Well before I start, let's be clear. There are no rumours to spread, no tales to tell out of school, no incidents to relate and no insinuations to be made. Both BASC and the FC put on a good show. With great help and support from Bob, Mike and Lewis, everything went to plan. Anyway, what happens in the field stays in the field, right.
In all I think it was a cracking week. We had fantastic digs, ate well, drank heartily and slept like babes.
But did we see deer?
Yes. And sign of a lot more besides.
But did we shoot anything?
I'll get to that.
The weather on Monday for the zeroing session was frankly horrid; a steady drizzle that really started to wear after a while. The zeroing did seem to take forever and it was well into the afternoon before we were done. We were given our beats by Bob along with useful tips and made off for a recce. In truth all a bit too late really but finding the entrances etc was useful.
So no stalk to speak of as the mists closed in and we couldn't see a damn thing.
Tuesday was as thick as a bag and like trying to look through an old fish tank. Low cloud had come in and visibility was zero. That was game over.
Tuesday evening was better and we got out for a hike up to the tree line on the open hill. Having done our homework on the OS maps, the photo maps and GurgleEarth we were somewhat perplexed to find that the terrain didn't match our expectations; in that it was pretty unstalkable but ever hopeful we settled in.
At 14.00 hrs in an epic spotting escapade, I spied a laid up stag on an opposite hillside at least a 1000m out; seconds later there were 2. Seconds after that there were none as a fighter plane flew over and scared them off.
Dark came and not an ar5e.
Wednesday we returned convinced that given the amount of sign, we'd score this time.
Not an ar5e but a super morning nonetheless.
During the day we recce'd another spot which was a carpet of **** and slots. So a stake out was planned. Again we sat until it was pitch.
Not an a5se
Thursday saw us on a new bit where frankly the slots were so thick that it looked as though half the islands sheep had been driven through it. I kid you not, but they weren't sheep.
About ten minutes in, sitting in a sort of bowl I spotted a spiker above us on the lip. Sure enough Mum and calf were there too. But despite frantic manoeuvring we just could not develop a backstop. As much as I would love to have let the big .300 bark, you just can't take skyline shots. As they they were clearly moving on a mission we really had to let them go in favour of new quarry. Which took all of ten minutes. Across a felled area I spotted a small group in a thicket. Given the range at about 180m and the thickness of the brush it was very difficult to see what was what. But after some shuffling we got the crosshairs onto a hind standing behind a bush, but there was a nice clear spot just in front of her. Ready 3, 2, errr...
We never got to 1 as just at that point she turned, gathered her friends and walked off through the thicket. We tried to follow on, literally walking in their steps but we didn't have quite their speed and agility. So that was a bust too.
We returned that night following the old adage "go where you know there are deer"
But, we stuck another zero. It turned extremely cold and dropped to about 3 degrees by dark.
So nothing in the bag. All to play for then.
Friday morning we were up well early innit. We were on the ground before any light in the sky, letting things settle. Despite all the planets aligning perfectly, we didn't see..... You get the picture.
At the final wash up meeting it was clear that we'd all seen deer, all had chances but Lady Luck was in a bitch of a mood. Final score... Zero. But for a few tricks of fate including a Beagle on the loose - yes I did say a Beagle, we might have bagged half a dozen between us. But the weather was warm and the deer under no pressure to move. There was more movement evident in the mornings over the evenings in our view. And given the area available to these animals, our presence had possibly pushed them somewhere else unlike our own somewhat more captive beasts who turn up where they're supposed to.
All in all, a very enjoyable week, if you like a weeks holiday with some stalking thrown in. Which we did, it's all an adventure and new memories.
Arran is what you make it, and we made it a blast really. Self catering is the best way to go in my view as you get total freedom. It is a beautiful island and once we'd finished we drove the North end. Lochranza is simply stunning. We pulled up in the bay at the side of the road and as I opened the car door, I could see slots in the mud at the side of the road. As we glassed the opposite hill we saw hinds covering the heather like sheep. All around the top end, there were deer, deer, deer everywhere. Ahh we'll, another time. I shall be back and frankly that's the best endorsement anyone could give. Ok we didn't bag anything but as has been said so many times, if you think that Arran is like taking candy from a baby then think again. As a learning experience for a newbie, it's certainly REAL stalking make no mistake. Maybe as a more experienced solo stalker, you might find it a little frustrating, but given recent past history, you really can't blame anyone for being cautious. I'd hate to be stuck out in the boonies with no way to raise the alarm, which incidentally is why I carry a satellite phone. Something others would do well to consider.
So there we go, that's the Arran Diaries for this series
Chris and Duncan