I've just got back from a long weekend's stalking in Scotland (only 10 days after the last trip up there - this is a serious addiction!) with my oppo Gadget and a couple of Welsh boyos from the valleys - PaulT and his amiable sidekick, Mumbling Martin. After all of the help and opportunities people have offered me since I got interested in stalking, I finally feel like I have had an opportunity to put something back this weekend. Unfortunately, like an idiot, I failed to take a camera on this trip, so the other characters in this account will have to email me theirs
We were heading for Gadget's ground southeast of Aberdeen, where he has some seriously good woodland and farmland with a healthy population of Roe and a good number of devilishly cunning marauding Reds hitting the kale fields. I've been up there with G a good few time now - our record for Roe was five bucks in 24 hours ( http://s869.photobucket.com/albums/a...4.jpg&newest=1 ) and we have never failed to take a beast yet. G has a management plan in place for the ground and the aim of this trip was to try and thin out the does a bit more, whilst giving PaulT an opportunity to take his first ever deer. Martin had just acquired his first centrefire rifle a couple of weeks ago and was along for the ride, although G was doing his level best to make him feel confident enough to have a crack at a deer if the chance came up.
The only fly in the ointment was the weather forecast - G had warned the boys that the heavy rain seemed to be making the deer a bit unpredictable and offered them an opportunity to reschedule for a later date. However, work commitments and sheer enthusiasm saw us on our way to Scotland on a gloomy Thursday night, with every chance of rain stopping play.
Friday was set aside for recovery from the long overnight drive, a trip to the range to check zero plus the obligatory '3 shots into 3"' procedure for P and M (no worries for either) and a walk round the stalking ground - driving around the edge of the ground we saw a couple of does on adjoining patches, so everyone's blood was up. With the formalities over and the stalking planned out, there was time for food and a kip before we treated the boyos to 'Gadget and Adamant's Extreme Rabbiting Experience'. This was to be PaulT and Mumblin' Mart's first experience of high octane rabbit control and they were keen to try out their new rimmies; a very tasty Annie carbine and a tricked-up 'pimp my gun' 10/22 semi. I'm not sure they realise how lucky they were to be going out at night with .22LRs - the last guest we took out for some in-between-stalking rabbiting had to go in daylight and the weapons of choice that day were .17HMR, .223R and .270W; messy doesn't even begin to describe it
Mumblin' Mart' struggled a bit to shoot rabbits in the lamp, until I found out he had his 'scope turned up to about x20 so had a field of view of around 6" at 50 yards - a quick adjustment down to x7 got him into his stride, whereupon he became the rabbit slaughterer from hell. Some of those rabbits had at least four rounds in them once Mart' had discovered his new 10/22's rapid fire capability Still, much amusement was had by all by the time we'd finished at about midnight.
The forecast for Saturday morning was as grim as expected, with torrential rain through the night and well into the day. Time was filled with some additional sleep, followed by a spot of essentail shopping at the local gun emporium. By early afternoon the rain had cleared and there was a rush to get our boots on and hit the woods. As PaulT is an experienced shooter and I'm a relatively inexperienced stalker by Gadget's standards but knowing the ground well, we paired up, with me leading the stalk and Paul following. It was at this point I dredged up all of the advice I've been given by my expert advisors, applied my IanF stalking eyebrows, and talked Paul through the process of the stalk, including the need for kit like gloves and face veils. We drifted through the lower wood, glassing and soft stepping, until we reached the long ride where we aimed to sit up and wait - both the ride and the field above had shown signs of recent traffic and looked like a good bet. However, despite a nice quiet entry to the wood and a lot of patience, nothing was stirring by the time the last light faded. The only discovery of note was that the attractive woman in the cottage below the woods needs to buy some curtains for her bedroom and anyone stalking in that part of the wood on a Saturday evening needs to pack much more powerful binoculars G and Martin had had a bit more luck in actually seeing a couple of does but not having the chance of a shot.
Sunday morning found us with near perfect conditions, so we were on the ground before daylight. I didn't like to let on to Paul that I was far more nervous of leading him than I've ever been when shooting!! I had planned out a route over a recently acquired network of neighbouring fields and forest edge, so as the light began to show, Paul and I began by moving quietly up along a dyke, successfully managing not to spook the poxy sheep. My aim was to get Paul into position in a sort of natural high seat overlooking two small fields where the Roe browse quite often. If they were out, this point would give him an excellent chance of a steady shot out to 200 yards. Unfortunately, after gettng into position and waiting for a while, nothing was moving so we moved back and along to the next field. As we moved out into the semi-open, I glassed the ground ahead and below and spotted movement. Sure enough, there was a doe moving between the two ponds about 100-120 yards away. As I moved Paul slowly forward and set up the sticks, she must have picked up noise or movement - she took a couple of quicker steps and disappeared into heavy cover. On reaching the point where she'd been standing, it was clear that despite some cover we'd been more skylined than I'd realised, so chalk that one up to experience - at least she hadn't seen us and barked. Despite our best efforts, we couldn't pick her up again, so carried on up into the edge of the woodland in the other direction.
After covering a very slow 100 yards, I glassed ahead a spotted the unmistakable outline of a Roe's hindquarters in profile about 90 yards ahead, just off the track. Ducking back out of sight, I got Paul forward and set up the sticks for him in slow motion. I then checked the deer through the bino's and thought 'bugger - I think I'm setting Paul up to shoot a boulder' but thankfully the boulder moved, was confirmed as a shootable doe with a good back-stop and my heart started again. With no messing, Paul set his shiny new Sako 85 .243 on the sticks and set up for the shot. After about 3 seconds, the deer turned nicely broadside and the noise of an unmoderated rifle split the air. I was watching through the bino's and saw the deer drop neatly on the spot, waving her hooves a couple of times, so after reminding Pault to reload, we waited a moment and saw no further movement, off we went to claim our prize. I checked for eye reflex but it was clear she'd dropped cleanly to a perfect boiler room shot by Paul. Handshakes and congratulations on the man's first deer - at which point the lack of a camera was discovered - then a quick drag out to the track for me to do the gralloch and slosh some well-earned deer's blood on Paul's face.
I would not have believed that there was a feeling to equal taking your own first deer, but helping someone else take their's is just as good! Congratulations to Paul for joining the cohorts of deer stalkers and a massive thanks to Gadget for his ever generous access to such superb stalking ground. Martin wasn't lucky enough to take a deer but is now gagging to get out on another stalk in order to try out the entire contents of Bushwear that he bought on the way home through Stirling
If Gadget offers you the chance to stalk up there, bite his hand off as the deer are plentiful and the location damn near perfect - and as he and I are practically married these days, I'll probably be there to help out.