Well itís only a month late, but I suppose itís better late than never!!
At last Iíve found a little bit of time to write up the great experiences of the few days spent up in the Highlands with the guys from this site... Sit tight... itís a long one!!!
I have to say that for those 3 days I have never laughed so hard, so often in all my life! My hat goes off to Malc and John for organising everything, but also to the chuckle brothers (or was that Right Said Fred) and everyone else who was there for making it as enjoyable as it was!
After an evening getting to know each other, the events got off to a relaxed start with a lie in followed by a session on the range at the back of the cottage for everyone to check their zero and confirm their grouping. With nobody being brave enough to take the plunge and go first, everyone milled around looking at their feet until Jingzy stepped up and pretty much clover-leafed his three shots despite some heavy heckling from the usual suspects. One by one everyone else took their turn with the number of relieved looking faces growing as everyoneís shots went according to plan.
With that and a tour of the various hills out of the way, we all decided how to split up and who would be going with which guide in the evening. I had the chance to go into the woodland with Malc and Todd after the illusive Sika. We got there early and found some high ground overlooking a path that the Sika regularly travel as dusk draws in and sat down in wait. The magnificent Todd behaved impeccably, barely moving a whisker in the hour or more that we waited, and certainly less shuffling than we made as one at a time each of our limbs slowly went numb/dead due to the seating positions crouched behind cover! Whether it was the swirling wind carrying our scent, the wily old Sika getting one over on us, or just the luck of the draw, nothing showed (save a momentary glimpse of a Pine Marten) and as dusk drew in we decided that if they wouldnít come to us then we would have to do something about it. We set off to stalk through the woodland towards a clearing a few hundred meters away. The going wasnít making it easy to keep quiet with big boggy puddles making it impossible not to squelch! Nevertheless, as we approached the clearing there was something moving underneath some trees at the far side. We were sure it was a deer, but with the light fading quickly, and the little bugger luring in the shadows it was impossible to tell from that range whether it was a spiker or a hind. I could still make it out through my scope, but not sure of the sex, we crept close to the edge of the woodland and our cover in a race against the fading light, still undetected. As the cover ran out we took a last chance all or nothing risk and moved across the clearing making slow but steady progress towards the beast who showed no signs of moving. The growing darkness and a low hedge between us and it must have been masking our progress. We got to within around 50 metres before we had to call it, and admit that the lack of light had got the better of us to leave the score Sika 1 Gez 0. As we turned to head back towards the road, our quicker movement alerted the beast to our presence, or maybe our danger as it let out a series of sharp whistles. As we headed back to the car, we wondered if anyone else had been more successful than us as we hadnít heard any gunshots. It turns out that they had, and we arrived at the entrance to the regen woodland to find a fine Red stag lying next to Andyís car.
That story and the following morning where I accompanied Jingzy and PheasantSniper on a trip up heartbreak ridge have already been told, so thereís no need for me to steal their thunder and repeat their tales. All thatís really left to add on that count was that it was a great pleasure to spend the morning on the hill with those 2 chaps Ė I learned a fair bit from both of them as Terry tried to get us into a Red stag for one of his DSC 2 stalks. Sadly once again the deer got the better of us, and after a great stalk (through some amazing scenery on a lovely crisp morning that we all appreciated) by the time we got close enough for a shot the bugger had disappeared leaving only a group of hinds to taunt us the day before they would become fair game! So, Deer 2 Gez 0, they might have been winning so far but they had still provided me with some great times and challenges, and I had got so close I could throw a bullet at them (and smell them!) twice... I knew that if I kept at it, it wouldnít be long till I came good.
My next outing was with Wadas who out of two stalks, had already got Clive a great Red Stag on heartbreak ridge and had seen a huge Sika stag on the other big hill with Bob and Adam (I think it was them anyway!). I persuaded him to go back out onto the hill for a third stalk in a row after the stag that they had let pass that morning. Fair play to him, he must have been knackered, but without even a hint of complaint we set off. Iíve not had the chance to stalk many deer, but with my wanting to register for DSC2 soon, I took the opportunity to ask him as many questions as possible and he was only too happy to share what he knew (at least he didnít complain!). We started glassing the area in front of us very early in the stalk as we were still strolling along the track chatting, more to Ďget our eye iní than in the expectation of seeing anything... All of a sudden, the big lad exclaimed ďBugger me!Ē as he froze, quickly followed by ďI say... I say...Ē as he tried to get my attention. I turned to look in the same direction as him, and low and behold there was a fantastic Sika stag right in front of us about 600-700m away. We really didnít have much cover to approach him, and if he had looked up in our direction, he would have seen us standing there sticking out like a sore thumb! We slowly backtracked out of sight so that we use the cover of the bracken either side of us to try to approach into a shooting position. The wind wasnít doing us any favours and kept changing directions, but we planned our approach to minimise the risk of him scenting us, hoping that the cover would last long enough for us to get in for a shot. We covered the first few hundred metres quite quickly walking or crouching, using a well worn deer path to help us move through the bracken out of sight, moving occasionally back up to the brow to check the range. Eventually the cover of the hill ran out, with us now finding ourselves on the slope that faced the beast, but still a good 400m away. Fortunately, the bracken and the track through it carried on so we got down on our bellies and crawled at a snailís pace through the puddles, mud and **** trying desperately not to disclose our arrival by moving the foliage too much. We knew that if he so much as suspected there was something there that heíd be off in a heartbeat and I really didnít want to let the deer get one over on me once again. With each metre that we crawled my heart was thumping harder and harder: it seemed to take ages to cover the smallest distance and we didnít dare break our cover to see if we had been spotted. Eventually as the bracken ran out and fell away from us too quickly we slowly poked our head up. At last something was going my way Ė the stag was still in front of us feeding happily without a clue that I was lowering the legs on my bipod and making myself comfortable. Wadas set himself up next to me in case the worst should happen, and when we were both ready, he told me to take my time, wait for him to present himself broadside, then give him a bullet. I sat and watched for a couple of minutes, knowing that my time had come, the tension rising each second that he stayed facing us, waiting for him to turn. I waited and waited and eventually he turned almost perfectly broadside. I bit my lip to hold my concentration as I squeezed the trigger and sent a 150gr Sako softpoint his way. He dropped to the shot and I cycled another round with what was now a beaming smile on my face. Wadas patted me on the back and congratulated me. As we watched and waited to see if he would get up, I thanked him for getting me into my first Sika, my first stag, and only my second deer. I really felt like I had earned this one! After the obligatory photos we started the drag back, I wonít go into too much detail Ė Iíve already written too much, but suffice to say after that, I really felt like Iíd earned that deer!
So, the trip ended Deer 2, Gez 1 but I was more than happy with that scoreline. I think Wadas was proud of himself too, as he took a well deserved rest, whilst the lackey fed him a celebratory beer!
I think the banter and evening entertainment courtesy of Fester has been more than covered too, but it all added to make this a truly amazing trip. Hopefully this wonít be the last time that I stalk with Malcolm and co, or share an evening around the dinner table with all the lads. Iíve come away from the highlands with great memories of my first stag, a great trophy and some great new friends to boot, so thank you to everyone involved!
Malc, John, Jingzy, Wadas, Fester, Andy, Rob, Fran and all the guys that came up with me, Terry, Clive, Adam, Trevor, Bob... and of course Todd the trusty companion (god hope I havenít forgotten anyone!), thank you.