A week ago, Frax had PM'd me to ask if I fancied a day at the Hinds, an offer to which I could not refuse.
Frax and myself had never met but we had passed various PM's to each other, Frax had also donated items to last years March and Shoot.
Anyway, the date was arranged for yesterday (Monday 21st), at this point last week, everything weather wise was fine. So yesterday Morning, expecting the worst, I got up at 0430 to have Brekkie and then headed off to Skye. Now as all of you will know, the weather has changed over the last few days, in Inverness, we have about 6" of snow, so I was not expecting the journey to Skye to be particularly good. Much to my surprise , the road to Invermorrison (A82)was clear, only when I turned off to head to Kyle of Lochalsh the roads were not gritted with the snow coming down, I was glad I took the Discovery with me.
The snow stopped and the roads cleared about 10 miles from Kyle of Lochalsh much to my surprise. I still couldn't see what the surrounding area was like as it was still pitch black. I got the the Co-Op car park at Broadfords still dark, so I got a bite to eat at the cafe just down the road.
When the sun broke the skyline, what a beautiful setting, the tops of the mountains were covered, the snow line was probably 800ft. I was absolutley gutted that I had forgotten my camera.
Frax arrived, with his young lad Henry who was off due to the school being shut and various teachers not managing to get to work, he would be joining us for the day. We all jamp into Frax's motor and headed accross the island to his ground, the journey was about an hour.
Once we arrived there, I was given a brief about the ground, what to shoot etc....All this time, taking in the stunning views to be had in all directions. I loaded up, Frax loaded up and Henry took the carcass retreval frame that Frax had brought along.
Walkng to the ground, we have to gain access through a neighbouring estates ground, but this went well, with the first sighting of a Hind on the fence line. We got onto Frax's ground and started to gain height. The ground itself is very long, runns parallell along a valey bare hills/mountains on either side with a strip of wood that runs basically the full length of the ground, so it pulls the deer in and whatever else is seeking shelter. We were walking/climbing along the left hill side hoping to see the Hind we had previously seen, unfortunatley, she had moved in whatever direction and had avoided the .308 on this occasion. We progressed further, using the natural cover to hide from the wood and crawling forward every 1-200m to spy the ground below.
Frax thought he had seen a deer, so he told me to go forward, if the shot presented itself, then take it. I went forward on my belly, over the mound and down onto a slightly lower shelf, alas, no deer were seen, I climbed back up and met with Frax and Henry, unfortunatley at this point, Frax saw 7 Red's running in the same direction we were heading, they had clocked me or us, either way, they were off.
We gave them a couple of minutes then continued along the hill side, spying as we went. Unfortunatley, at this point, Frax was getting concerned about Henry getting cold, he had done well, he's 10 and never once moaned or fussed, but Frax was not happy with him by this point, getting cold and shivering so he decided to turn around, I was more than happy with this, as the last thing anyone want's is a casualty on the ground. To my surprise, Frax said I could go on, he would take Henry back, he briefed me on the far boundry and said "Go for it", so after I took the carcass frame, said our farewells, we parted in separate directions.
I had only gone maby 300m when I spied the Reds again, I was well above them, they were in the next self seeded plantation of young pine trees. I decended towards them using the natural hillicks (is that a word) and ground cover. Stopping short of the next ridge, I dropped the frame and crawled forward, getting to the edge, there they were well, I counted 5, I set up and waited, I had chosen the Hind I was going to cull so waited for the shot to present itself. She moved along and then stopped, with the distance she was, I took a neck shot, she dropped on the spot. I waited and she was motionless, I looked over and saw the rest had not moved off, I thought of taking a second shot, but decided against it, you'll find out why in a moment. I returned to the frame and slung it on then went over to the fallen deer.
I walked up the the carcass, confirmed she was dead then thought, "How the F*** do I get this out of here!!!!", there is no vehicle access. It's not until you shoot a Red that you realise how big they are especially when 90% of the Stalking I have done up here has resulted in Roe Carcasses to deal with. Anyway, after strugglung to heave, push, pull, turn, sweat profusly for 20 mins, she was dressed. Frax had said, should I be successful, take the back end off the carcass and leave the rest to nature, this now seemed like a very good idea, the Sea Eagles were not daft, they were on the hill as soon as we arived, obviously becoming familure to the sight of strange looking mobile trees walking the hillside. After butchering in the field, I had from the end of the ribs back and the two honches. Strapped to the frame, I picked it up and thought, "That's heavy", picking up my rifle, I removed the magazine and bolt and headed back. Straight away, I was sweating, the weather had been lovely all day but was now starting to turn, snow was incoming and I had miles to hump this back. I tried to phone Frax a couple of times but there was no reception. I knoe I had to gain height as going through the self seeded trees or even the forestry block was not an option. Every step was sore, my thights were burning, up and down the ridges, up the hill side to get over the tree line, down again, then, up, up, up, that's the way it felt. The snow was now piling in. I was in pain. Thinking I was so happy I had not taken the 2nd shot. If I had the carcass would have been left, which isnt the done thing to be honest. After what must have been 1.5 miles, I was seriously thinking of dumping the carcass, the weather was not good and I didn't want to become a casualty myself. I blocked the pain, shoulders burning, thighs burning, thinking, don't give in, I pulled the trigger, I need to retreve this and accept my actions.
I got to the boundry onto the Neighbouring ground, I knew I was close, so I was happier, I could see the break in the wood then the next wood, that's where Frax and Henry were and the car.
I walked along what was now a noticable track, made from some forrestry type vehicle. I walked along, I was in some pain, my shoulders and thighs were not wanting to play any more. Frax got out of his car with Henry they came over, he took my slung rifle fron me and we headed for the car. Got there and took the frame off, I nearley fell over, the relief of removing the frame made my body just want to fall over.
Once everything was loaded up and a brew down my neck, it was off out towards the exit in the car, near the exit, there is a cleared area where we sat up for 5 mins then Frax spotted a Red, so he was going to go and see if he could get it. I stayed in the car with Henry, watching Frax approach to a firing position, unfortunatley, when he got there, he couldn't get the shot off, he moved to another position, but lost sight of the Red, you can't win them all I suppose. He returned to the car, and we then headed for Broadford to my Disco.
After another very pleasant drive back to Broadford and a transfer of items onto my car, it was time for a steady drive back to Inverness. I was home for 8pm, so not a bad journey to be honest.
I would just like to say a very big "Thank You" to Frax for the invitation on the Reds, like I said, "If I win the lottery, I'll buy you an Argo", knowone should have to do that retreval........You are a truely nice gentleman. Henry, for a lad of 10 to come on the hill, in cold wet conditions and not moan one bit, good on you.
Frax once again, Many Thanks, it was a pleasure to meet you and look forward to meeting again one day.
Merry Christmas to you and your Family, Enjoy Spain and have a Happy New Year.