As the title suggests I have found myself guilty of this behaviour last week. I know it is bad form to rant on about ones good luck but I feel I must. A week last Thursday my stalking buddy and I were to set of from the Midlands bound for Argyll. The plan was to do some work in the morning and meet up at my house for around 2 pm. It's at least an 8 hour drive for us so arrival should be about 10pm or a little later if stopping for a spot to eat. Well that didn't happen as there's always too much work to do. 6:30pm saw us leave and with a non stop drive (apart from picking up fish and chips while letting the dogs out for a pee and a drink) we arrived at the caravan for just after 2am.
A few hours later the alarm went off (8am) we got ready to continue the drive up to The Isle of Skye. I had visited the Island and the ground a couple of weeks earlier on a holiday to the Western Isles. It is an amazing place with the foreboding background of the Black Cuillins directly behind the forest. The jagged tops and grey scree slopes adding to the dramatic feeling they place you under.
My mate had never been and was looking forward too seeing the ground and surroundings. Unfortunately the weather was against us and a low mist hung over the hills just touching the tops of the trees. So no mountain tops on view the first day. After checking in to the digs and a well need cup of tea, we cracked on to the ground to get our first stalk in. After getting the quad stuck within 200 yards of the gate we decided to just get it out and park up in cover should we need it for extraction.
With both of us going off for a stalk we decided to stay reasonably close to each other and the route out as time was against us due to the drive up taking longer than expected. Some deer were seen and even a stag, but at over 300 yds and no cover it walked off to see another day. I had been looking forward to hearing the much talked about "roaring", but none were playing the game and we went back to the pub for food and a beer.
The next morning saw an improvement in the weather however conditions under foot were very wet. This time we split up to explore more of the ground. We both put a fair old stalk in covering alot of ground. Roaring was to be heard on occasion but in the distance on the hill and nothing close which we could stalk into. Again deer were seen and I was lucky enough to see a stag but not for long enough to get the rifle off my shoulder. I've got to admit I was disappointed not to have got one down, but the day was young and with deer moving around the wood there was still the chance of being in the right place later on.
Now I consider myself pretty good at stalking into animals that I can see, but find more often in woodland stalking that I just stalk all the time and hope to walk onto deer or have them walk into me. The amount of luck needed to be in the right place at the right time and then be able to finish the rest has to be nearly as much as winning at bingo. With the Stags following Hinds around and the wood being of thick conifer the only real place to shoot deer is in the rides and out on the fringes. So my aim was to see as much of the rides and clearings as possible to see if Stags were holding any Hinds.
Again we both put in plenty of leg work trying to find areas showing good signs of deer. At the end of the morning we had both found areas we wanted to return to that evening as our last chance to try and get an Island Stag. Unfortunately we were not able to stalk the following day as some other lads were coming up for a morning stalk. To be honest we wished we had booked more time on the ground as we just hadn't had time to get to grips with things.
Late afternoon saw us out again. I jumped out the motor early and set off to my intended area. However fairly early on in the stalk I spotted a stag out in the open. There was no cover to be had other than the heather and grass, so an unusual situation for me. I had to get down in the wet and crawl in to make up the gap. It was only a spiker ,but with a good size body and it was there. So the stalk was on. The dog and I crawled closer over the next 10 minutes, looking up to see the stag still feeding unaware of our closing position. At 260yds the ground banked down to the animal and I thought the chance of getting closer was slim. So I contemplated taking the shot from a good rest on my bag atop a moss covered rock.
As a woodland stalker most of the deer I take are within 100yds and I'll admit I've never shot a deer further than 160yds before. So it was with a little apprehension I set up for the shot. I had already tested my ammo and knew drops out to 300yds. I had time to compose myself and be sure of the drops etc, so decided to hit the animal square in the shoulder, as I didn't want him running deep into the thick cover. Waiting for the animal to turn a little I let the rifle bark, I saw the strike and the animal dropped on the spot. Covering the animal for a few minutes both I and the dog were keen to go and look. On moving closer I could see movement so kept the rifle ready. At 20 yds I could see the animal was still alive so put an end to its movement with a head shot. On inspection I had hit the shoulder and the bullet had passed through exiting in front of the off side shoulder and paralysing the beast.
The animal was of no trophy quality but to me that was of little importance. I stood there with the mountains in the background, a successful stalk in absolutely stunning scenery. I felt great, and privileged to have the chance to create such great memories. Only a few years ago I had never stalked a deer and had though it something I'd never be in the position to do. And now here I was in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, towered over by some of the most dramatic mountains the UK has to offer with a Red deer on the floor and my little dog sat aside me. I was stoked. I decided to just take the rest of the evening in and wasn't concerned with looking for another animal. Although if one had stuck it's head up that would have changed things.
Unfortunately my mate didn't see a thing and had to console himself with helping me drag my deer to the edge of the moor. We did this and then sat there in the dark with the stars above us listening to the few stags around us roaring in the distance. A truly memorable experience.
The following morning we were to go and retrieve the deer after the other lads had finished. On the way up the wood we bumped into the well know Byron Pace who was taking pictures of the clouds lifting from above "my" wood. We had a little chat and discussed what had been seen and shot over the last few days.
The other lads had managed to catch up with a pricket and were then on the way home. Fortunately for them they live 450 miles closer than I do.
So with a little disappointment that the trip to Skye was almost over we set off on the drive back to Argyll. The drive was fantastic with the sun out and the trees looking fantastic in their Autumn colours. We mulled over the stalking and talked about the days ahead. As the tile suggests there were to be many more days of stalking as we had booked a full week of it.
That write up will have to come later as it's getting near my be time. I'll add some pictures to help set the mood.
So for those of you who have been out and managed to get your stag this year I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have, and for those of you who haven't well "Tuff luck". No I really mean better luck next time, but hope you enjoyed your time up in the Highlands. It really is great to be out there in the trees watching and learning and just having the chance. Happy hunting.