[Best get a cuppa for this one! Got a bit carried away!]
Just back from a short week at the stags
No rut on just yet and the weather was remarkably warm for late September in the Hebrides
I spent all week before trying to get all the usual bits and pieces together as well as trying to sort a replacement scope and test zero it with some homeloads that came with a new (to me) Tikka 300WM.
My favourite lucky tweed breeks may have to be consigned to the bin but I managed to pick up some Harkila ones for a song.
Boots all cleaned and waxed.
Planning on hip deep water everywhere so am armed with 3 pairs of boots, back up jackets and a pair of new goretex socks (never needed those in the end!)
Wind: strong South, South Easterly blowing down the glen. good direction
Temperature: too bloody warm for these Goretex breeks!
Humidity: expected light showers but a lot more humid on the inside of these bloody breeks!!!
Armed with the trusty old .270 as we headed up the sheep paths into the belly of the glen.
50 yards in we could see a couple of small parties of stags up on the summit slightly behind us to the North West.
Wrong direction for our position and wind but good to see and no danger of them being spooked at that range.
1000 yds in and we get a chance to spy the hill proper.
It opens out into a huge face under the shadow of the ridge summit, various gullies and small peaks lie between us and the ridge.
High up on the ridge directly above us is a party of 6 stags, mostly 4-6yr old with a couple of older ones
along the ridge into the wind and way up on the summit is another party of older and bigger stags. They have a commanding view of the whole glen from here.
Little further along but lower down is another small group, they are in a good position for there view but down below them the ground lifts and drops creating the potential of enough dead ground to come up from beneath them.
We head for the ridges and gullies beneath them, every now and then pausing to take a look into the next gully and over the next ridge for anything that might be between us and them.
its a long climb and the body temperature is hitting Shanghai whorehouse levels (so I am told!), the strong wind in our faces is the only thing stopping us from passing out!
at every crest we see the stags looking down and have to back track and head further up the glen bringing us dangerously close to the edge of the windline, the zone directly level with the stags were a swirl of wind in the wrong direction or up and round a hill would give our position away.
The closer we get to them the more likely this could happen.
we finally get to our last option
a small hill with a rocky outcrop on top, a large gully between us and them putting them about 20-30 feet above us
The gully opens right out to the North (our right) coincidentally exposing us to the other group of stags above the targets. Not looking good for an easy stroll to the closest summit!
its getting late by now, 4-430 at least, once at the closest point we can get to we see the problem.
One stag lying down looking directly our way, one stag facing up hill feeding arse towards us the third is in the same position but on the skyline! the skylined one is basically a switch with two tiny brow points, nasty looking head and my focus is on him!
We try to judge the distance as we forgot the rangefinder! very tricky in this light over a gully. Its well over 200yds IMO. the gully between us has a howling wind (15-20mph by wet finger) running through it at 90 degrees to any shot.
its close to 430-5pm by now and no real sign of a shot with the stag's positions.
We get one possible shot as the stag facing us fidgets and stands up, he has seen something or caught a swirl of the copious quantities of man sweat we must be emitting!
As he stands he turns to quarter uphill, only possible shot on is to slip a bullet just behind his near leg and either take out the far side front leg or bring it forward and exit through the brisket.
My mental ballistics are doing their nut trying to come up with an idea of options. At this rough range with my home loaded 130gr ammo it would be a 4-5" drop, with this wind I am thinking at least the same in drift.
At 5pm on the first day that would likely entail an extraction by hand in the dark or an early retrieve the following day screwing up any chance of a full day. That is assuming we do have the range right.
The alternative is a wounded beast sailing off over the skyline and clearing the hill leaving us with a nasty follow up
Not for me I am afraid.
Leave for tomorrow and retire into the dead ground armed with a full picture of what we have to attack tomorrow.
Same sweaty humidity!
Entering the glen from a more Northerly aspect with the idea that the wind gives us a better chance to move along the face rather than rise up from below.
300yds up the path and we walk into full view of three stags very low down the hill. Bollox!!
They are at around 1200 yds.
We back track and move down into the burn to continue rising up towards them on the right hand side of the long gully in the hope that we are far enough away not to have spooked them into a run.
