Epic fail #1.
It was still darkwhen Andy & I pitched up at Ardrossan ferry port that January morning, we had made it with time to spare. Feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, and the adventure we where about to (literally) embark upon we got out of the car and straight into “Typhoon Tracy”. Bloody hell it was cold and blowing an absolute hoolie!
We walked over to take a look at the ocean only to see, in the dawn light, MV Clansman bobbing about like a corvette in an Atlantic convoy. I went over to talk to a bloke wearing, a grubby, Hi-Vis Cal-Mac jacket, “What do you think” Andy enquired, “That’s him, he’s away to Gourock!” we where told with a degree of finality.
Andy had done his homework and knew this meant an extra trip up the road and a leisurely cruise down the Clyde, those of you that have been lucky enough to have been stalking on Arran will quite understand and know this a common occurrence in the winter months.
Pretty soon we landed safely at Brodick, if a little queasy (this I ascribe to an overdose of Cal-Mac black pudding butties). Under the shadow of a snow covered Goat Fell we met up with John (Stalker in residence, mentor, Deer Guru, and on a good day thoroughly nice chap!) Rifles where checked for zero and pronounced acceptable.
It being too late to visit the hill that day plans where made and strategies discussed for the following day with the help of several cups of tea supplied by the delightful Hazel in the estate office. The remaining hours of daylight where spent on a guided tour of the island.
The plan had been, as this was a bit of a flying visit, to kip in the back of Andy’s motor but as it was a bit brass monkeys we both thought finding a B & B would be a better idea.
Being what you could call “off season” this was easily accomplished and we were welcomed into the hall of the small but comfortable establishment, situated on the Brodick seafront, by the owner and two bloody enormous Hounds.
Now, Andy likes dogs but tended to reserve that affection for his own dogs preferring to merely acknowledge this brace of huge bouncing clowns with a polite “mmm, nice doggies”.
I however enjoy the company of daft dogs and so elected get down to a bit of rough and tumble. I was immediately set upon and pinned to the carpet where I had my ears comprehensively reamed out much to the delight of mine host who was cooing all the time about “my babies”. Andy just looked pained and slightly embarrassed by the whole performance.
I managed eventually to extract myself from my new friends and after a few formalities we where shown to our respective rooms. I was pleased with my room it was spacious, clean and tidy and complete with on-suite shower etc. Furthermore as I was in the front of the house I would awake to a nice sea view. I was in the process of making myself a cup of tea when I heard a tap on my door.
It was Andy, he walked past me as I opened the door and conducted a thorough inspection of the room. I waited patiently till he’d finished, “is something the matter?” I asked, “Come and look at this,” he grunted. I followed him down a corridor to the rear of the building. He opened the door at the end and invited me to “have a f**kin look at that!” I peered into what was obviously the cupboard under the stairs, the single bed was squeezed under the angle of the stairway a tatty looking chest of draws and a dim bedside lamp comprised the only other facilities. “Ah! You should have made a fuss of them dogs,” I observed, “would you like to come over to mine for some tea?”
Epic fail #2
We arrived at the estate larder at the appointed time the next morning where John had already loaded the Argo onto the back of its trailer. “Have a good night?” he inquired, I quickly shook my head in the universally acknowledged “don’t ask!” manner and he looked quizzical but didn’t ask further. Rifles and kit where stowed in the back of the crew-cab pickup and we where off. As intended we travelled up to the north east corner of the island and where soon bouncing across the snow covered heather in the Argo.
After a couple of spying forays we managed to get into position where a shot was feasible. Andy was to shoot the hind that John had indicated and if possible I was to shoot an old beast to the right of it. Andy’s 30-06 barked and the Hind I was marking through my scope strained her neck and began to turn, I fired and saw the snow fly off her shoulders as the bullet stuck. Down she went and began to roll downhill over and over till finally coming to rest against a slight rise in the ground a tad short of a sheer drop into the sea.
We had both scored, two shots-two kills and we received a congratulatory “huh! Not bad” from John. We made our way down to the first beast and Andy performed the gralloch under the watchful gaze of the pro. Twenty minutes later I was doing the same.
John had already set off back up the hill to retrieve the Argo: I was washing my hands in the snow as Andy gazed up the 60 degrees of hill and said, “I think this is going to be hard work,” It didn’t seem very long till we heard the sound of the approaching ATV and glanced up to see John making his way gingerly down towards us. He managed to get close to the Hind Andy had taken but wisely decided that was far enough.
He picked his way down to where we stood shivering in the snow. “Right! We are going to drag her up there, any of you boys got a drag rope?” “I have,” shouts Andy against the rising wind and starts pulling out of his pack about thirty yards of the sort of stuff you use to tie down aircraft on the flight deck of a carrier.
God only knows where he got it from but it was soon deployed and secured to the deer, John had produced a more conventional harness and drag rope and had done the same. I was trusted to carry two backpacks and both rifles and to assist when possible. We began the slow ascent up through the snow to the waiting Argo.
Andy had actually reached the lip of the ridge not far from the Argo and was hauling on the rope hand over hand. When, both his feet braced against the load shot from underneath him and down he came toward us in the supine position like some sort of luge artist. I dived sideways as he shot past me and I remembered thinking he’ll hit that hind and stop,
He didn’t… he hit the hind all right but with a flurry of snow bounced straight over it and carried on down the hill with the rope paying out behind him. It was at this point I glanced across toward John who was desperately trying to extricate himself from the harness while shouting ANDY! ANDY! LET GO OF THE F**KING ROPE!!
Happily he did come to a halt using the dead deer as an anchor. He rucked up in a shower of snow and swearing at much the same place as the hind had in the first place, about three yards from the eight hundred foot drop.
Some time later with all beasts and stalkers safely installed in the Argo we began the rest of the climb up to the security of level ground. John and I sat smugly in the front of the vehicle Andy was sat in the back with the two beasts, still in a bit sulky. We had just crested the final rise when an immense gust of wind caught the Argo’s bonnet and propelled it with great force into our faces. We managed to grab it before it disappeared in the direction of Bute. Struggling manfully while both suffering from mild concussion we hammered it back in place.
Andy, still sat in the back said it served us right for laughing!