So, this has been booked a while. Looking forward to the trip, but not the ~450 mile drive taking something like 8 hours in the car (plus toilet stops, House of Bruar etc etc). My wife, my patterdale and myself set of last Tuesday morning, with a car full of 'stuff' having being told its very wet and to make sure I had dry boots and gear for each day.
Made it up to Thurso late evening. Fairly tired, to go out stalking on the Wednesday (wife and dog staying in the cottage). Had been given a postcode by Andy which I thought I'd plug into my satnav to see what time I needed to leave in the morning. Satnav said I was 4 1/2 hours away and 240 miles. Something wrong here. With some furious googling I discovered that I wasn't stalking in Dumfermline, and Andy had given me the postcode with both a letter AND a digit wrong!
I have to say that there were deer everywhere. Never seen or heard so many in such a short space of time. Every way you looked you could see deer, and in big groups in many places (50+). Some hellish stags. Rut very much still in progress with roaring all over.
Parked Argo and could hear a stag over the brow of the hill. Crawled forwards, but they moved around the corner. That would have been too easy. Worked our way around using natural cover and a bit of crawling until behind a tuft of grass. Laid and watched. Single stag in a group of maybe a dozen hinds and youngsters. Not a 'wow' stag, but a stag, nevertheless. So we waited. And waited. And waited. I don't wear a watch and wasn't going to dig down for my phone, but we were there well over an hour - could have been getting on for 2 until the stag stood up and presented with a safe shot. Taken at exactly 200 yards - fell nicely.
Gralloched (my spell checker doesn't like that word) and taken back to larder.
So first day and a stag in the bag. I was pleased, and dry underneath.
Once again deer everywhere. Out on the other side of the estate and the terrain very much flatter. Started using the wind to our advantage and a short stalk, but the wind changed and on to plan B. Moved down to the other side and started working hard! Much wetter going. Noisy and little cover. Me being a bit taller than John, I think we were working to different definitions of down! Got in semi-close a couple of times but by lunchtime had managed to spook a few deer. After lunch we crawled through the mush for a considerable length of time. Finally managed to get into a position, taking the shot off the longer bipod sitting. Probably the best stag we saw, but couldn't get steady so never pulled the trigger. Shot another smaller stag, so 2 days, 2 deer. Worked bloody hard that day!
My last day on the stags. Back over to the side we started on. Better cover IMO. Before lunch we came across 2 'staggies' that appeared out of nowhere. Got down and shot one, but a little low and not dead enough for my liking, so went round and put another one in the neck. That was my only disappointing aspect, but dealt with quickly and as humanely as possible.
After lunch we made our way towards a bigger group of deer (20 maybe) with a number of hinds and teenage deer. What looked like a 'decent' stag amongst them. Using about the only rocky outcrop I saw out there crawled in and hid in the coarse grass. Stag stood up rather quickly, moved away from other deer and dropped on the spot (180gr from a .308 . Better head that Wednesday's beast. Nothing special to many people, but I was happy with him.
Collected both beasts and back with the Argo to the larder.
Hind season. Having gone all that way tagging a cheaper day on at the end seemed like a good plan. Back out and once again deer everywhere. Found a group of 3 hinds (mother, this years calf, and last years female calf). We played cat and mouse for a while, as we got into a position they moved away. Repeated a few times until they joined a larger group of deer. The 'grand plan' was to try and shoot for all 3 but mum and calf clearly not born yesterday and wouldn't come away from the group. Took the chance and shot the yearling hind. Nothing fancy, but should make someone some good eating. Other deer ran away quickly. I'd personally rather concentrate on one deer rather than worry about trying to shoot 3 in quick succession.
No pictures of day 2 or the hind - sorry.
The guys are very good. It was bloody hard work at times, but very enjoyable. Found out on the Friday that John is not only an AW, but an assessor for level 2, so he clearly knows his onions.
Not as wet as promised, but I struck very lucky with the weather on my days. A little drizzle was all I had to contend with. Glad I bought a 'plastic' .308 and would have felt a little sad dragging a nice piece of walnut through that quagmire.
Also if you take a little staggie's antler home for the patterdale terrier as they chew said antler you get a lot of blood escape by capillary action and a mess all over the rug!
Have asked for same dates next year.
(the Z-aim slings are good. Used one for the 4 days and no concussion whatsoever...................)