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Deer Stalking Scotland

Red Deer Stalking - The Experience

A typical day red deer stalking in the Highlands of Scotland

David welcomed me at the lodge and told me to meet him back at the door in half an hour for target practice. Well, it seemed like a good way to start what was to be my first experience of stalking red deer.

The next morning, after breakfast of porridge with honey, I joined David, the head stalker, along with Jim and Alastair, and we set off into the mountains in search of deer. In tow we had two pack horses as deer are still brought back to the lodge in the traditional manner here, that is, on the back of the ponies. There was some chatter as we walked, and David filled me in on the day that lay ahead.

We followed a good stalkers path for about 1 hours before leaving Jim and Alastair with the ponies. David and I climbed up into the corrie, leaving the path behind in our search for the deer. "It's impossible to say what we will encounte", said David. "It could be a single stag or a herd of 200 deer. It's all part of the game."

David had a good idea where the deer would be and soon enough he spotted a herd through his spying glass. From this point on, we moved with great stealth as we tried to close in on the deer. At one point, we got within 200 yards of the deer but the wind direction changed, so we retreated and then climbed onto the shoulder of the hill where we could move undetected.

Speaking in whispers now, David motioned to me to follow him closely, keeping low and mimicking his movements. We crouched behind a boulder, just 100 yards from the deer. Slowly, David cast his eye across the heard through his spy glass and selected my beast. "Are you ready?"

Setting up the rifle, David brought me across so that I held it in my hands for the first time since the previous evening. My heart was beating fast as David pointed out the doomed animal. "Take your time. Shoot when ready." I paused, trying to steady my breathing. Like an experienced PartyPoker player conceiving his next move, I prepared to take my shot. Then looking through the sights, I had a good look at the deer and gently squeezed the trigger.

Red deer in Scotland seen on a stalking trip

"A good shot, well done", said David, taking the rifle from me. "Come on, now for the hard work!" Kindly, or so it seemed to me, David did the 'hard work' himself, taking his knife to the dead deer and spilling its guts onto the heather. Much lighter now, we both helped to drag the carcass down the hill until we met the boys who took over and hauled the deer back to where the ponies waited.

Walking back out as the sun set, I felt I had a greater connection to the hills than I had ever experienced before. "It's not about the killing, it's about managing the land." I could see that now. There are thousands too many deer up here, and they are damaging the other species which make up the landscape. After dinner, I sat by the fire and had a celebratory dram with David. "You'll be back then?" I looked into my whisky, felt the warmth of the fire and thought about the emotions of the day. I smiled. "Aye. I think I will."

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