Having realised that I would be going to Scotland the first week in Ocotber the opportunity of a stag crossed my mind. Unfortunately most of the names of stalkers I was given were already booked but thanks to Colin (solwaystalker) I was given Kiri as a contact. Kiri runs a sporting agency called athina sporting. After a couple of emails and texts we had a chat and sorted a date for the 9th October.
Running up to the 9th the weather had been fairly dry with a band of rain coming across 4 days before. The day before had been almost subtropical with glorious sunshine.
We aranged to meet at 05.30 and get up to the stalking grounds before first light. That day the rain gods had woke up and as my Scotish grandmother would say the weather was "Dreich". There was little wind but a constant wet mist swirled around interspersed by showers of rain. Unperturbed we headed off and after a 3km walk reached a basin where we hoped to find a stag. As the light improved we spied a small group of hinds in the middle who was being attended by a small stag. Kiri gave a roar to attract his attention at which point he ran back into the woods very quickly!
The day before Kiri had seen a massive stag on a bluff above the woods and the theory was that this stag was giving everything else a pasting hence the reason for the behaviour of the small stag. We continued to stalk seeing nothing until we started to hear a roar across the valley and behind us. The roar across the valley Kiri reconed was from the big stag but the one behind us was different. After a few answers we sat tight. This roar stopped so after about 40 mins we decided to call it a morning and return to base. As we got up Kiri spotted behind us a big stag looking straight at us 150m away. I ready the rifle but only had a straight on shot so waited for a broad side to present. After about 2 minutes the stag moved to his right but down behind a knoll and into the wood. My heart sank. On the way back I explained I was worried that a front in shot would have burst the Rumen and not been good but Kiri explanned that on such big stags this is less likely to happen so I would have been good to go. I felt bad that I had not asked if this was ok as I would have grassed a cracking stag but such is stalking and I have always held by the premis that if I was not 100% sure don't shoot. Once back at the cars we realised that the answering roar had been one of the other stalkers Griff who had been staking behind us!! After a coffee we hatched a plan for the after noon - we would go after the big one! This was an all or nothing stalk involving a 9 km walk in and out across Scotish tussock grass, heath and bogs which may be fruitless but after the mornings disappointment I was up for it.
we met at 14.00 and walked for 2 hours in foul weather interspersed with almost sunshine. Steady we climbed onto the bluff above the woodland where we thought the big boy was. As we descended I called to Kiri as two hinds popped out of the wood. We hit the deck quickly and slowly crawled into a good vantage point. The hinds were still there and seemed not to have seen us. We waited, it rained heavily and I started to feel the cold. Walking had put a sweat on and this was now cooling down. I had a merino base layer so as long as the wind kept out it would work like a wet suit and keep me warmish. After about 30 mins a few more hinds came out and then a huge stag showed itself and started calling. He came out onto the heath land above the wood and this was our chance. We had put a pack on the rock above us as a rifle rest but when I put the rifle up could not get into position as I'm a lefty so we had to reposition. In all of this I think the stag spotted us and slipped back into the wood. I was gutted two stags waisted my heart was very heavy. More waiting and I spotted another group of hinds coming out of the wood, surely he would not leave them unattended and sure enough after about 10 mins he came out. Kiri ranged it at 280m and out came strelok and the drop and windage calculated for the 140gr 6.5 x55 bullet. We had a quick chat as to where to hit this animal and decided on just behind the shoulder at about 2 o'clock. The drop being 7" and windage about the same. Onto the firing point and the wait started. It was probably about 5 mins but it felt like an hour. Here in front of me was was without doubt the biggest stag of my life. I guessed it was 11 points but that underestimated its size. It dwarfed all of the hinds making them look like roe deer! Eventually he turned, I checked with Kiri I could shoot at will, flicked the safety off, chose the aim point, took a deep breath in and as I exhaed gently pulled the trigger. I saw the strike of the bullet and the deer drop before the muzzle flipped. Quickly I re chambered anothe round and looked to where I had shot him but he had gone! I looked up and saw him running away then fall to the ground 100m away. I had shot my first Scotish stag. Hand shakes all round we approached the beast and saw it was in fact a royal more hand shakes I was not cold now!! The field gralloched confirmed a top of the heart shot -good old strelok it has not let me down yet.
The story doesn't end there as Kiri and myself could not move this beast it was too massive but as I was leaving for Cornwall the next day I really wanted the head. We removed this and started the long walk back. It started to get dark and the walk back was without doubt horrible. Kiri was a star and without him I would not have a head to boil out today. We arrived back at 20.30 hrs exhausted, wet and absutely filthy. We had gone through bogs going up to mid thigh on many times and looked a real state but I had a Scotish stag and a day to remember all my life.
So what did I learn? Firstly the Kiri is a top bloke and I cannot praise him highly enough and would recommend him to anyone. Secondly communication is a great thing, if I had spoken on the firing point of that first stag I could have had two or missed the oportunity of the only one. Thirdly you need to be fit and well equipted for all weathers. That being said over all what I have learnt is that Scotish stags shooting is in a place on its own and an experience I will never forget.
thanks once again to Kiri for a great day and a great memory.
I will put some images up when I work out how to up load them.