Here's my rather long-winded report on the latter part of the week!
We all met up at Inverness Tescos and after Tony had filled the rear of his vehicle with eggs, proceeded to chase Tony to the cottage. At one point I had visions of the back of Tony’s vehicle being filled with broken eggs after he went into a corner a bit hot and found out that it tightened up , thankfully nothing was coming the other way! That’ll teach you for being on the phone!
On arrival we had intros with John & Malc and a few of the others, followed by a bit of briefing about what was in store.
Thursday morning looked a bit iffy early on, but brightened up prior to our proving our marksmanship on the range. Having the noisiest rifle 8) , I was relegated to last place and had to watch everyone else receiving Johns comments on their performance prior to ‘stepping up to the plate’. Feeling slightly nervous (I hate shooting tests), I managed to get all three bullets within the circle on first attempt, unlike a couple of others who had their excuses lined-up ready!
A talk about what was planned for later was followed by a drive round familiarisation of the estate and a walk into part of the forest that I was particularly interested in as I would be stalking it on my own that afternoon. It was about 12.30 and during the walk up to the target location one of the party was struggling with his knee (and breathing!), electing to wait (only about 200 yards away from the destination) whilst the rest of us proceeded on. We returned some 15 minutes later to find him gone. No worries, he must have returned to the vehicles. The vehicles were checked, no sign of him. We were all rather concerned about this and spent the next hour and a half thoroughly searching where we had left him and the possible routes out of the forest but to no avail. It was decided that things would have to be escalated so a radio relay was set up to malcs place where the land-line was (no mobile coverage up there!), the police were notified and the other guys from the house recruited for a lined-out search of where we had last seen him. This proved fruitless and we sat around for a while discussing our options. A very close fly-past by the RAF out training was followed by the news that the missing person had turned up at the house. It was 4pm by now and apparently, after deciding to walk back to the vehicles on his own, he got lost, managed to find his way to the road, flagged down a couple of tourists who were obviously lost as well and then spent the rest of the time being driven round by the tourists trying to find Malcs place. As you can imagine, we weren’t best pleased as we walked back down to the vehicles.
Although the area I was supposed to be stalking had been well and truly disturbed, I spoke with Malc and, having all my stuff in the vehicle, arranged to get picked up later and walked back up to the ‘leaning tree’. The wind wasn’t in a good direction so I crossed the boggy terrain and took up station on the opposite side of the rough station. I spent the next hour trying to be as still as possible whilst getting steadily more uncomfortable (need to get one of those pack away backrest things for occasions like this!) and then spotted some movement. Looking through the bins, a Sika had ventured down into the clearing and was slowly mooching around, no doubt wondering about all the disturbance. Unfortunately it was a stag so was off the menu! I sat around for another 40 minutes or so with the light steadily fading and then spotted more movement from the same area as before. This time it was a hind and I got a brief look before it disappeared behind some foliage. I was in a higher position that where she was and steadily stood up and set up the rifle and sticks for a shot. I waited and waited but still no sign. In an effort to get a better vantage point I crawled along to the lip of a small bank and set up lying down, glassing where she had last been seen – still no sign. By this time the light was failing quite badly and I decided to quietly stalk to where I had last seen her. A few minutes of walking as quietly as I could and was pretty much in the middle of the clearing in some boggy heather and scrub but the light was very bad by now. I heard movement and not 30 yards away spotted the bouncing white arse as she sped off! Oh well, too bloody dark to shoot it anyway! Although I was pretty intimate with the area by now I still managed to walk off in slightly the wrong direction and had a brief moment of worry before descending another rough bank and recognising the area approaching a distinct fence-line. I met up with Tony and Wadas and we drove back to Malcs. Once we all got together it turned out that, even though we were late in getting going after the afternoon fiasco, most people had seen deer with a couple of opportunities for a shot. Unfortunately none had been downed so we all went back to the digs for dinner.
Next morning, some were up and away in the dark for an early start. Tony and myself had a leisurely breakfast before meeting John in the village. We were to stalk his area of plantation so we drove up with him and parked in the forest. He explained the boundaries and Tony and I set off up the road splitting the block before going our separate ways and talking a section each. I spent a lot of time glassing a likely area, followed by stalking a ride. There was plenty of sign around, including a couple of wallows but I didn’t see any deer. I came across a Sika stag skull that had obviously been there a while so picked that up and stashed it somewhere I could find it later. I went around most of the bock, coming back along the boundary fence. Two stags were out on the hill to my right about 300 yards away but no other deer were seen. I got back to the vehicles for a late lunch and Tony spoke to John on his mobile (they worked down here!) to say that he had seen a group of Sika out on a ride and was stationed in the high seat overlooking where they had been seen, waiting to see what they would do next. The plan had been to swap over areas but with this development I went back to a likely looking area and set up station. After an hour or so of as much inactivity as I could muster whilst getting chewed by midgies (including having to put my midge net on when it got too bad), I moved and took up another position part-way down a ride. The light slowly faded away and nothing had appeared by the time I decided to call it a day. I stalked quietly down the access track to an area that had had some obvious feeding activity but nothing doing there either. A short while later I heard a whistle behind me, Tony had walked out as well and we returned to the vehicles. He had blanked as well so we picked up the skull and returned to the digs. Everyone else had blanked as well, although there had been a couple of chances. After dinner we returned to Malcs for a couple of beers and some cracking banter. Thanks guys for a great night, I vividly remember Paul and myself crying with laughter on a couple of occasions!
Saturday was going to be a long drive back for me so I said my goodbyes and got away at 06.30, arriving home at 17.30. All the others were out in the morning so I hope to hear of their success and safe journey back.
So, nothing shot but a cracking time was had by all.