We edge forward to see the ridge they were on from a different point.
They have gone!
The wider hillside beyond them is in view. They are not seen hightailing it over the horizon.
then we spot a stag browsing up to our right, could be one of them.
Our only hope is to move forward and see if they have just moved into some dead ground
up and back
up and back
up and back!!
every time we move forward we have to back track to out right and try to come in from a different angle.
we finally spot them further back from their original position browsing by a burn.
We are now above them by some 40-50ft but on the face of a outcrop with the wind directly in our faces as it swirls round and follows the contour.
One up the spout and clear of the rifle sleeve I edge forward onto a moss covered rock pushing the rifle over the top.
They are in the lee of the burn with just their heads and back showing but appear to be feeding towards us.
Three stags of similar size and age, about 8-9 years old I would guess, very little between them
I pop the earplugs in and am steady and watching the left hand one through the scope. all of 75 yards and 40-50 feet below me.
As they come out of the burn feeding with heads down the only possible shot is down through the neck, exiting between his front feet. not one I particularly want but will if I have to.
Waiting for what seems like an age as they just keep coming!!
40 yards and closing...
no shot on, going to need a bloody bayonet in a minute!
Finally one on the right gets a grunt and shove from the middle beast and they move off to our right out of sight round the hill, the one in my sights stands head up and finally moves sideways to follow, he is not moving but I don't fancy him hanging around.
Reticule placed just above and behind the point of his elbow to compensate for the downward angle. (I always aim to miss the front legs if possible)
The unmoderated .270 echoes across the glen and the stag wheels round to head downhill and goes about 5yds and stops, I don't see an exit and track him with the rifle as he stands looking up at his mates dazed and clearly about to drop.
1 second later he is over, couple of kicks and all is still.
We watch the other two as they scan the hill for whatever just disturbed them then they turn and trot off in the direction of where we were yesterday.
We head down to the fallen stag, a fine specimen with a decent head, good age to be taken:
Not quite my closest shot on a stag (27yds!) but bloody near it, reckon about 35yds from where he was standing.
difficult to put perspective on the photo but I was stretched over the lower edge of the lower rock on the skyline
On inspection there is no exit as I saw through the scope but there is a slight lump just about where his last rib is, sure enough I can feel a hard lump under the skin.
Curiosity takes over and out comes a perfectly expanded 130gr Interlock opened right up to the locking ring:
We do the necessary and pull him a little way down the hill and pause for a cracking view and a slightly late lunch
After a bit of deliberation we opt for a manual extraction as I can't be arsed to go all the way back for the quad and back up and back down!
I estimate we both lost 8lbs in sweat alone pulling the stag off the hill!
Whisky by the fire was well deserved that night!!
Pissing down intermittently and more importantly the whole hillside was swathed in thick fog
20 yds visibility in places!
Oh and it is Sunday! Play time!
We find a suitable gulley and put out some targets
small metal figure target (thank's Tam) for the 100yd zero
and a figure 11 board is adorned with some half inflated water balloons and three orange diamonds, stuck out at around 250-275 yds for some playing
tooled up with two 270's, a 300Wm and a .222 with an assortment of ammo we spend the next couple of hours going through god knows how much money in ammunition!!
First time I have tested the 300WM with 180gr bullets at range and it was a revelation. Day 1 would have been a different story if I had taken that and been after this range day
Good fun though and we did our bit for a spot of local mining by leaving the locals a start on a mine shaft behind the target!
What little wind there is has shifted round to the South South East, mist is still hanging around the summits
its barely blowing and eerily silent as we walk up
We head up the same path as Day one.
100 yds in we spot two stags barely above the fields! back and round to approach them from the side and behind the rise of the burn.
Not very big things at all but they either hear us or something spooks them.
They stand and grunt like flighty roe bucks and walk off ahead of the path we plan on taking.
bit of a pause to give them some room and we slowly start the ascent up the main corrie of the bigger glen.
After some time and as we round a point we spot our two youngsters who have covered an incredible amount of ground at a walking pace.
