A trip up to Sutherland with Malcom and other very good friends.
We arrived up at Jayb`s at around 15.30 hrs on the Friday afternoon.
The welcome was fantastic with the offer from Sheila of a nice brew, chilli soup, homemade cinnamon buns and chocolate cake going down a real treat after 6 ½ hour journey.
After lots of chat and getting to know each other I arranged with John to meet up at his house on the Saturday afternoon to go stalking and with this we followed John and took off to meet up with our host for the whole occasion, the one and only Malcom.
Friday evening was spent chatting with the Fins and of course Mark, one of Malcoms stalkers who was helping with the clients, who by the way, was another great bloke.
Saturday afternoon came with me going on my way to meet up with Jayb with the offer of a stalk at his place. Down the hill we went onto his ground which he did with a little intrepidation as the ground was soaking and very muddy, but off we went down the hill in his trusty jeep. At the bottom I got loaded up and we headed toward a gate. “Just be a bit careful at the gate, as I have seen them stood in the field before and have been away with one after only 45 minutes”, Said Jayb.
As it happens there wasn`t one there, so we opened the gate carefully and walked across a little bridge into the field. We walked carefully across the field to a little dyke and stood there glassing the edge of a reservoir with Jayb trying out his call and telling me to keep a lookout for any heads popping up. After 10 minutes it was time to move on again but I could tell the dyke was going be a problem for John and said to him “you’re not going to get over there with your back are you John”?
“No, you get yourself off wadas, I will get over somehow” so with this I crossed it and stalked steadily across to the other side of the next field.
On getting there I heard a Sika whistle in the wood and with this I thought I would give it a whistle back just to see what might happen. Well, not 15 seconds later a nice Stag broke cover from 2 fields away and immediately started heading my way but just on the other side of a fence. I did lay down with the bipod at first as it looked like he was going run straight at me so the ground would have been the best place, but he didn`t, he went out in front but just to the side about 80 meters away and stood still. This was my opportunity, so I knelt down and took him free hand in what ended up being in the lungs. After hearing how strong Sika are it was a bit of a surprise to see him drop to the shot, but sure enough, that’s what he did, so that was that, I dragged him over to John with a smile on my face and did a gralloch. After a few photos we loaded said Sika into John’s jeep and drove of the land, back up the muddy hill. Now this was where it got a bit precarious as just near the top of the hill the tyres started to slip, I needn’t have worried, the old girl made it to the top after a couple of too and fros.
The whole stalk, on and off must have only lasted about 1 hour at the most.
Back to Johns for more tea and buns and grateful thanks and then I bid him and Sheila farewell until later in the week.
Back at the cottage I was greeted with, “well, how did you get on”,
“You had better come and look at this”, I said.
“Bloody hell wadas” said Malcom and the others “that’s a cracking beast”.
Yes it is, and as a result Malcom is going to shoulder mount it for me, as I think it deserves it. That was my first Sika and now completes the 6. I was really happy to hear that Phil, Smithy18 had got one too, what a great start to the week.
Sunday was a day of rest and also the day that the Fins went home. I have to say, they were a really good set of guys who were good at speaking English and also had a great sense of humour. In the afternoon we did a bit of recon on the ground and then just chilled out. Malcom spoke to legaleagle about mine and smithy’s deer and was bombarded with a barrage of expletives which wouldn’t be welcome on a family site like this, but It went something like, “Oh, that wadas I f****** knew it the jammy B******”,
“And Smithy’s got one too” said Malcolm.
“Oh, Fran, that jammy f***** Smithy’s got one as well”
I think he was ready to get on the next plane just so he could get up a.s.a.p to get with the action.
1 am Monday morning, Legal and Fran turned up. I didn`t actually hear them, which was a surprise because I seemed to be awake all night with Smithy`s snoring. This has happened to me before, now where was that? Aaahhh, on the Quex trip, remember that do you Stone.?
Sunday afternoon Davey the auction winner turned up and we hopefully made him feel welcome. He blended in really well from the start.
