A memorable first experience deer stalking
By Ross Paxton.
At this summer’s game fair, I was lucky enough to be the winner of Country Sport Scotland’s competition to go deer stalking in Scotland. After a few back-and-forth emails with Chris Dalton of South Ayrshire Stalking everything was arranged and booked to head up on the 3rd of October.
After a six-hour journey we arrived at Chris’ lovely B&B and after getting settled in we went over the plan for the next few days. That evening it was time to head to the range with Rab who would be my guide for the following day’s outings. I had the chance to try out two rifles on the 100-yard range, the first of which was a Tikka T3 in .243 that had been restocked into a GRS stock.
After plenty of shots to make sure both the rifle and I were shooting straight, we decided this would be the rifle to take, having also tried out a lovely Blaser R8 in 6.5 Creedmoor. With 100gr bullets, we were all set for the following day and whatever we ran into, be it roe bucks or red stags.
The morning of the stalk
We headed out at 6:30 am so we had plenty of time to get to the forestry block that we would be stalking before any shootable light was apparent. With the wind howling and the rain lashing down against the windscreen we had little hope of success as we climbed out of the truck and set off down the track. 5 minutes down the path and Fern, Rab’s yellow lab and faithful stalking companion gives us the signal to let us know she can smell something up ahead.
As we slowly creep forward ever glassing the edges of the woodland Rab spots a roe deer about 150 yards ahead. In the current light, it’s hard to see if it’s a buck or a doe so we edge forward down the tree line to close a little more distance while the light improves. Another look and it’s a little 4-point roe buck now 100 yards ahead, a perfect cull animal. Rab sets up the sticks and I move into position with the rifle. I settle myself in and take the shot, it’s a little further back than I wanted but it’s good for both lungs and he drops just as he enters the trees about 30 yards further on.
As this is my first ever deer, I am very keen to learn everything I can so Rab takes me step by step through the gralloch and patiently answers the many questions I have. After a few photos and now absolutely soaked through to my skin we head back for the truck to come and collect the buck. Back at the house Chris cooks up the liver for breakfast and completes the perfect first stalking experience.
A memorable moment
That afternoon we head back out around 16:30 pm until the last light. We’re higher up in a different area and the scenery is stunning as we head out from the truck. It’s not long until we spot our first deer, a roe doe, and her kid feeding 60 yards ahead. She hasn’t spotted us yet so we watch her for a minute before moving on as she then bounds off into the trees, little one in tow.
Our first opportunity comes not long after as Rab spots a fox on the hillside below us. He seems utterly oblivious to our presence so a quick set up on the sticks and there’s one less fox to worry the local wildlife.
At this point, the mist rolls in across the hills, and although not conducive to deer stalking it is very atmospheric and cloaks the landscape in mystery. Further on still shrouded in mist we hear what could be the roar of a stag but it’s too faint to be certain. A few minutes later we hear it again and this time there is no mistaking it, it’s the roar of a big red stag drifting through the mist.
I’ve never heard anything like it and the excitement levels go from high to through the roof!
Rab has got a pretty good idea of where he’ll be so we set off slowly in that direction. On the way we see many more deer, all roe does with their kids but there’s no denying that there is plenty of deer here. We finally reach the end of the woodland and unfortunately, the stag has moved on past the edge of the permission and disappeared. With the light now fading fast, we start the journey back to the vehicle, and although there was no more venison for the freezer the sound of a big red stag roaring somewhere in the mist is something I will never forget.
The next day
The next morning Chris takes me out for a butchery demonstration of the previous day’s roe buck. Again, as a first-timer, this is equally as important to me and I am keen to learn as much as possible in my short stay. With the venison all packed up we have one last great breakfast with Chris and then set off home through the beautiful countryside with memories that will last a lifetime.
I am writing this having just enjoyed a delicious venison roast with my family. And having now completed my first deer stalking experience from field to fork, I would not hesitate in recommending it to anyone.