On Thursday morning I set off with my good friend Lee for the 400 mile trip to meet Colin (Solwaystalker) for a spot of Wild Goat stalking. We arrived in New Abbey by 7pm and checked in to the hotel. Shortly Colin arrived as he had been watching out for my car and after introductions we made a plan for the morning. Colin had invited us to join him checking the Salmon nets prior to the Goat stalking, so with alarms set for 4.15 am we headed off to bed.
All too soon my alarm was blaring; we collected our waders and met Colin out front. A short car journey later we arrived at the waterfront and loaded onto Colin`s quad. We headed down to the beach where the nets start and watched through the gloom as the tide retreated sufficiently to make a start. Unfortunately the nets held no Salmon that morning but it was an interesting experience all the same.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed a cooked breakfast and quickly changed clothes before starting the drive to the estate. Colin was able to show us a small amount of his Roe and Boar ground on the drive there. We arrived at the estate office by 9.00am and were introduced to the head stalker John.
We discussed the plan for the day and where the goats were likely to be. Colin explained to John how I was after a trophy for the wall and Lee was happy with a cull animal. John checked with us that both rifles were zeroed and we departed in two estate vehicles. A short drive later we were within a few hundred yards of the hill fence.
As we decamped and sorted our kit Colin and John were already glassing the hill sides. We made off toward the fence stopping to glass as new ground became visible. I was secretly hoping not to spot anything at this lower level as the mountain tops were shrouded in cloud and I had promised my children a picture from the very top. As no goats were showing we split up, Colin taking Lee to the left of the hill and John would guide me to where he expected the bigger boys would be.
At this point I quickly realised that John was a far fitter man than me! I felt as though I was jogging to keep step with him over the tussocky lower ground. We made quick progress stopping to glass into folds and valleys as they opened up. Looking back we could make out the two tiny figures of Lee and Colin disappearing over the opposite end of the hills.
John must have realised that I was finding the climb tough, he stopped at a good vantage point allowing me to catch my breath, he wasn`t even breathing heavily! Up we went again with some sections being a scrabble using both hands to grab at the heather and haul ourselves upward. We reached a kind of rolling plateau roughly half way up and cautiously we crawled to the edge of a crag and glassed over this rolling foreground and up the mountain face above to the peaks. John stopped glassing and lent over to me saying “there they are”, he motioned toward the very top of a saddle between two peaks. Sure enough about twenty goats of various sizes were grazing away fairly well spaced out across the hill top.
We watched for about five minutes before John spoke again saying that there was one particularly good Billy at the far side of the group. As I focused in on this animal I could see he was big but at 1500 yards he looked like a speck of grey with long curving horns. At this point two more big Billies came over the top of the ridge and joined the group. John explained to me that this would not be an easy stalk, the goats lower on the face would spot us if we attempted to go straight at them. There was a crag within shooting distance of the big Billy but it would necessitate climbing above the group and coming over the hill to them. Now the tough work started, using every possible fold and outcrop we stalked upward to the very peak of the mountain. Suddenly there was movement thirty yards in front. A Grouse silhouetted on the skyline, she looked at us for a few minutes before deciding we didn`t belong there and silently skulked away into the heather.
Our stalk resumed. Coming to another good vantage point we watched the goats again from 900 yards out. Now I could really see each animal clearly. The Billy we had selected was head and shoulders bigger than the others. He was repeatedly chasing a small Billy away from a nanny and then lying down next to her until his rival came back forcing him to stand and chase once more. As we watched we could clearly see that he had a limp and was struggling to stay on his feet. This confirmed the decision to take him out.
We had a brief conversation and John said this would now be very tricky, the wind was swirling and our previous plan was going to put the wind on our backs for the final approach. The only option now was to make quick progress over two hundred yards whilst in full view and just hope we weren’t spotted. I followed John closely as we half stooped round the face of the mountain. The lower goats had noticed us and were bunching up with the main group. All of a sudden we dropped into small ravine and out of sight. John led me up onto the ridge and in behind a large crag. He now instructed me that the Billy would be within shot from the very top and I should crawl forward for the shot as he watched from my right. I made my way forward on my belly until I could clearly see the big boy and his companions closely grouped at about 180 yards distance.
The quick approach had me puffing hard so I forced my breathing to steady and put the cross hairs onto the big grey Billy. He was lying down with two others behind him, I waited. The rival Billy approached and he stood to meet it, still no shot. He lay down again; this went on for what seemed like ages. Eventually he stood again and took half a step forward clearing the other goats behind. I gave a 2” allowance for the wind and squeezed the trigger. The shot thumped off but I heard no strike and the goat had not reacted! I turned to John and said “Did I miss?” he said “no you got him, I heard a good strike”. I was back on him now as he was trotting away with the rest of the group; no follow up shot was possible so I waited. They stopped after 40 yards to look back at the source of the noise and then I saw him wobble. Looking pretty sick he eventually threw his head back and collapsed.
John came over to me and shook my hand. We watched as the remaining goats milled around the fallen Billy and I was able to take a picture before they departed over the hill.
We approached my beast and John checked him for a reaction... nothing. Another hand shake and many thanks on my part. We dragged the animal lower off the mountain top and took some pictures before caping him and hiding the carcass out of site of any hill walkers.
The journey down was significantly easier and quicker although by this point the sun was beating down and we were both sweating profusely. Back at base we met up with Colin and Lee who had also killed on the other hill. We swapped stories and congratulations before loading the car with the pungent trophy and heading back to New Abbey for a shower and a few drinks (we actually managed to drink the pub dry!).
To say I was happy with the day would be an understatement. It was exactly what I had hoped for and more. I can`t thank Colin and John enough for their efforts, they went the extra mile to see we had a great time. Needless to say we`ll be back Colin!