I am lucky to be married to a woman who has Irish roots. Her mother still owns a house on the west coast and we have the free use of it whenever we wish for as long as we wish. So this year we decided that we should visit again especially as MY last visit we worked out was some 10 years ago.
The last time I was there I had some rough shooting with an old family friend and was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of a Red hind and calf. More recent visits by my wife indicated areas where deer sightings were becoming more frequent so with just my binoculars in and some will, I decided that I would task myself with coming into contact with this elusive animal.
The first part of my holiday was taken up with the usual family matters but I found myself waking up earlier and earlier and when the weather finally looked good enough I took the chance.
My wife dropped me one afternoon on a friends farm and after having eluded the farm dog and the bull that I had been warned about I found myself here.
I had been finding some dung pellets and bedding sights before this, so knew that there were deer around, but not in large quantities. And so I continued on my slow ascent and soon realised that I was on track when I came across this sight.
Tress thrashed and broken at a height that could only be a Red Stag. Now to find him and photograph him.
Once again I began heading up hill and soon knew that I was firmly planted in his area as I found hair on barbed wire and this.
My instant reaction on finding the wallow was "there's more than one or two around here".
The wind had begun to pick up and was not in a good direction so I elected to start my descent and not disturb the area too much and return in a day or two.
Coming down I found many more sites that were well thrashed and I reached the farm just as it was going dark.
A couple of days later I woke in the pitch black to the phones alarm bleeping. I was up in a flash and with the kettle on grabbed a coffee and a slice of toast. The weather was broken cloud but dry and I was once again walking up the hill at 6.00am sharp.
I reached a ridge in quick time and decided to glass the freshly cut fields expecting to see a fox but was instantly greeted with 2x Red hinds feeding on the margins. No, hold on 3x, no 4x, no 3x and a pricket.
Okay it's only a pricket, but I have at least seen a Stag. Not wanting to wait I gently bump them. They semi trot off and I sub-consciously mount the rifle and cull a couple as they are only 100m away. Eventually they move away to the forest.
I continue up to the next ridge concentrating far too much on the area I had scouted a couple of days previous totally oblivious to the fact that I am being watched, very carefully by a dozen sets of eyes. Their movement catches my and I turn to be confronted by a Red Stag group. Up go the bins as it is still half light and in amongst the group I can make out at least 4x 12pt Stags the others being smaller. Sadly my clumsiness spooks them too much and they crash off in to the woods.
Although annoyed at myself, I am elated that I have seen them. So I decide to carry on and make my way to the area of a couple of days previous.
There are new signs that the animals have used the area. I CAREFULLY scout the area and after seeing nothing wonder if I have blown my chance. If you get close enough to photograph one then your definitely close enough to shoot one. I decide to walk the track of the neighbouring Coilte wood and quickly find that this area is well used. Up and Up I go, along a wiggling winding road that has clearly not been used in a long time.
Then came the stalk.
I rounded a corner and stopped very briefly, glassing carefully. Out step 4x stags. 1x a very young boy, 2x average and 1x an old warrior that although not a 12pt had an enormous span and was clearly going back. They disappeared around the corner.Attachment 46191
The stag just rounding the corner in the photo is the old one.
They are only 30m away and I quickly and quietly make my way to the corner. Where the hell have they gone? I keep going and pick them up 100m in front of me walking the fence line. They look back clearly knowing that something is not quite right. Once again they round a corner so I quicken my pace anxious not to loose my opportunity. 35m from the corner I slow my pace to crawl and soon the youngster appears. He sees me and bolts taking one of the average stags with him into the wood but I wait. And finally at 35m the other average stag walks out broadside.....the perfect shot. He stands looking at me for 20secs or so and bolts too taking the old warrior.
So happy that I had completed my task I returned to the farm and told the farmer my story.
"So when are you coming to cull them then? My brother has the farm next door and the guy over the road will say yes as they eat his grass"
Went to Ireland looking to find a Stag
Found a lot of Stags and a rutting area.
Have open invitation to return and shoot as many as I like for free and to stay either with the farmer for free or at my mother-in-laws house for free.
I think a boat trip to Ireland in October WITHOUT the family sounds like a roaring (pun intended) plan.
I love it when a plan comes together