Arriving Wednesday night the forecast for the week started looking better and better. Rain and wind turned to Shower and cloud, Shower and cloud turned to Cloud and sun.
The week was looking up already.
Nice clear day with slight breeze out of the East
Quick zero of a freshly scoped .270 we parked up later than planned.
We started out into the East side of a large bowl that opens out to the West.
Facing South, on the East side of the bowl are a number of gulleys running down like fingers of a hand from our left
As we moved up the slope we came across 3 hinds lying in such a position that any onward and upward path was in full view of them, we dropped down to the next flat and moved along the face towards the centre of the bowl
Stopping at suitable point about a 1/3 of the way up the face on our left to spy the expanse in front of and to the south of us we watched a strong stag holding 25+ hinds and fending off 3 or 4 outlying stags in the middle of the base of the face about 1500yds away.
One of the outlying stags had been pushed out onto the flatter ground in front of us and covered a good 300yds towards us.
By dropping down to our right we could cover much of this in dead ground, coming up behind a rocky outcrop which looked to be about 100-150yds away from where the stag was now lying.
We moved slowly down and into the gully below, constantly checking up and along for more hinds who may blow our cover.
As we neared where we expect the stag to still be we popped up from the gully just behind the rocky outcrop.
He was still there, lying towards us but facing downhill.
Options were to slowly come around the lower side of the outcrop and be on the same level as him or go up onto and come over the top slightly above.
Top sounded better to me and this the view it presented.
Thats him just off to the side of the scope
112yds but an impossible shot. Whilst his neck was presented enough any shot would have passed straight through and into the haunches.
This shot is the view to my right showing a nick in the rocks beside me and the slope of the ground below
After 5-10 mins of waiting and watching to see if he was in any mood to move or stand we decided a roar was needed.
One roar and he looked over immediately but didn’t seem that fussed.
Second roar and he was up and on his feet facing directly at me, he started walking straight towards me and never stopped finally losing him in the sight picture as I lost him behind the edge of the rocky outcrop in the last picture.
If he rounded below us not only would we be in full view he would be downwind.
I sat up so I could see the tips of his antlers but he could not see me.
Now braced and waiting for him to come right into view I guessed he would give me seconds before winding/seeing us.
He slowly moved right, about 35-40 yds away and 5-6 yds below into the nick in the rock at my feet.
Under strict instructions not to make an arse of it and damage the carcase I was hoping to take a neck shot but he was looking straight at and up at me with his body broadside.
I chose to shoot him just behind the front legs hoping to miss his left front leg
The shot rang out and I saw him jump into the air and wheel round to his left showing a fairly large blood trail from an exit just behind his left front leg.
All this happened in about 2 seconds and had my heart racing.
Unhappily he trotted a good 50-60 yds with a few staggers finally keeling into some bracken.
Tough old barsteward. Despite sacrificing the direct heart shot to save the front legs when gralloched he had a huge hole through the lower lungs and blood clot the size of half a rugby ball inside the diaphragm.
Had me second guessing the shot for a little while!
After a spot of lunch and tidying and covering him all up we headed back for the quad with a plan to carry out the time honoured tradition of shooting hoodie crows off the gralloch.
I returned with the .222 but the quad got in earshot before I got into range!
On the way back to the car we heard roaring from above the first static hinds we had seen.
We had our destination for day 2!
Parked in the same spot we arrived a bit earlier and attempted the same route in but with an goal of going up and left instead of forward into the bowl.
We hadn’t made it 400 yds before we ran into a hind and calf on the same level, they saw us but made no effort to move or show alarm.
We backtracked and moved up a level, straight into another group of lying hinds. Thankfully we saw them before they saw us.
No route up
No route along.
A quick look back round the rocks and hind and calf were still there, still eating, not moving!
From here we could see into the bottom of the bowl were a smallish stag was feeding with a couple of hinds and a calf. Not too far away from yesterdays shot, but the lookout was blocking any route in.
We decided that we would backtrack to the car and come into the bowl from the West side instead of the East. It was a long way round but hopefully gave us enough gullies to be in dead ground between us and the lookout hind and calf so we could pop up on the flat where the stag “should be” roughly 200-250yds away from the ridge we would be coming up.
After what seemed like 10 about turns and back tracks to get into a gully that the look out could not actually see down we finally came to a spot where we wanted to pop up.
As we looked up the face above the hind and calf and the three hinds we initially saw we spotted a group of about 20 and a good sized stag pacing around. By this time they were 1000yds away but he had been about 200yds above us at one point!!
Still, first stag in mind we continued into the gully where we had to cross 40-50yds in full view of the old bag and calf.
Knowing we would be seen but hopefully at such a distance and angle that she would move off across the face in dead ground from the first and the second stag we stuck together presenting one silhouette.
True to form Doris and Deirdre spotted us and stood up, and walked exactly where we had hoped. Once out of view we popped up behind a rocky crag and onto the flat we thought the stag and hinds were on.
Lots of second guessing on location and creeping and peeking and we found nothing.
A quick wider scan showed he had moved off into the belly of the hill and was now 5-600yds downwind of us and without a huge detour was thoroughly off the menu.
However, now Doris and Deirdre had fecked off we had a textbook dead ground approach into stag number 2 albeit with a party of 20 well spaced lying hinds as look outs.
We set of.
