Returned back yesterday from a week on Arran with the BASC stalking scheme. Got say what a fantastic week I had and some cracking like minded folk. I thought I'd share my experience.
On Saturday 17th I made my final preparations of checking rifle and packing kit. I went to bed like a little kid on Christmas Eve and couldn't sleep for excitement. I was up early and full home cooked breakfast under my belt and I loaded the truck up and was on the road for 10.00am. The motorway gods were kind and I made good time and reached Ardrossan an hour before the ferry was due to depart.
During the journey I saw two trucks that looked like stalkers and I was guessing "I bet they're going to Arran". The ferry crossing was a mill pond and once at Brodick I settled into my B&B and chilled ready for Monday's briefing and range check.
Monday morning came like a shot and I met the other lads at the sports centre and BASC safety coordinator Chris introduced himself and FC ranger Bob. The two trucks from previous day were there two. The briefing and safety packs issued were good and I was left in no doubt the rules and parameters we to work to. I got paired up with a gentleman (mean his 100%) by the name of Mark Hatt-Cooke and in convoy we set off for a zero check and beat allocation.
Once all was checked and my 5pence size group was in the right place Mark and I set off to our beat for the week 'Bravo' or Shedog, I felt really well valued and the Intel passed of where hinds and stags had been seen was a good starting point. I drove like a rally driver and by 13.00 we were glassing the beat. Within 15 minutes of checking clear I had sight of the first potential Stag of the week. Mark said"your joking I don't believe it"
So Mark gallantly gave me first crack as I spotted him and it then we would swap if a shot was taken. So ranged him at 600m and planned a route in over the clear fell and open ground. So I led and Mark followed Indian style. I eventually got to within 300m and as the Stag had the higher ground I no other option but to take the long shot. I had a bit of Stag fever and hit him low and back clipping the gut. ******** I said to myself but he was winded and stood but was joined by a second who had been lay down. I was already and nerves were now shocking. I took another shot and clean missed purely due to adrenalin. The second stag ran on out of sight and I composed myself and my third hit home and 8 pointer slumped dead on stump. The relief was mixed euphoria and in less than an hour my first one was in the bag.
I apologised to Mark for shooting like a **** and it was completely down to nerves at shooting with someone I didn't know and Stag fever. I called in and Bob was there within minutes and extraction was relatively painless. Mark and I spent the rest of the day checking out the beat and making a plan for the week. We sat out over looking the other side on some regen but nothing showed itself. We did see some hinds whilst exploring and Monday was very quickly over.
Tuesday we were up at five and on the ground as the light came up and Mark took point so we went the high ground looking for hinds and hoping Stags would be with them. We quickly spotted hinds on the opposite valley side and pressed on eventually bumped a hind and three young stags that we let run on and settle in very think cover. Mark and I stalked on and we got within 40m before they broke and ran down hill into the stream bed. Mark quickly set up on his rest and I watched as they walked up the bank opposite and they stopped Mark shot but clean missed. They ran on and we hopped to catch up with them later in the week.
Lunch time we took a drive to Lochcranza and watched the local reds on the golf course and tried calling two huge lads from 40m and we got a reaction so we knew there might be some movement later in the week as the rut was not on but the juices were beginning to flow.
We returned for an evening stake out. I ended up sitting on a ride that had a hind just over a mound. Checked range it was 200m at the furthest point and checked view through rifle and rested it up. I couldn't believe my eyes a huge black body walked across my ride and was too quick for a chance. I then just sat viewing through my binos. Five minutes past and from the same side a second huge stag walked out but on a different line walking straight towards me but only showing he's head and I knew it was a cracker. He seemed to look into my sole and after what seemed like an hour he walked left out out of sight apart his huge antlers giving his position away. He then came out over the mound like monarch of the glen picture, I knew he was 148m distance and was. Standing broadside boom 30.06 into the engine room and I knew he was done but he crashed forward and disappeared into block. We lost the light and couldn't find the body so Bob was already called and on route. We decided to wait and let the dog do his business. Once on scene the dog located the stag dead 50m in the trees. I was elated and gutted as I was two stags up.
Tuesday finished and Mark and returned to or B&B as Mark had to change hotels and I had two beds so we roomed together and when we're cleaning we did a mutual check for ticks and Mark got the award for the most ticks I've ever seen on one person 14 in total and I was scratching all week although I only had one all week. Mark had a further seven over the next few days and shows the importance of checking yourself.
Wednesday was the midweek meet up and more Intel was past on numbers shot and deer seen. We also gained Dutch Bob as his original partner had been called away. We had seen hinds on the morning and this continued for evening stake out.
Thursday was a long stalk out to the open moor and the highest point of our beat with us taking full packs and rifle strapped to mine as it was still Marks chance. By 15.00 we had only seen hinds and thy had headed into a same area of previous days but no stags. So Mark and Rob headed there and I took a separate ride off the main road. Only hinds were seen.
Friday was the final morning stalk and we stayed in the same set up Mark and Rob went to the same location and took a block further way and hoped anything bumped would move to them and one of them might get a shot. It however didn't work as planned and I glassed a stag in the mist 200m away and he walked out of view so I made the ground quickly and could see his tracks in the moss down the ride. The ride was blocked by a wind blown tree and as I got to it out of view was five hinds and calves that took off closely followed but me in pursuit at a run. I turned down rides following tracks and then stopped reassessed and started at a slow quiet pace. Then crashing from my right to left, sticks out rifle ready and a big lad trots out onto the ride. I roar at him he stops broadside looking at me in disgust and bang he drops on the spot 74m and that was the end of the week.
Fantastic week great company three great stags and the one weighed 125kg I'll be going back at some point. Total for the week was 10 down but there were more seen and not shot at or missed I believe all beats showed stags. I was very impressed by the BASC scheme staff as they kept everyone informed of deer locations. I saw beasts of some sort everyday.