures quality hunting for future seasons and keeps the correct balance of beasts for the environment.
As the dawn chorus subsides, a pair of young does emerges almost at our feet, and they browse away at some fresh young growth, oblivious to our presence. It is always great to watch deer doing their thing at such close quarters and we watch with pleasure as they work their way across to cover and disappear among the trees.
With the sun rising and the air warming, we switch to a different block of woodland and carefully foot stalk our way along a forestry track when we spot a nice six pointer, walking his boundaries about 100 yards away. The understory is pretty dense and we parallel his path, stopping where we think there is a clear shot. Twice the foliage is against us, but third time lucky, we spot a small gap through to the buck's path and set up an ambush. For some reason, I decided to leave my own quad sticks at the hotel and have borrowed a double stick from my obliging guide. I'm not one for making excuses (he says, making an excuse) but having broken my hand a couple of days before the event, I am really struggling to get comfortable on the rifle and I fluff my opportunity. The buck, oblivious, continues his rounds… Nevermind, there are more outings to look forward to.
I have had the pleasure of stalking roe, muntjac and fallow on this estate with the Cervus team over the past half dozen years and know that the animals are very well managed and numerous. That evening, I join guide Pete on a familiar part of the estate. There are quite a few people out on the footpaths enjoying the late evening warmth - walking their dogs, hiking, even the odd horse rider. As always, some are sticking to the paths, others have their own agenda.
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It is part and parcel of the stalker's lot and we take our time, waiting for the human activity to subside. Pete takes us up a steep climb through some young planting that seems like deer heaven. He took a nice buck with a German guest that morning from this block and knows that there is at least one more in the area… but not tonight.
The elevation gives us a great vista and the chance to glass a wide area. We spot a good buck several hundred yards away but close to where another guide is due to sit out, so we leave him be and move on along the field edges.
We've stalked through woodland and scrub, along field edges and downland, and nowhere does the Prym1 Woodlands pattern look out of place. That's a real plus for those that hunt in diverse environments and shows the versatility of the design. In dusky gloom, dappled shade or bright sunlight… it works. And if I want a nod of approval from Mother Nature, well here it is. We are literally surrounded by deer: some less than 60 yards away, and all happily ignoring us.
Pete has taken us to a valley with a large block of forestry to our right, some scrubby regen in front and more woodland on the horizon to the left. We use a thick hedgerow to creep halfway down the slope and tuck in to the edge of it.
There is a doe and three youngsters grazing in the field we are standing in. Another doe grazes on the far bank. A young fallow is steadily picking its way from the hill top opposite and a muntjac is emerging from the forestry on the left.
We take some snaps and kill time, constantly glassing the ground ahead in search of a buck. As the light begins to fade, Pete taps me on the shoulder. "I don't mean to panic you," he whispers, "but a buck is sneaking in behind us."
I slowly turn and, pushing the camo's credentials a bit further, sneak forward another 20 yards to improve my angles and backstops. For what feels like an age, the buck stays high on the horizon, skylined and safe.
I'm not worried about the light just yet: the ground is open, and the Leupold VX-6 HD optic gives a fantastically bright image. In fact, with the nearly full moon, there would probably be enough light to still take a shot at midnight!
Eventually, the buck, a four pointer still clinging to the last of its velvet, makes a bad decision and wanders down the slope, giving me a safe background. He pauses to look back up the hill and I check that Pete is happy for me to take the shot before placing the Leupold's red dot behind the shoulder and squeezing off 165 grains of Hornady's finest.
The buck reacts well, runs 20 yards and drops. Dan the cameraman takes a few snaps in the last of the light and then we begin the long walk back to fetch the truck.
By the time we are done at the larder and join the rest of our hunting group it is 10.30pm and the rest of them have been busy scoffing delicious grub prepped by top game chef Pascal Proyart. We scrounge what we can and head off for a couple of hours kip.
We are out again by 4am the following morning and again have the pleasure of some close quarters encounters with a number of deer. Frustratingly, the best chance we have at a suitable buck is disturbed by a pack of joggers whose multi-coloured progress through the woods proves too much for our deer. We had worked our way to within 40 yards, and were just trying to pick a gap through the branches when the deer spooks, and moments later we realise why.
That, it turns out, is my last chance of the event and it is time to return to the larder for group photos and goodbyes. There has been great success all round. Every hunter has grassed a roe buck - and a few have added a munty or two as well. There are some nice trophies among the tableau, and several cull animals.
Hunters and guides alike are happy as tales are told and the last few frames of photography secured for our articles. For me, it's time to head back to the office and hit the keyboard. For the guides, it's time for a quick nap before the next group of eager hunters arrives for their dose of buck fever.
All the gear…
Stacie Walker, the creator of Prym1 has been a lifelong hunter and also spent many years as a wildlife artist. Those years studying nature in detail and being inspired by artistic techniques such as pointillism have given birth to a unique camouflage design.
Like the spots on a big cat, tThe stippling effect works not only to break up your shape while stationary, but also while in a dynamic hunting scenario, like the spots on a big cat.
