I've had a pretty good year or two on Roe in Wiltshire but fancied a bit of a change and had a day sorted wit The Stalking School, I was fortunate enough to be offered an evening on the hill by a top bloke too....
I left home at 11pm on Tuesday, after a full day at work, putting the kids to bed and packing. I was knackered but far too buzzing to be able to sleep. I would have kept my wife awake for the four hours I had before I had to leave and that would not have gone down well.
I threw all my kit in the car, put the dogs in and headed off from Wiltshire, by the time I got to the Lakes I was started to feel like I could shut my eyes and drift off, so I got an hours sleep in Tebay before cracking on again, walking the dogs along the river at Pitlochry to keep them quiet.
I was due in Inverness to meet Ally at 4, but got there are midday, walked the dogs, had a nosey around etc, I parked up outside the address I had been given and sat back to listen to the radio, only to be woken by Ally– the second I closed my eyes I was asleep, every time!
After throwing my dogs in Ally’s kennel we were off in his Rav 4. I always thought these were sort of 4x4 lookalikes but he managed to get this thing everywhere, we parked up, got out and headed off up a hill, over which I was told the reds spent their evenings.
As we got to the top, the roaring started. I immediately thought it sounded like a cross between dry retching and a full bellied belch, but as several other stags joined in the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand on end, they were all in the woodland, out of permission. We had to get along the edge of the trees quietly and in time for when the approaching stag(s) popped out.
Something was moving just back from the edge in an immature section of trees, I was not sleepy now! We stalked up and got very close to…. a bloody sheep, the reds would not be near here. The roaring got louder, the stags were moving out of the trees towards the area below us…
The light was fading and Ally spotted them, six or so red amongst the trees below us, it was hard to work them out now as the sunset was behind them and they were amongst the trees. One stepped forward; a spiker – perfect, but 330 yards away.
It was not to be my night, but as a first evening on stags it would be one I would never forget, the views were breath taking, the noise exhilarating and the company great. A huge thanks to Ally for this opportunity and I hope to reciprocate soon.
So – of to The Stalking School.
I managed to pitch up late, and after losing my dogs into the woods when I took them for a pee, I managed about four hours sleep this nights, but we were up and out shortly after 6, into the woods to hear roaring all around us; there are some big, big boys in that wood.
Andy took me to several clearings where we saw deer in each one, a young staggie on the move, I was unable to take the shot as he was walking behind trees, but it boded well.
Andy used an electronic roar, and we heard a guttural response, getting closer, but after quarter of an hour we were about to get up to move when Andy swore and said ‘Stag’.
‘Can’t see it.’ I said
‘You effing blind?’
So the description started….
‘I can see an eye’ I replied, moved my rifle across and slid back and behind Andy to get a look.
What I saw was one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen, a fourteen point stag with what looked to be a four foot spread standing silently looking at use from 80 yards away, just in enough cover. He knew what we were, he knew how much to show to watch what was going on. It amazed me that with antler like that, he had walked through a pine plantation a hundred yards across a clearing without us hearing a thing.
We stayed silent and watched him, we didn’t get one good clear view, but through a couple of different views. He was in full rut, but still in control, his neck was huge and he was dark from the wallow. Andy reckoned he was about 22 stone and I had absolutely no urge to shoot him, he was in the prime of life and at the top of his game. I didn’t want to exchange that for a trophy on my wall and I was 90% happy to watch him go. The other 10% was, ‘That would be a hell of a first stag’ but it wasn’t enough to make me squeeze the trigger.
Andy got me on two more stags within half a mile of there, the first moved to run as I changed firing position, the second moved as the lock on my bipod released and the ‘ting’ let him see me. On the return to the vehicle I saw another spiker, but with the sun behind him and some white around his forehead that was about all we could determine at 300 yards. Andy speculated he may be Sika hybrid but as we stalked up he had gone.
I spent a whole day and a morning in the woods, and heard what must have been a dozen reds roaring, saw four and could have shot an Emperor should I have wished. I couldn’t have asked for more from Andy, I went back to where we saw the spiker and shot at the stump next to where he had been standing. I hadn’t had the confidence in my new 6.5 and ammo mix to take the shot at what Andy guestimated to be 300 yards. I saw one strike in three so was wise not to have taken the shot. I need to make more time to get the right ammo for my 6.5.
I’ve come home with an empty cool box and no trophy, but my God I have some memories, and another day in the company of Andy has again taught me a huge amount and means I will be booking another day or three this time next year.
It is true, I didn’t have to make a shot to make the trip, but it has got me hooked on reds. Thanks to Ally and Andy for superb stalking, great company and a mental picture of a 14 point 22 stone stag staring at me I will never forget (I was so astounded I forgot to take a pic through the scope).
I can heartily recommend The Stalking School and hope Apache gets on as many next week when up there. I had a brilliant few days, but it's back to bloody work now!