Earlier, on all the fishing forums i wrote up a wee story about my first stag, and i will post it later once i have finished mounting it. This one, my second, is finished now so i thought i would add it now, it was a superb day out and writing it up gives me great memories of the day. I am lucky enough to have lots of Roe shooting, and have the odd red visit our grounds, but we have never had a red on our own grounds.
I enjoyed my day on Ben Loyal last month I had a real hankering to have another go at the reds, so called Simon Blackett factor of Invercauld and organised a day for myself, Invercauld is far closer to home and I am really keen to get out and stalk reds more regularly. He had a day available, a Thursday, and this meant changing quite a bit of my work round, (sorry of your waders were delayed) but I was so keen nothing was going to stop me.
I was to shoot the Baddoch beat, with stalker Colin and ghillie Davie. But the forecast was terrible, high winds, fog and rain all day. Even this however would not put me off, I packed the landy with spare clothes, double checked everything and then left Aberdeen at 0700, this would allow me to stop on upper Deeside at about 0830 and send a couple of emails and the like, the meet time was 0900, but crossing Aberdeen at that time of the morning it not the best and I wanted a relaxing run.
On arriving at the designated meeting point, I met Colin and Davie, and we hit it off straight away, they were both fun characters, and I knew I would be in for a good day. As usual we had a quick zero check, and the rifle was fine, 1 inch high at 100mtr, perhaps a tiny bit to the right, ¼ inch but not worth adjusting, Colin was happy so good enough for me! It was very windy but I will be checking it next week.
He headed of up the Baddoch, with the lads regaling me with stories of recent stalks, and the like, and I was amazed at how the pair of them were spotting the deer so easily. I am normally good at it but these two were in a different league, seeing many, many deer on the sheltered areas, as the wind was really going to affect things when we started on the hill. They had spotted two small groups of very shootable stags, in areas where a stalk would be possible in the conditions and then they discussed how we were to actually do the stalk, and it was decided to go over the hill, and come in from above them. We drove round the back of the hill and again there were loads of deer about, including a herd of some 100+. Colin’s plan was to head over the hill first, and if this did not work out well we could then work up higher still to look at this larger group.
Davie loaded us up into the Argo, and then drove us up the hill. I am always amazed by these vehicles, they are brilliant, really efficient. He took us perhaps a third of the way up the hill and then we carried on on foot, tough going as it was so steep, but we took a couple of rests and were soon on the top. I would like to report the stunning view, but the fog and drizzle spoilt it, and the wind was wild.
We slowly stalked over the hill top, and were discussing roe deer. Colin was telling me there were good numbers up there, and just as he said it a buck went charging off down the hill, in the general direction of our reds, this was not ideal I was informed! Colin radioed Davie, who was waiting at the bottom of the hill and he confirmed that the reds had moved off, not panicked but were moving, and he thought they may go right over to join the others on the other side of the hill. We headed along the ridge to see if we could intercept them and quickly found a small herd of hinds, so scanned the hill to see if there were any stags hanging around them. Alas there were only a couple of small stags and these were not what Colin had in mind for me, so it was back up the hill into the mist and rain to go for the big herd. Again it was tough going and now we were both totally soaked. I was quite happy, this was exciting and we were off on another stalk. But I felt for Colin, it was a days work for him and it must be tough in these conditions. We were chatting away and I was telling him I understood what it was like working in poor conditions, as a dive instructor years ago. He was however really quite happy he told me, and was still very confident we would take a stag. I must say I was impressed with his professionalism on such a poor day, and we laughed away as we worked up the mountain again. We slowed down at the top in very poor conditions and to get our bearings. It was difficult as the viz was only 50 mtrs.
Suddenly Colin stopped and signalled for me to very slowly bend down. A couple of hinds had spotted us, in the poor vis they were aware of something, but had not really seen us properly. We were pinned down in open ground, in the rain, and had to just stop and wait until they lost interest in us. This took perhaps 20 minutes. Colin radioed Davie, to see where the main herd was and they were just in front of us, down the hill. There was perhaps 300 of them including some royal stags and good numbers of shootable stags. Davie could see clearly down below us, but thankfully the mist became even thicker, and this allowed us to escape the hinds view, we dropped back into a burn, and then quickly ascended to above the herd. I was shocked at the strong smell of deer in the air, as we passed down wind of the herd, perhaps 100mtr behind them to get above them. It was really strong and distinctive. Colin, like all stalkers is really fit, and was pulling away from me, I guess the thrill of the hunt was kicking in and he had to wait for me to catch up. He then told me the plan, the deer were finally below us, heading into the wind and we were well above and slightly in front of them, but they would not wind us as we were well above them. Colin prepared the rifle, got it onto the bipod just as the first deer started to appear round a knoll below us. It was a huge herd, and I quickly got into position, with the scope zoomed into the first animals. Colin was describing the beast to shoot, 6-8 from the front, a real dark animal, head down browsing, could I see him. I said has he just raised his head and Colin said that’s him, shoot when you are ready. He said the shot was clear (I had ripped a couple of strands of grass away from in front of the rifle) and that no deer were behind it. He then said take it quickly, the hinds were onto us! I shot straight away, and saw the impact of the .243 hit the deer’s chest. The deer all ran down the hill, including my one, though it stopped after perhaps 30 yards and swayed for a second or two, before running down the hill another 20 yards or so. Colin said the shot was good, the deer was dead but he did not want to let it get to much further away, as the ground they were heading for would have been really difficult to recover it from. He quickly told me to shoot it again, to stop it. Luckily I was tracking it with the scope, as it was moving really slowly now, and as soon as he said shoot it I let another one fly. This time it went straight down.
I apologised to Colin for fluffing the shot, he offered out his hand, and said the shot was fine, he saw the impact, and was confident it was good. The herd now took off down the hill, hundreds of them, heading straight for the landrover and Argo, where Davie was waiting. They must have been within 20 yards of the landy when they stopped, confused as to what to do next. They then charged through the river and off up the other hill. Colin was pleased that were not leaving his beat, and told me they would be back in the same area tomorrow. It was an amazing sight, in what had suddenly turned into a sunny if windy afternoon, it was exactly 1300.
Colin again said it was a good clean shot, I thought to make me more happy, and I was really quite delighted, but wanted to see for myself. Colin thought we should take a range on the first and second shots. The first we reckoned was 140 – 160 mtr and the second 220 – 240. As we did this I saw Davie coming up the hill in the Argo, so off we went down the hill to recover the beast. On arrival I was stunned at the size and quality of the beast. It was huge, and had 9 points. Colin was delighted as it was quite switchy on one side, and he felt that it was an ideal animal to take, probably going back and past its best. He rolled the stag over and I was delighted to see the entry wounds of both my shots were just at the back of the foreleg, perhaps an inch high, and about 2 inches apart, both in line one above the other. Both were killing shots. Now I really was delighted! I could see what Colin meant about the animal moving much further, it was really steep and I would not have wanted to drag it through the land further down the hill.
It was a stunning day, I really enjoyed it and have to thank Simon, Colin and Davie for the day. I will certainly be back for more of that! The Stag was 14 stone in the larder and in superb condition, world class stalking!
The cape was not removed so i did not manage to get it mounted, but the final results are good and i am happy with it. I used an epoxy skull, it is quicker and easier than messing about with all that boiling and scraping.