Well, just sat on sofa, feeling more human now after a fantastic, if a little tricky week on Arran with 375mag.
Where to start...
We set off at 0900 last Sunday morning after hearing weather reports of 'scortchio..' and 'indian summer' to which our thoughts were 'bo**ocks'.
We stopped off at John Norris' on the way to pick up a pair of gaiters and ended up buying 2x harkila pro hunter jackets and some gaiters.. slightly more expensive than what i had thought but Arran is not the place to be wet and cold! We got to Ardrossan in good time for the ferry and watched waves breaking over the harbour arm every now and then. There was a worry that the ferry wouldnt run until we asked the bloke in the office what he thought. His reply was something like 'wind.. what wind?!, aye nae problems!' I can imagine he was thinking soft poofter southerners or something to that effect!.
Sure enough the ferry arrived, we boarded and got underway. It was pretty lumpy in fairness but nothing to turn us green. We got to Brodick and headed to the digs to settle in. We stayed in the Eden lodge in Whiting Bay. Its just changed hands and for the money seems pretty good. Very good grub (and well priced) on an evening and also a packed lunch in lieu of no breakfast.
Monday morning came, checked zero and got allocated our beat.. We were out spying by 1130 which was great. 375mag has had this beat a few times before and knows the hot spots. I got a quick tour of the beat and while glassing a hillside, at the bottom, just off our beat we saw a staggie and 2x hinds feeding (mid day!). Good start we thought.. We went to the hotel and got sorted ready for an evening spy over clear fells.
That night 375mag saw 2x 12 pointers feeding together and I saw a stag, neither of us got a shot due to it being too dark. but still a great sign that deer are there although the fact that 2x big boys were feeding together showed they werent overly frisky.
Tuesday came, certainly no heat wave, 1000ft cloud base and windy. 375mag had a great stalk into a decent stag, across a clearfell and on the edge of the moor. The 375 did its job.. stag down! When Bob and Neil got there, there were certain expletives over the radio about its position. It took 3 of us to move it (slowly). We had a drag of about 400yds i suppose which doesnt sound a lot but with a load of gear, a stag which weighed the best part of 130kg in the larder. We were both pretty whacked but big grins all round as we loaded the 11 pointer into the trailer.
The weather remained the same which didnt help us, low cloud and wind upto 30mph until friday morning. We tried out on top, with no joy and also tried some awesome clearings in the thick forestry. Roaring got no response although we could hear the odd big boy in the distance. We tried the lower clearfells with no success either unfortunately. They definitely werent fully into the rut and the weather didnt help with roaring. We saw a few hinds and a staggie between tuesday lunchtime and thursday morning.
On thursday night, i stalked into a highseat and sat watching a great clearing. I heard a few roars but nothing would reply. the cloud came down further until i could see maybe 300yds MAX. Just before dark i saw a hind cross the ride at about 200yds, slowly bobbed across. I got the rifle up as i thought mr stag wouldnt be far behind. He wasnt.. but he ran across the ride after the hind at full pelt.. I could only see it was a big stag, nothing more than that. I tried a roar to stop him, which didnt work and also tried to roar him out of the trees, with no luck. It got dark and i started the walk along the quad track in the dark. Its worth noting that even on the better defined tracks, in the dark can be tricky to follow safely. Spraining an ankle or getting lost in unfamiliar terrain up there with little phone signal and radios which cannot be relied on could be pretty serious!
We discussed in the pub that night, the plan of attack for the last morning. 375mag had a stag, so did the guy who was staying in the same hotel. Just me left to break my duck.. no pressure!
Friday morning came and it felt like a different planet. No cloud, no wind.. birds singing, STAGS ROARING... we stalked down a track and had a big boy roaring pretty close, 375mag and his roaring skills got a bit of rapport but then the stag faded away into the valley bottom. We decided to follow him and see if we could provoke him into making an appearance. After another 30 minutes, we decided he wasnt playing so turned to head back to the main track. We turned a corner and there was a stag, probably 50yds looking in our direction. I think he had seen the movement but not put 2 and 2 together. I was down on the bipod in record time and 375mag gave him a roar. He stopped, broadside at about 100yds. I squeezed off a round from the 7-08 and he dropped like a bag of spuds. At this point i had a grin like ive never had before. My first ever wild red.. We got over to him and i was quick to count the points.. 10. So not a monster but a great first stag in my opinion. After a few photos and a quick gralloch, we managed to drag him about 50yds across the clearfell and to the track. Bob came to pick him up and we just managed to get it in the truck as about 20 walkers came round the corner.
Even if i hadnt got a shot last week, we had a great time. Some great stalking, PLENTY OF DEER and great company. Getting a stag each was the icing on the cake.
What is apparent with red stalking is that if the weather isnt in your favour and the rut isnt quite going, then it is challenging to say the least. It doesnt mean theres no deer, its just difficult to locate them.
BASC Arran scheme isnt shot out, its a great experience and as a word of warning, is well under subscribed. If we dont use it, we may well lose it..
I think the total tally for the week was 9 stags between 14 of us. Of which 4 guys were ab initios. The best head was a 13 pointer with great weight to it, 3 over 10 points, a few or 3 with 6 points and a few staggies.
Eden lodge views