As we reached the mid point of the face with about 150-200yds to go we looked back to see ….guess who?
Doris and feckin Deirdre! They had come back round the face to have another look at us, this time from about 500-600yds and much closer to being in view of the hinds and stag above.
Out the centre of this picture
Onwards and upwards!
We moved in behind the nearest rocky outcrop to the flat the deer were sitting on, approx. 100yds from where the stag was.
Then the bitch barked. And again, and again and continued very 20 secs for a couple of minutes.
When I came over the brow there were no deer to be seen.
We sat down and contemplated the various theoretical drop and windage charts it would take to hit the bitch from 600yds.
As we did the hinds above moved into view on the next flat face above. This time 300-350yds away.
Still looking out to the source of the bark but not nervous or in a hurry
The stag was doing his best to keep them together again not to worried
They should have been on the other side of this rock, as it happened they appeared behind the next one!
With the terrain it was fairly simple to go down into the gully and come up behind the next rocky outcrop hopefully in range.
We did, unfortunately they were now all looking like this!:
At about 250-270 yds!
We sat and contemplated options.
No obvious route existed to get us closer, it was getting late so we sat and watched them being rounded up by the skylined stag and left him for another day.
Looking back across to the bowl we saw yesterday’s dominant stag still holding court and fending of 4 rivals.
The noise was incredible. These boys had been roaring for a solid 7 hours non stop.
I tired to video it but the sound is muffled by the wind and general crackle
The black spot in the middle is a good sized black stag at about 1200yds roaring his nuts off at the other one with the hinds
The view from out new seat was great as the sun started to come down over the islands:
A change of wind put it coming out of the South/South West
We moved to another side and started up the West side of a ridgey face heading roughly South/South West up towards the peak.
To our right was a large glen opening out into a big flat.
As we moved out way up we saw a big black spot on the grassy face of the peak about 900yds above us.
Grazing on his own about 500yds away we had our new target.
The best route had us dropping down a a little into a gully to then proceed South up to the face.
As we dropped down we saw a stag grazing on one of the ridges in front of us, previously obscured by a crag.
We moved up the 50-80ft wide and 400yard long curving gully to get a better look, as we did we spotted another one lying down about 20 yds below him and 50yds closer to us.
It was on.
We would drop down into the base of the gully, move up into the curve and them up to the same level as the stags.
With two stags in mind we tried to position ourselves so that we could take both of them.
As it happened we had both brought rifles this day!
We came to half way and moved up the gully face straight into view of another third stag that had moved into the top of the gully!
Now our first route was screwed!
Back tracking we moved right and further up behind the slope of the next gully up and intended to come over the top into them. Using the crest of the hill to obscure us from the third stag who was by now moving along the hillside feeding.
The first stag had moved out of sight.
The second stag was now fast asleep!
Cresting the hill we crouched and moved along a sheep path which we thought would bring us out above sleeping beauty and in line with stag number three.
I had the idea we could shoot the sleeping stag from above either whilst he slept through the back of the neck or as he lifted his head, this would give us a shot at the second stag if he would stay still long enough.
As we moved along the top of the gully with the hill opening up in front of us we expected to be inside 60-70 yds from the sleeping stag.
I happened to glance to my left as we crawled and saw the tip of an antler protruding out of the grass on the gully slope…….at about 20-30yds!
We sat. now almost in full view of stag 3 who if he had lifted his head up would have seen past the crest of the slight hill between us and him.
One up the spot and all slings lunch and binos ditched, I moved forward towards slope of the gully and the sleeper. The heather and grass sounded like crunching tesco bags with every step!
The antler moved, I dropped onto my arse, legs out in front rifle raised.
The stag was lying facing away and slightly down hill but had clearly heard something rustly and did a weird twisting of his head to turn into the hill and look back over his shoulder at me.
As he did I put the shot between his head and shoulders, with this angle of twist a fairly short target……but at what turned out to be a 27yd shot even I could hit that!
He went down with a slump and out of view. The unmoderated shot echoed through the gully.
Stag number three moved up onto the crest of the hill in front of us and had me in full view. At about 250yds
The second rifle was loaded and he had a long crawl below the crest from out wide to get into position.
I was motionless short of the temptation to video the whole thing. (note to self:get a decent video camera instead of a phone!)
As he got into position I saw with horror the first stag come running into view right up to the third one, expecting an instant flight I held my breath hoping he had made it to the crest.
The shot rang out, stag 3 dropped and stag 1 one ran off.
60yd neck shot facing him.
This photo is taken from the first firing point. The stick is stuck in the ground beside the stag at 27 yds. The other stag is off up the hill
Flipping my stag over to bleed him I noticed something not quite right:
On closer examination my suspicion was confirmed, broken leg, shattered below the knee fairly recently.
No obvious sign of external injury or trauma, no broken skin around the fetlock bar a slight puncture wound which turned out to be from inside and the point of a bone splinter.
Otherwise in fine condition with a full stomach and healthy organs/lymph.
Slight swelling but he had clearly been mobile and feeding.
Two for day three.
I elected to stay up while the quad was fetched.
Still hoping for a hoodie crow to add to the bag I lay in wait spying the rest of the hill.
nothing gives me greater pleasure than putting large centrefire rounds through hoodie crows!
They would fly without 10 feet of me but never land…oh for a 12 bore!!
A fantastic few days with fine weather, food and company.
And I have a new hat rack!