Red Deer Stalking - Dalness Estate

Members of County Deer Stalking’s official members club ‘The Capreolus Club’ travel to the breath-taking Dalness Estate in Glen Etive, location of numerous films including Harry Potter, Braveheart, the 39 steps and of course the Bond film Skyfall to stalk Red Deer. 

Dalness Estate Deer Stalking

Much of Glen Etive was originally owned by generations of Ian Flemings family and therefore fittingly doubled as the ancestral home of James Bond in the film Skyfall. Those visiting the area may recognise much of the scenery from this epic Bond movie which featured Daniel Craig as 007 and Judy Dench as M. And it is to this iconic Glen that members of County Deer Stalking’s official members club, the Capreolus club travelled via the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to stalk Deer during the second week of the season for Red Hinds. 

Nestled in the Glen is the beautifully positioned and recently refurbished Dalness House, which was home to club members for the entire week.  

Dalness Estate Lodge

(Above: Dalness House nestled in the glorious Glen Etive)

Deer stalking forms a crucial part of the environmental management of this region and recognising this, the current owner has employed the services of head stalker Colin, and there are few who understand the needs of the area better.  

Ghillie to the Flemings since the age of 16, Colin is to all intents the 'Kinkade' of the estate and has worked as both a forestry commission stalker and Police officer before taking on his current role. Accompanying him and guiding club members onto the hinds for the week was also Jason Doyle who many may have recognised from episodes of the shooting show.  

The bulk of the stalking was carried out over four days, with two parties on the hill each day. 

Skyfall Glen Etive

(Above: Much of Glen Etive was originally owned by generations of Iain Flemings family and therefore doubled as the ancestral home of James Bond in the film Skyfall)

Having been able to glass deer from the lodge over breakfast each morning, it was clear that the beasts were there, in fact according to Colin they were not only there, but in too high numbers, with an immediate need to reduce the number of hinds on the ground to prevent further deterioration of their average size and condition. However, the stalking was not going to be easy. Most stalkers and guests these days carry mobile phones and on their mobile phone, one of the club members was soon to record a hike of some 6 kilometers and 90 storeys. Now that is some seriously vertical stalking! 

Setting off on day one, James was paired with Colin for a glorious day on the hill. Both stalker and guest traversed the spectacular Munros surrounding the lodge. Both Stag and hind were encountered but the hinds initially kept their distance, until with lungs at near bursting point and after a hard climb, eventually a suitable hind was located 200 yards above and James settled in to take the first deer of the week using the estates Tikka T3 in .308.  

Day two and in the immortal words of Daniel Craig, in Skyfall. “A storm is coming”. The clouds hung low over the Munros and Water raged of the Hill, as club member Jim started the day with a few test shots from his Blaser R8 in 6.5x55 Swedish. 

jason Doyle Deer Stalking

(Above: Club members were guided on to the Red Hinds by Colin and Jason Doyle (above) who some may recognise from episodes of the shooting show)

The calibre is one of the greats, but in the highlands where deer are typically engaged at slightly longer ranges and with the calibres slightly more pronounced trajectory, Jim sensibly elected to set his Swarovski scope for a 200 yard zero, a sensible decision for anyone who wishes to stalk deer on the open hill.   

Shooting hinds is crucial to any deer management plan. Left to reach high densities the ground quickly begins to suffer, as do the hinds and calves, who's body weight and condition begin to deteriorate, and after a difficult climb in driving wind and rain Jim made two well placed shots to despatch a hind and follower, thereby further alleviating the pressure on the ground. 

During the next two days a number of club members made further excursions on to the open hill, deer were seen in good numbers and a respectable number were shot, however, the difficulty, and to my mind part of the joy and challenge of stalking deer at the Dalness Estate, is the steepness of the climbs and therefore the level of fitness that is required. 

Peter Jones Dalness Estate The drama of the scenery was experienced at its most full on a truly memorable final day on the hill, during which regular County Deer Stalking contributor and Capreolus Club member James Schneider was paired with Jason Doyle for a tough vertical climb to get above a group of hinds. 

(Left: In the words of Robert Burns; "My heart is in the highlands")

With energy levels depleted from the ascent and with the Hinds finally within range, James was required to scramble into position to take a freehand shot. Agonisingly the 150 grain round from the .30 cal’ slammed into the peat just over the deer’s shoulder, forcing James to reposition and adjust his aim to make a solid second shot on a follower. But with work still to be done, in fair weather, and having made the ascent to the high ground, both James and Jason were eager to monopolise on their hard-won position. 

More Reds materialised, but with the deer sky-lining, no safe shot was available. Stalker and Capreolus member lay in wait for a second opportunity, and at first it appeared as though no such chance would materialise. Until minutes later a second chance presented itself, allowing James to take a second shot to cleanly despatch the second Hind of the day. 

It was a demanding day on the hill and a thrilling climax to the final days stalking at the Dalness Estate and members retired to the beautifully refurbished lodge to warm up by the open fire and enjoy a first-class meal served up by the lodge hosts Iain & Alyson. 

I've hunted all around the UK, in Europe and Africa however, in the words of Robert Burns 'my heart is in the highlands'. The skies are often moody and the climate at best temperamental however, the hunting, in what is one of Europe’s last remaining wildernesses, is world class and it is a credit to deer managers around Scotland that it has remained so for generations. 

Readers of this article may be pleased to learn that these events were captured in a two- part film special, soon to be released. I hope that you will look out for the films which are among the most spectacular that I have ever had the pleasure of producing.   

Finally, the club wishes to express its thanks to Iain and Alyson at the Dalness Estate and to Colin and Jason for their expertise in guiding club members on to some tricky animals. 

For more information about the Capreolus Club, or if you are interested in joining this thriving, friendly club, then follow this link to discover more about the benefits of club membership: membership-benefits

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