Lowland Red Stag Stalking in South-West Scotland
- Wednesday, 16 November 2016
James Schneider recalls an exhilarating stalk for a huge Red stag in the historic county of Ayrshire in south-west Scotland.
During the last days of the Red Stag season in Scotland, I found myself stood in a block of Ayrshire woodland. It was early morning and absolute ink darkness all around, with just the outline of the pine shone black against a canopy of stars behind. The temperature had finally dropped, which had re-triggered the rut from its hiatus in an otherwise unusually warm Autumn. As a result, the forest around me boomed and echoed with the guttural roaring of stags, some sounding only metres away, providing an atmospheric chill that went up my spine.
Next to me was my guide Shaz, a master of his craft who cupped his hands around his mouth and let out a roar as true as any Monarch of the Glen. Immediately the response came from both far and near, adding to the thrill of the pre-dawn melee as the stags voiced their outrage at another rival making himself known.
(Above: Ayrshire can offer some breath taking scenery)
We moved quickly as the light began to rise, so as to catch the beasts in the boggy moor before they disappeared back into the wood to rest and recuperate from a busy night.
Approaching the end of a ride, Shaz again let loose with a challenging roar and was answered by two competing stags on both sides of the moor. We quickly crawled into position, but the temperature again rose with the light and the cool breeze went still, causing our two prospects to drift away into cover before we could afford a shot.
It was then that I laid eyes on one of the largest reds I have seen in the wild moving off the moor and chasing a hind towards another block of trees. Shaz let out a roar to invite a response, and I watched from 500 yards away as the stag’s massive head of 14 points went back and his eyes bulged as he answered the boast.
(Above: James was staying at one of Scotlands most prestigious hotels, the beautiful Glenapp Castle Hotel, with fellow members of the Capreolus Club)
We made a move to cover more ground, but it had become too still, with the sound and movement working against us. With his accompanying hind no doubt in season, the giant stag was reluctant to leave his companion, but still we were able to make ground to as close as 85 yards from where I had an instant of an opportunity for a high neck shot....but the timing was too quick and not safe, and the beast too magnificent to risk a mistake. I clicked the rifle’s safety catch back on, and watched as the stag took off with his hind, looking the size of a Clydesdale and not to be seen again.
It was then that Shaz and I turned to each other with huge smiles that erupted into a mutually spontaneous laugh....what a fantastic stalk! While no beast was grassed, from the eerie morning gloom up until the moment the epic stag disappeared, we agreed it was one of the more enjoyable outings in a long, long time.
And really, beast or no beast, isn’t that the point of it all?
James Schneider is a DSC1 & DSC2 level stalker, member of the Capreolus Club and regular contributer to County Deer Stalking - Online Magazine.
To read more from James follow this link: david-lloyd-calibres-a-cure-for-scottish-wind