Over the past few years I've been very lucky to manage a day or two each year for hinds on the Isle of Lewis. Lewis isn't a common destination but can provide some cracking stalking and I book through Russell Hird who has always delivered a great experience and who usually manages to fit in a day for me even when the weather is at its most extreme. I've no connection with Russell other than as a satisified customer but if this report leaves you fancying a trip to the outer isles then get in touch with him:
I'm usually in the Hebrides over New Year with my girlfriend who is a native of Lewis and although you might not imagine it there is actually quite a lot to do on Lewis even in winter, it is a most amazing destination for those who enjoy the outdoors and well worth the extra travel arrangements required to get there: (I do have a connection with the following site but the to do page lists lots of stuff on the island plus the photos are all mine and I like to show them off :-))
This year the "problem" was wind and we had a lot of wild days over New Year but on the Wednesday evening Russell came on my mobile asking if I could be ready the next morning. Thursday morning dawned as the best day of the trip and I borrowed the girlfriend's car and headed for the hills.
Sometimes (OK, almost always) it proves necessary to climb the hills but this year in part because of where the deer were holding and also, I suspect, out of sympathy for my being fat and lazy after doing very little for a few months the ground we stalked into was mostly rather broken but basically didn't require any big climbs. It would have been accessible to all but the extremely unfit and as a bonus I got to see some bits of ground that I'd never been on before, including a little burn that carries a big run of salmon and sea trout
The hinds were mostly sheltering behind little broken outcrops of rock and it wasn't long until we were seeing a lot of animals indeed, I would guess that we saw maybe 30 - 40 for the day out. We soon spotted a likely group of hinds and began the long stalk into them. To reach them was going to require quite a detour as the ground between us and them was fairly flat. On top of this there was also the possibility of bumping some of the other deer we were seeing on the hill and so the approach had to be very carefully planned and in the end it probably took us two hours to get into a position for a shot - it certainly makes for exciting stalking. Due to the north westerly wind the deer were lurking at the end of the hills and so this saved me quite a climb
At last we got above the deer and made our way along one of the rocky outcrops with the animals only a few hundred yards ahead and below us. It was only when we got to within less than 100 yards that I decided to kick over a loose stone and a few of the heads came up. Because the deer were so tight into the rocks it was going to require crawling out right to the edge and this is where being left handed saved the day as a right handed person could not have got the rifle far enough out onto the ledge to take the shot, at least not without being suspended in thin air. I eased the rifle out as far as it would go without dropping off the edge and the stalker identified the hind he wanted shot. At the shot the deer dropped as if electrocuted and the stalker asked where I'd shot it, I explained that it was a chest shot but was probably a little high as the rifle is zeroed a little high at that range.
When we made it to the dead deer I was glad to note that the entry was exactly where I had expected and I think the stalker secretly suspected that I'd shot the deer in the head, he was of the view that he'd never seen one drop so quickly to a chest shot. While I know that the next one might run 100 yards none the less there is a certain satisfaction in doing the job well and knowing that the deer didn't suffer and was dead in literally a few seconds. We were also pleased to discover, though to be honest we didn't notice this previously, that the hind had a broken leg and so it was a very good cull animal indeed.
As an added bonus the stalker also demonstrated a slightly different method of gralloch that was really simple but that worked really well - it was one of those "why didn't I think of that" moments.
Every time I stalk on the hill on the Isle of Lewis I come back with wonderful memories and also having learned something new not just about deer but about the other wildlife and bird life on this amazing island. I understand that the extra travel and so on will not have it at the top of the list of stalking destinations for everyone, and maybe secretly that is part of the appeal, but even so it is well worth considering as a destination for those looking for hind or stag stalking in the most amazing and remote surroundings.