They are heading straight for the highest summit....were we see a party of 12-15 stags of various sizes. in and around the summit skyline.
Its a bloody long way!! easily 2000yds up at 45 degrees as the crow flies....I am not a crow!
its the summit here:
Time for lunch and a strategy plan.
By now the sun is out and the day is really warming up. This is September in Scotland for god's sake! I am dressed for the usual not a summer stroll!
Half way through my first ham salad roll I look round the edge to see an empty summit. Bollox! have our two youngsters cleared our chances?
lunch wrapped up we take advantage of the no longer present look out party and make a steady climb up to a ridge that is dead ground from the summit.
on our way we see the hallmarks of stags getting their warpaint on:
As we cross an open area in full sunshine now we see a pair of antlers on the skyline! great timing, here we are in full view and he decides to come back for one last look!
as we freeze and look at him through the binos, it turns out the be the back of his head we are looking at!
40 mins later we are rounding a hill to see what we can see.
party of three on a rock top, behind them to the left a party of 6 or 7 sitting standing and feeding on another hill top.
We are below the summit and the area is strewn with smaller summits and peat hags
No way in here, every gully is covered with beady eyes
Back and down and round to the North we may find a way in from behind the main summit.
We do. But not before feeling a swirl of wind come right round the slope and up our backs, a full 180 degrees to the wind coming over the tops! could be curtains if that is more than a swirl
Rising behind a small rocky outcrop we see the party of 3 sitting.
Only heads and necks visible and two facing us with their ears twitching.
It is deathly silent, the slightest movement makes the coarse grass sound like a tescos bag in your ear!
I have the 300WM today. Badly needs to be christened!
One up the spot I slide on belly up to the rock.
they are at about 50 yds all I can see are faces and flicking ears, partly midgies and partly strange rustling from our direction.
One stag is eyeballing me, or appears to be. He knows something is not right but is not sure enough to shift his lazy arse and do something about it.
He looks left and right and checks were his two mates are.
As he turns to look behind him I slowly look back to see where my partner in crime is. As I look back I see to my horror that he has either spotted me or finally decided enough is enough and they have all stood up and are walking off the rocky top down to their right into the gully running away.
the rifle is already rested on a moss covered rock and I am well positioned to track them, just as all looks lost one of them breaks from the path and turns to his right side on to look back. He is out at about 100yds
I don't need a second invitation, this is out last chance today for sure.
Safety off and a bead on the same spot just above and behind his elbow, I have no real recollection of actually squeezing the trigger.
The 300 shakes the ground and I see him wheel round to the left.
As he does the blood flow from the exit is phenomenal, looks like someone throwing a full cup of coffee! He barely makes it 3 yds and slumps just out of sight.
Gathering up the sticks and sleeves from behind us I take stock of the view.
Its 3pm and a cracking day by any description, we are on the roof of the world here and the sun is out.
we find our fallen stag lying exit wound up. Not the biggest but a good cull animal at around 5-6 years old and just making 8 points.
On inspection from the inside of the rib cage the 180gr .30cal bullets doing 3000 odd fps have done no more damage than any other bullet.
My .222 shooting 60 grainers puts bigger exits in roe deer.
10p entrance in the inside chest and a 50p exit on the inside chest. missed both shoulders and elbows.
Bullet had cleaved a hole through the middle of the lungs. the volume of frothy blood on the exit and over the 3-4yds of ground was impressive.
now we have a pull and a half!!
its time for a call and a quad request but we still have to get him off the top and down to reach of the quad and pick it up from the end of the road.
Time for a strip down to shirt sleeves and a speed drag!
we stop regularly to drain the burns of cold water and take the occasional photo
Its 515pm by the time we reach the car.
Rather guiltily I have to leg it and leave the others to head back up with the quad.
I am booked on the last ferry and need to get back to the house (30 min drive), shower change and run the gauntlet to be there for 630....its a 45 min drive.
Speed shower, car packed from a distance, I posted a fine time to challenge Callum Duffy's record for the glen road!
Ferry made in plenty of time for the old S4 to cool down!
Fish and Chips courtesy of CalMac and a reflection on a fine time with good friends