So. It was Saturday morning and Iíve just driven 300 miles after leaving at 2am to get to my ground for first light a little north of Loch Shin in Sutherland. Thereís a little light in the sky when I arrive and itís a cracking start with patches of mist scattered around. Iím prepping my gear and to my left a little off my ground is a Red giving it his all. In front of me a few hundred meters into the woodland 2 Sika having a whistling competition and before Iíd even got my rifle out another Sika to the right went chips in too. The ground is white everywhere and the morning is just perfect but is really still and freezing cold.
5 minutes later Iím on the peaty ground and working the glen to access the rides where I think the nearest Sika is about. A few steps later and SPLOOSH, down I go slipping on the iced grass into a peaty wet hole right up to my knee, rifle into the gunk with me flat and barrel plugged. Damn it was cold, wet and nasty. Not to worry though and out comes the pull through and I sort the mess out. Off again and the Sika stags are skill giving it large. I can hear the nearest one only a couple of hundred meters across in a ride and SLOOSH again but didnít fall flat that time although peaty black gunk has filled both wellies now. I get into the rides and worked my way over to the junction that turns right to where I think he is. The Sunís just up and behind me so perfect if he is there. Edging forward there he is about 70 meters up the ride and having a munch out in the open.
Now at this point the icy feet were forgotten and looking through my bins I could see he was a nice 8 points. I started to set up my sticks and swung off the rifle but brushed the conifer behind me. Up goes the head and heís looking to see what the scuff was. Now knowing I might not have long I sneaked the rifle up onto the sticks and was ready but heís diagonal and necking wasnít really an option with my accuracy off sticks questionable at that distance for such a shot so I watched and hoped for a broadside. Mr Sika just watched back and with the sun behind me I knew he couldnít figure me. A minute or so later he had had enough and went broadside only when walking calmly back into the conifer block on the right where a drainage channel was he had probably come out of. No real chance of a shot.
Cursing that brush with the conifer I stayed put on sticks hoping that the beast would come back out after a time but it wasnít long before my freezing feet and the other Sika whistling urged me to move. So I started back the way I came with the sun on my right still very low in the sky and 100m up the ride was another crossing of rides with the ride to my left parallel to the one Mr Sika had been in. Looking all around I started to cross the junction. Looking again up the ride to my left as Iím crossing I canít believe it, there he is lying down tucked in beside a clump of heather and grass getting the early morning sun which is behind me. He had followed the drainage channel up to the next ride for some peace away from whatever brushed the conifer.
At 70 meters and with the angle of the sun behind me it would be impossible to make me out but he could see the movement and hear me. With the ride rising away behind him and the beast surely going to rise I needed to get in a position to shoot and fast if there was any hope. I made a smooth move to ground as soon as I saw him while dumping the sticks and prepped my Harris at which point he stood to get a better look at me. I was now in the aim and although at an odd angle to my rifle and my hips were in an inch deep of pishy wet peat I was good to go. The beast was looking right at me and with his head high he made his first stamp and I replied with a comfortable sweet neck shot which dropped the beast like a stone. Spotting to finish was probably no more than 10 seconds but it was luck more that skill that gave me the opportunity to get the shot in.
The drag back to the road took forever with his antlers catching in every bit of grass, heather and bush they could find and by 11am I was shattered but sitting in my car. I cut my day short to get the beast into the local game dealer and started the 5 hours drive home sore and feeling old but buzzing from the morning I had had. Some might think Iím mad to drive all the way up and then back again on the same day but I feel privileged to have experienced such a beautiful morning and met with my first Sika stag up on my woodland. Some experiences are worth whatever effort you put in to get them and this was just on of those occasions where it all paid off. Thanks for reading guys and good luck.