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Thread: Hebridean hind stalking

  1. #1

    Hebridean hind stalking

    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.

  2. #2

    Very much enjoyed by me. Thank you for posting.

    Exactly my type of experience.

  3. #3
    lewis/harris is a fantastic place, i worked up there for a while in the 80s one of those places i wished i had never left
    a barony original

  4. #4
    I was on Lewis Stag stalking this year, it is one of the most stunning parts of Scotland. 110+ recommend it.

    Fingers crossed I get the invite again for next year

  5. #5
    I will post my stag report as well, this went on AR but I'm sure there is no harm reposting it for the Lewis fans:

    Each year for the last 20 or so years I've been spending the month of September in the Hebrides and, for the most part, I've been walking the moor to remote trout lochs. The Isle of Lewis is said to have 2,000 trout lochs and while I'm not sure it is as many as that there are a lot and they generally provide the angler with a good walk as part of the fishing experience.

    This year the weather wasn't great and for the most part it was either too windy, or not windy enough. Almost every day saw rain and the sky was dark and heavy for most of the 3 weeks.

    The fish from these lochs are rarely big and most are returned to fight another day. Just occasionally the wandering angler might get lucky and find a loch that produces reasonable fish but anything over the one pound mark really is something of note. This is a decent Lewis trout:

    Although Lewis is generally flat there are hills in some areas and on the only glorious day of the whole three weeks I took a little walk and snapped some pictures of the hills I would soon be climbing.

    Usually during the time I spend on Lewis I manage to book 2 days for red stags and I have been trying to get my first red stag for about 4 years now. Sometimes luck, mostly in the form of weather, has been against me but this year I was determined that I was going up the hill and was going to shoot the first stag I saw no matter what. As it was I was only able to arrange one day this year but luck was on my side and the weather was suitable to head for the hills

    In past years I had walked many miles over these hills and this year it was decided that a ghillie was necessary and it was great to have someone to carry lunch and even my rifle in its slip. Although I try and get as fit as possible for my trips past experience has shown me that it is possible to walk a very many miles and climb a considerable number of feet in pursuit of the September stag so all assistance was gratefully received on the climb up.

    In past years on many days we hadn't seen any deer until well into the evening and so I was expecting many hours of hard walking before there was any prospect of a shot. None the less we kept the eyes open and our heads up and had been walking for only about 2 hours when the stalker in front of me went down onto his knees and I could see 3 stags running up the hill ahead of us. Within seconds the ghillie had the rifle in my hands and as we started to crawl forwards the head of a hind appeared on the skyline. The three deer we had disturbed vanished ahead of us and we crawled over a little rise to see a hind laid up with a little stag feeding to her left.

    I set the rifle up and, bummer, couldn't find the stag in the scope. Where was he? Meanwhile the stalker was making some noises about him being a very small stag indeed, and he was right. However, my earlier decision was that I was shooting the first one I got the chance on so as far as I was concerned he was a shootable stag. I found him in the scope and he had moved slightly, clearly disturbed by all the movement of the other stags, and was now broadside on and walking slowly. In view of the comments about him being very small I thought it best to ask if I could shoot him and the stalker had hardly said yes when he stopped walking for a second and I fired. I didn't see or hear the strike but I saw the reaction and was confident that he was hit hard as he ran a few yards up the hill and into a little dip out of our sight.

    I reloaded and all around was silent. The stalker was still watching carefully through his binos and eventually has asked if I'd reloaded. Of course this gave me some cause for concern as I was worried he'd seen something I hadn't but he put my concerns to rest and we went looking for my first red stag.

    It was the ghillie who spotted him first after we walked past him and the ghillie did point out that the blood trail which he had the good sense to follow was, to say the least, impressive.

    By one o'clock we were sitting eating lunch and enjoying the view with the gralloched stag at our feet. It must be said that there is nothing else to compare to sitting on the Scottish hillside in all its autumn glory with your first red stag at your feet.

    Now it was time to get him down the hill and the ghillie took charge of operations while the stalker charted a suitable path over the rough ground. There is no mechanical extraction possible on most of this ground due to the very rough and steep nature and so man power is the only way. Of course I did offer to help, and did make some token gestures on especially difficult or uphill sections but, to be honest, the ghillie could drag the stag faster than I could walk and I may have been more of a hinderance than a help. However, I believe that if I shoot it then I should at least make some sort of effort to recover it.

    It took us about 2 hours to drag the stag to the fence, with the road just a short distance further, and I took a few photos of the stag lying at the fence. I know that he doesn't fit the image of a trophy stag but for me these photos show just what it is that makes Scottish stag stalking such a wonderful experience with the heather in bloom, the hill wild and empty in the background and the relief of a successful stalk and getting the stag back to the road.

  6. #6
    Brilliant stuff! thank you for that, just the ticket with a huge mug of tea after driving cornwall to east sussex and back today.
    regards jamie

  7. #7
    Superb write ups Caorach, I can tell from your words that this island belongs in your heart. Fantastic photos to boot.

  8. #8
    Some belting photos in there!
    Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch

    "...Nicely just doesn't cut the cheese....." A new twist on management-speak courtesy of a colleague.

  9. #9
    Thank you for the excellent write-ups - and well done for the result!

  10. #10
    I've not managed to make it to the Outer Hebrides yet. I stayed on Rum for a season a couple of years back, but we were out pretty much every day stalking so didn't get a chance to get out there. Have to say the stalking on Rum is varied and challenging, well worth a visit, and the new community trust could really do with the income!

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