An epic wet week on the Stags

NigelM

Well-Known Member
#1
The big drive north started last Friday, a 631 mile haul up to Sutherland. Car loaded with guns, dog, more kit than you could jump over. 5 couples made the journey and most made it that Friday. In the last 8 miles up the forestry track, when the phone loses signal and stops pinging at me, I can feel myself starting to relax and thoughts of work get replaced by thinking of the week ahead. The unwind never takes long.

Kit was prepared on saturday morning, a spot of lunch with the ladies at a very nice restaurant called Peets in Lochinver, and back at 1630. I thought I would pop up the hill and watch the wood with a couple of the guys for Sika and we got into a good spying position by 1730. The calling started at about 1800 but nothing was about our side of the glen. At around 1830 we saw a stag crossing a clearing on the other side of the river so two of us got our feet wet and got ourselves into a good position at the edge of the clearing with back to a tree at about 1900.

Three screams on the caller and within 30 seconds two stags came charging in together, a 6 pointer leading the way followed by an old 8 pointer 20 yards behind. Odd. I have often seen an older stag with a young "attendant" but never one that big, and never the main aggressor. Anyway, I stopped the younger one at about 20 meters by flicking the safety catch off and dropped him with a neck shot. The old boy exited stage left and at about 60 meters I made the Sika hind "Meee" noise and he stopped in his tracks and turned broadside. A quite extraordinary right and left Sika Stag within about 10 seconds.

Shaking like a leaf I had to take a moment, my mate sitting behind me babbling like an excited 5 year old as he had never seen a Sika come into the call before let alone two of them. What an experience. Then came the issue of extraction. I hadn't banked on two of them. By the time I had gralloched the pair it was almost dark so we decided to hang them from a tree for the night and come back in the morning. It was tough enough to get ourselves back through the river and back up the hill in one piece without trying to drag two stags behind us.

Sunday morning we extracted the pair by coming in from the other direction with the argo. Neither had been touched so the plan worked. Back at the larder and the 6 pointer weighed in at 120 Lb's, the old boy at 105 Lbs. The largest I had shot there before was an 8 pointer 2 years ago at 110 Lbs so the 6 pointer was a big boy. I have never seen so much fat on a beast, something that also played out with the reds we shot later in the week.

The rest of Sunday was spent zeroing guns and pinging hardox gongs out to 300 meters just to make sure we were all on form. A great fun afternoon with everyone learning something about their rifle, holdover and wind.

Did I mention wind? And rain? More about that in the next instalment.
 

NigelM

Well-Known Member
#3
Calling Sika is to me one of the most exciting experiences we have in the UK. I have had to stop them at 15 meters in the past and when they're charging in at you it certainly gets the adrenaline going. Definitely one for your bucket list. It's not a substitute for a good day on the hill, completely different and often over and done with in a few minutes, but it's an amazing few minutes.

The estate is being pushed by SNH to fence the woodland off next summer as it is stunning but being destroyed by too many Sika, they have been for a few years. As a result the instructions were to remove as many Sika as we could. If it wasn't for that I would have just shot the old boy.
 

takbok

Well-Known Member
#5
Calling Sika is to me one of the most exciting experiences we have in the UK. I have had to stop them at 15 meters in the past and when they're charging in at you it certainly gets the adrenaline going. Definitely one for your bucket list. It's not a substitute for a good day on the hill, completely different and often over and done with in a few minutes, but it's an amazing few minutes.

The estate is being pushed by SNH to fence the woodland off next summer as it is stunning but being destroyed by too many Sika, they have been for a few years. As a result the instructions were to remove as many Sika as we could. If it wasn't for that I would have just shot the old boy.
Yes, they're certainly one of the best deer to stalk! The handful I've shot have been close in woodland. Bumped into a stag at 15m last year. I've tried calling them with my primos jackrabbit call to no avail - I stalk them rarely so will keep trying.

I love seeing sika so close by at the roadside. They just never seem perturbed by the car.

Imooking forward to your next installment!
 
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NigelM

Well-Known Member
#6
I use a Sceery call. Got it from either Bushwear or Gregor, can't remember which. It's called in a dozen or so over the years so it's pretty effective.

Didn't realise you had many in the Aberdeen area, or are you stalking elsewhere?
 

takbok

Well-Known Member
#7
I use a Sceery call. Got it from either Bushwear or Gregor, can't remember which. It's called in a dozen or so over the years so it's pretty effective.

Didn't realise you had many in the Aberdeen area, or are you stalking elsewhere?
Yes, maybe I should spend a bit more and get the Sceery! No, I stalk Sika near Inverness. There are reports of them moving into Aberdeenshire though :)
 

NigelM

Well-Known Member
#8
I have shot quite a few around Rosehall over the years, the Rosehall estate being the centre they escaped from many years ago. The whole North Ross DMG is full of them. I would think the ones making their way to Aberdeen are the ones from the east side of Loch Ness. I don't think they have got as far south as Aberfeldy yet and I've not heard of any east of the A9 but I'm sure they will be spreading.
 

