Out stalking red hinds today and had a fantastic day. Been out with Mike several times before so there was a warm welcome and a fresh pot waiting for me early this morning.
Hooked up the quad and set off up the sun bathed glen, took a sharp left and headed for the summits. There was a cold and strong north westerly blowing and glassing the far side we spotted two groups sheltering in the heather. Not a lot of cover up there so the stalk would be long and involve a lot of crawling. It's not called stalking for nothing. After 90 mins of crawling up burns, through peat bogs and over marsh land we were in a firing position, 100yds out with the rifle unsleeved and ready to go. As we all know, however, it's not over until you have them in the larder and this was no exception. Two sheep decided they wanted to be with their pals and set of at a jog to join them. This was enough to spook the our hinds and push them further down the glen to where the second herd was. The incoming hinds was enough to unsettle the second group who then took of for the side of the glen we had just come from.
We headed back for the quad and whilst using it as a wind break we ate our rolls, drank our tea, had a bit of crack and watched the grouse running around in the heather.
We could just see the heads of the beasts sitting on our side of the glen so a plan was formulated to head up the shoulder and then drop down the face to come out above the hinds. Great. Once again the beasts were spooked by something and on the final approach, down wind and out of sight, we watched them head off back down the face, accross the valley floor and back up the face they were on that morning. As we watched them moving they were joined by a group of stags that had been sheltering in a gully and been unsettled by the moving hinds.
Mid afternoon by now so we had little choice other than to head down the face, pass the ruined shepherds cottage and rowan tree, over the valley floor, climb the opposite face, get some height and try and get into the herd, who had come to settle in the middle of a bowl, from the side. It was going to be a long and tiring stalk with the last 100yds crawling through the heather. We got to where we needed to be and you guessed it, just as the rifle came to the shoulder they moved of over the march to live another day.
For me stalking isn't about the kill. Its about being out there in the hills. Feeling the wind on your face. Being part of nature and observing nature as it happens all round you. Today I have had the privialage to watch hinds and stags, admire their majesty and wonder as to how well adapted they are to their environment. Where, despite not being able to see us or wind us they knew something was not right and won the day.
I didn't fire a shot today but I have seen things that I will remember forever, what a fantastic day.