Iím just back from a fabulous weekís family holiday at Mellness Forest Lodge, Glen Urguhart, Inverness-shire.
Thank you so very much to my hosts David, Laurna and their son Angus for making my family feel so very welcome and providing us with the most amazing and beautiful place to stay.
Having met David via the Stalking Directory and chatted a few times, I was delighted to get the opportunity to stay in his well equipped log Cabin and take the family with me to experience the scenery and wildlife that surrounds the cabin.
We had Deer visit us at the Cabin on two occasions, which was a treat for my father who had not seen Redís up so close and personal in a wild setting before.
It was a joy to see my kidís thriving on the fresh air and playing in the surrounding forestry and clearings whilst looking for slow worms, frogs, toads, pine martins and Deer.
The best part of my trip was the Stalking however. David took me out for a guided tour of the surrounding 750acres whilst looking for a suitable Sika or Red stag to cull.
The evening was warm and the midges were as you would expect! But the experience was just wonderful.
With Davidís dog at the heel we set off around the forest clad mountain side and through the many rides and clearings that occupy the land. It wasnít long before the nose on his black lab started to go and we were just within the tree line over looking a small clearing waist deep in ferns. Nothing showed although the dog showed the sent was still very heavy in the air.
We pressed on up and deeper into the woods via the rides which had been set out many years before and walked past some interesting landscape and features in the rock faces above.
Soon the dogís nose was on the case once more and for 10 minutes we travelled slowly following the dog on through the wood. Then at the top of a hill and with the sound of a waterfall and burn crashing away below us David spotted some fresh sign on the floor.
Creeping over to the edge of what must have been an almost vertical 200ft drop; David spotted a young stag making his way down a very steep Deer track. Soon he was at the bottom and started to walk into a suitable position.
The beast made his was along the burn side and started to make his way up towards the tree line on the far side of the gulley. He turned sideways on facing up hill and started to eat some shrubbery and a tap on the shoulder and the instruction to take the shot was all I needed.
I squeezed the trigger of my Sako 85 (.270) at a range of around 250yrds and panicked a little as I didnít hear the bullet hit. The stag ran a few yards towards the burn and then fell to the bullet and crashed into the burn below.
On reaching the stag I was pleased with a nice bullet placement and on later inspection of the pluck had put the bullet through the bottom part of his heart.
Extraction was hard work for a man of my size! And was hard going pulling the stag up and out of the gulley and back to a position we could ensure a good extraction from.
The following evening I took out my eldest son Ben (8) and sat him beside me in a double high seat over looking a large clearing sloping gently down hill. Within 10 minutes we heard the crashing of antlers in the dense Scots pines and the sound of Sika Peep Peeping at each other as they slowly made there way towards the clearing.
It was a wonderful sound and the firle was ready and waiting for a suitable stag to appear.
Unfortunately is was not to be and with little light left we started back through the forest. Within minutes we had another Red Stag in sight just within the tree line, but the angle was difficult. A short crawl got me to a nice position around 50yrds from the beast and I signalled my son to crawl down next to me.
Ben headed down and got to my side. I asked him to move slightly so he may see the stag better and watch as I took the shot. A mistake!
Ben moved as instructed but being young and keen swung his feet around too quickly. His wellie boots rubbed together making a loud squeak and up out of the ferns came another 2 racks. We were spotted the two stags nearest were spooked and they headed up the mountain taking my next stag with them.
A shame but just the best lesson for Ben and one Iím sure he will be careful not to repeat.
For any SD Members or visitorís reading this short post.
If you are looking for a family holiday with a spot of stalking on the side, or for a small group of stalkers wanting to stay within seconds of there daily beats. Then Mellness Forest Lodge may just be the place for you.
To David, Laurna and Angus Ė Thank you once again and I look forward to returning in January for some late Hinds, the company of my stalking buddy Russ and a dram or two.