On the Monday morning Malcom took Davey stalking and got a Sika stag with him and asked me if I wouldn’t mind taking Legal out in the afternoon.
Up heartbreak ridge we went, with Fran in tow. This was always going to be a good bet at seeing something as we were seeing reds cross the ridge all the time we had been there.
We set off at about dinner time and at a steady pace we made our way from the bottom of a ravine. Not long into the stalk I spotted a group of reds lying up on a burnt heather patch sunning themselves. I had to glass for all us as legals binoculars were about as much use as a chocolate fireguard so he left them at the cottage.
After about a 2 hour stalk trying to get to within a sensible range legal shot his stag and was chuffed to bits. He did want to take another but my reasoning for not doing so would become apparent when we started the long drag down the ridge to the cottage.
One with Legal eagle and Fran
Back at the cottage and with legals stag safely hidden to be picked up later we saw the other 3, Malcom, Smithy and Davey heading back up onto the moor at the back of the cottage. I looked in my bins at them and saw they were dragging 2 red stags down so me and legal went to give them a hand only to find they had already dragged another down, making 3. Nice one lads.
Tuesday morning Malcom went out with Davey again with him getting another Sika and then Smithy coming back later also with another one, things were looking good.
I had a walk around with Smithy onto a regeneration area in the afternoon but didn’t see anything, but it was a real pleasure just being out in such a beautiful place seeing the hundreds of year old Caledonian pines forest.
Wednesday afternoon I legal and Fran went up heartbreak ridge again. At the top we had a good scout around but saw nothing. The sun was shining saw I took the opportunity took chill out for a while on the edge of a rock.
A jet went passed which got me looking round with the binoculars and ended up spotting 4 reds coming over the skyline from the neighbouring estate. They were in no particular rush to move until another group came over and started to push them on. I said to legal that we may get into these if we could time it just right. On they pushed eventually coming onto our side but near to the top side of the hillside. We headed to where we thought and got to with 150 meters. As it happens they kept moving so neither of us took a shot, never mind there would be other opportunities. Malcom took a Sika hind out of the forest within 30 minutes of being in there.
Back at the cottage and we bid farewell to Davey and wished him a safe journey home.
Thursday drew a blank with not much shooting going on but we had arranged to go out for a meal that evening with Jayb and Sheila. This evening was spent laughing and stuffing our faces with fine food and wine, although I chose lager.
Friday morning was spent in bed with just Smithy going out.
In the afternoon I put legals binoculars onto the edge of the moor behind the cottage and subsequently shot them to bits with my .270 which was fun, don’t worry, they were only 4 quid from ebay.
I went up heartbreak ridge again but this time with Smithy, by this time I am getting to know the place quite well. On the top we stalked steady along to a place where we might ambush the group of reds which were moving backwards and forwards all week. The weather moved in on us so we tried to get tucked into a rocky ledge and wait it out. After 30 minutes we looked each other and decided to walk down back to the cottage. As we were heading away we both dropped to our knees at the same time as we notice a red hind over the crest. A Stealthy stalk led me to shoot a yeld hind which was getting shelter from the weather with another 3 in a heather dip. I did do the honourable thing and let Smithy drag the hind down the ravine most of the way, well, I was only thinking about his waistline after all the fine food we had gauged on in the week.
Here is Smithy dragging the hind from the hill so watch and enjoy.
Please note, no tie wraps were used in the making of this film
Now for the thankyou`s, firstly to our host Malcom for the invite and who is a real gentleman and a great laugh. So thank you.
Jayb for letting me shoot the little Sika stag and also his fantastic wife Sheila for making us all feel really welcome whenever we met, those buns and cakes were top drawer stuff. Thank you.
Also for the rest of the company which made the whole week a fantastic occasion, Smithy for driving us up, Legaleagle and his long suffering girlfriend Fran, Davey the fine Scotsman and not forgetting Mark, Malcoms stalking guide who took the Fins out.
So thank you all.