NigelM

Well-Known Member
#14
Monday morning arrived and at 0900 we are suited and booted ready for our first proper day on the hill. The weather is forecast to be dry, which in the Scottish language generally means just a bit of drizzle forecast for the day. Lots of people dashing back and forth into the lodge as they remember what they have forgotten for the first day. The dog is a bit over excited as he know's what's coming.

Up the hill in the truck to the spy point. From here we can see about 30% of the estate pretty clearly and often make our first plan of the day, which is regularly updated with a plan B and a plan C, but at least it's a start.

The deer are late this year. The stalker hasn't heard a roar yet and it's 1st October. There a pockets of hinds around the hill with no stag in attendance and the few stags we do see are often on their own. Traditionally on the estate the first roar is heard around 21st September, so the rut is running a couple of weeks behind at least.

On this occasion we see a few stags on the other side of the loch and then one of the guys spots a Sika on the other side of the river. A couple of the party have never shot Sika before so we agreed to split, me taking two of them after the Sika and the other two going up the hill after a red.

We slipped down the hill towards the river. We were hoping to get a shot across the river which would have been 130 or 140 meters but as the terrain changed it became obvious that wasn't going to happen. The other option was to get right down below the waterfall, cross and get back up the other side. Now I have a bit of previous with this particular river. Last year we crossed rather enthusiastically when it was a bit too high. I had tied the dog off round my waist on his tracking lead. He lost his footing and got swept away and 30 ft of lead gave him a good bit of momentum. When it finally got tight he took me with him. Very soggy. This year the river was much lower and we crossed with just wet feet.

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Up the other side and back up the hill onto the flat. He was in a little gully, probably 5 meters below the general level of the ground. We couldn't see him as we crawled in so went in and out a few times until I caught sight of his back end behind a very large rock in the middle of the clearing. He was lying down so the plan was to get into a position where one of the guys could take a shot and wait. We were only 25 meters away and shooting down into the gully so I didn't want to risk being seen. The dog was lying in the heather about 5 meters behind us, nose in the air sniffing away but not moving a muscle.

We set up and waited about 20 minutes. He finally stood and showed himself, followed by a perfect heart shot.

After clearing up and calling the Ghillie to come and extract we carried on up the hill on the south side of the estate to see if we could find a red for the other gun but unfortunately without any joy. A few hinds but no stags. We headed back to the lodge, tired but very happy. The other party unfortunately didn't find their red stag either and got home just before dark. Stories were told, too much whisky was drunk and the worst ever game of snooker was played too late at night. We really should know better!
 

Cootmeurer

Well-Known Member
#19
"The weather is forecast to be dry, which in the Scottish language generally means just a bit of drizzle"

That made me laugh out loud. If there is one thing that I have come to be certain of in the Highlands, it is the rain.

 

NigelM

Well-Known Member
#20
On Tuesday morning before we went to the hill the stalker announced it was going to be wet, and a bit windy. That didn't bode very well at all.

We drove up to the spy point in the ****ing rain and the visibility was very poor, so we continued to the other end of the loch and the bothy. On the way down we spied a few stags the other side of the loch and as one of the party was leaving on Wednesday and hadn't shot yet we agreed that he would go after them and I would take the other two over to the east side of the estate.

We walked another two miles down the track and then headed onto the hill. After a mile or so we turned back into the breeze to stalk back towards the mountain. "a bit wet and windy" didn't really cover it. Gusting about 40 knots with sleet at times it was difficult to walk into and hurt your eyes when spotting. Trying to keep a careful eye out for stags wasn't easy. After another mile we came to the top of a hill with half a mile of dead ground the other side. Very comfortably nestled into a sheltered peat hag was a very wise stag. Unfortunately for him if we could get under that piece of hill as well we could get a relatively sheltered shot.

Route #1 was not possible so we backed down and found a route round the outside, using burns and hags to avoid being seen. We finally got to within about 120 meters of him. The route from us to him was well sheltered from the wind so we set up and the shot was taken, quartering on with 2" of right allowance for the wind, which thankfully turned out to be spot on.

He was a bit of a monster, turning out to be 216 Lbs. We were in a bowl so there was going to be quite a bit of up before we went down. A drag wasn't going to happen as us old gits just were not up to it so the argo was whistled up.

The other party got into their stag as we came back up the loch side. The radio crackled and we were asked to have a spy for them. At this point we were nestled into the sumptuous leather seats of a Range Rover with the heating full. We took great delight in parking up and watching them for the next 30 minutes in the lashing rain trying to work their way in. We thought we were being extremely helpful in the comments we were making over the radio with regards to how warm the RR was and the fact that we had discovered a button that gave you a back massage but funnily enough they didn't seem to think so.

Shot was finally taken and successful and then came the extraction. They dragged it down to the loch side and we despatched the rowing boat. Watching 4 people and a dead stag rowing back across the loch in a lot of wind was very amusing. Last year we did the same and then loaded onto ponies, but the weather was deemed too revolting for the ponies this year so it was unceremoniously loaded into the back of a Land Rover for the trip home.

By the time we all got home it was dark. Another epic day on the hill, two beasts culled and the best part of a bottle of whisky drunk in the larder. What could be better.
 

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