It is also designed to be effective in a variety of different lighting environments, from full sun to dappled shade. So whenever, wherever, or however you choose to hunt, you'll have a pattern you can rely upon. As the Prym1 team say: don't be the tree… be the predator!
The Prym1 Woodlands pattern has been applied here to the excellent Hawker suit from Seeland. I utilised the Shell jacket and trouser combination and found it to be extremely comfortable and adaptable. As is often the case in spring time, the weather was wildly variable - from sub zero in the early dawn while sitting in the highseat, to over 20°C when at the range and doing product demos.
The Hawker, with its waterproof and breathable flexible 3-layer fabric coped admirably with the extremes - it was warm, quiet and well designed for the hunter. The waffle pattern on the lining helps to dissipate moisture and aid cooling, while the ventilation zips were particularly useful during the warm middle of the day or when hiking.
The fabric is quiet and the slight stretch from the addition of Spandex to the fabric blend meant that active hunting, climbing high seats, crawling and crouching were uninhibited. All the garments feature YKK waterproof zips on well-sited and generously proportioned pockets.
This suit is very competitively priced, too, with the jacket coming in at under £150 and the trousers at under £110 RRP. I have used plenty of Seeland gear over the years and have always been impressed by the performance per pound ratio.
There are a load of accessories, too - from veils and balaclavas to gloves, all featuring scent blocking technology to minimise the risk of disturbing your quarry.
For more information visit: en.seeland.com
We used Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide binoculars in a 10x32 application. These were small enough to fit in a pocket, and light enough to wear all day long. I was pleasantly surprised by the image brightness at both first and last light.
On the rifles we used a VX-6 HD 2-12x42 scope. I am a big fan of lighter, more compact scopes - especially for woodland stalking. The magnification range would suit everything from a driven hunt to shooting at extended range and I was very impressed by the light gathering capability. The VX-6 HD has the latest Twighlight Max HD lens coatings and you certainly didn't feel like you needed a 50 or 56mm objective, even at last knockings.
The scope is fitted with a simple illuminated reticle, nice and fine, and the latest CDS-ZL2 ballistic turret with zero lock. For the guys pushing longer distances at the range, these proved their worth. The aluminium lens covers were also a nice touch and easy to operate quietly with gloved hands.
What more can we say about the Sauer 404? From the clever modular design to the brilliant, fully adjustable trigger mechanism, it screams German engineering quality. My test gun had the well-shaped Synchro thumbhole stock that gives a really nice comfortable wrist position, while the adjustable cheekpiece gives ideal head alignment and comfort.
This time it was looking even more striking in the Prym1 camo colourway and as always, delivered great accuracy and consistency on the range and fantastic safety and reliable performance in the field. You know that if you do your bit, the rifle will do the hard work.
For hunting we were using the 165gr SST Superformance, chambered in .308. I have hunted with Hornady ammunition for many years - including the SST
This bullet features the Super Shock Tip which was introduced back in 1998 as further development of Hornady's legendary InterLock bullet. The line was updated again in 2010 with what Hornady calls its 'Superformance Technology'. This increased speed by between 100-200fps making it one of the most potent and versatile 308 rounds on the market.
Processing the deer I shoot for the table is a massive part of why I hunt. Wild food has always featured on the Holtam dinner table ever since I can remember - from trout cooked on the bankside to warming winter stews made with local game, from cockles raked on the Lincolnshire coast to mushrooms foraged from the local golf course.
I have smoked and cured my own boar and venison, made sausages and pates. Then yoi meet somebody like Pascal Proyart and realise you've been wasting your life!
Chef Pascal has a lifetime of cooking under his belt. From working in not one but two restaurants with two Michelin stars to running One-O-One, rated as one of London's finest fish restaurants.
These days he freelances, working for events and shoots as well as private customers, showcasing wild and seasonal food wherever possible.
His passion for hunting and for cooking wild game combines perfectly and he demonstrated an array of delicious dishes from his cook book - La Chasse et La Cuisine.
Dishes created al fresco included sushi style venison (cured muntjac on truffle infused sushi rice with wild garlic mayo), partridge stuffed with venison filet and fois gras and new season asparagus and my favourite of all: muntjac tartare, served on grilled bread, with pickled wild mushrooms, a hard-boiled quail's egg and wild garlic salt. Divine!
WMS Firearms Training
Andrew Venables, former Rifle Shooter contrib and head honcho at WMS in North Wales was on hand to run training sessions on the range.
Sadly my recently broken hand put paid to excess shooting, but I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of Andrew's wisdom and training advice on a number of occasions. Here he focused on, among other things, using quad sticks with the correct technique and at practising at extended ranges to make closer shots more of a formality.
Another Rifle Shooter regular, Owen Beardsmore and his band of professional guides were our hunting hosts on a fabulous swathe of rural Hampshire. As you'll no doubt already know the company has access to fantastic roe and muntjac stalking in a number of areas in the UK - not to mention all the other UK deer species during their relative seasons.
If you want to find out more about the kind of hunting on offer from Cervus UK, or to book your hunt, visit www.