Since leaving home and entering the world of work and marriage, my step son and his friend (who we’ll call L & R) have slowly but surely become urbanised, I don’t mean that they have become clueless townies, just that their lives are lived in the terrifying conurbations of Oxford and London respectively. Having watched both of them grow up in the countryside, it was sad to see the change when they brought there respective wives and babies up to visit over the New Year.
Chatting, they both expressed a desire to experience highland stalking. A few phone calls later and I had cooked up a day out for them with a local professional stalker. I thought it would be better for them to go out with a pro as they would gain far more than if they just followed me around my patch. One of my better ideas as it turned out.
Dawned the great day and they were kitted out in a motley assortment of my oversized gear and their own Royal Marine Reserves kit, we took a couple of Tikkas belonging to the stalker plus my Mannlicher. Left over Christmas cake was stuffed into pockets and we were off.
Very subtly D, (the stalker) wound us up a steep drag, contriving pauses to look at things…but actually allowing us to regain our breaths, it was beautifully done. At the top, D toddled off for a spy and left us to drink in the view. Even though I’ve lived in the Highlands for around 4 years now, it still takes my breath away. D came back shaking his head, nothing to be seen, very unusual…it was clear that this man new his ground like I know my comfy chair.
A bit of a wander and we spied a few beasts. We got to within 300m of them but D would not allow the guys to shoot. Much too far for newcomers. A big old hind was slightly higher than the main group and had us pinned down. As we watched, the low group started to graze towards us. I could feel the tension from my young charges, see the rigidity and slight shiver in their bodies…I knew they had become totally absorbed.
D decided that we should retreat and make our way to a position where the old girl couldn’t spot us, then wait for the group to graze into us. This we did and a long damp, cold wait followed. I was glad they weren’t having it too easy! After an eternity, backs started appearing over the closest ridge and the beasts wandered in at about 90m, perfect. A whispered command, ‘shoot’. A shot from L. A beast fell. Got up, a shot from R. The hind fell again, not a twitch.
The look on those faces will forever be imprinted in my memory. Ear to ear grins doesn’t even begin to cover it. We reached the beast and D gave them a full run down on it’s age and condition, the gralloch and too much else to remember. Such a knowledgeable guy and a total Gentleman. If he’s reading this he will know who he is and should know that he made those two youngsters incredibly happy and also the perhaps more importantly, has made two complete converts to the cause.
Oh, perhaps I should mention one more thing. My step son L is a vegetarian. To see him walking off the hill bloodied and grinning was a proud moment for me.