It has been snowing again for much of the last two days. We have had a few milder days but the last snow has only just gone. Normally we don’t get much snow before February so this year has already been exceptional. It is tough for the sheep and we are already using far more fodder for them than we would like but that’s inevitable when all the grass is covered in snow.
It is even tougher for the deer. Some estates provide feed, particularly for the red stags, but we have never done so. I believe that once you start regular feeding the deer cease in some key way to be wild animals. Fortunately we are lucky to have some large forestry blocks on our land. Planted in the 1950s, they are not pretty to look at but they provide vital shelter for the deer.
Yesterday, I went to the far end of the estate by Creag Mohr and Creag Loisgte, two striking hills on our north west boundary. It was very cold, but clear and beautiful between the snow squalls. By the edge of the river there were still piles of ice which had been carried down at the last thaw, and deposited on the bank as shown in the picture. It may have been milder for a few days, but not mild enough to melt that ice, and indeed the river is already starting to freeze again.
I was out hind stalking with Ali, our stalker and estate manager, as we have been several times over the last week. Often stalking at this time of the year can be cold, wet work but yesterday it was a pleasure to be out. We saw a number of hinds but they were all in such good condition that we chose not to take any of them. Of course we do have to manage our numbers but if the winter keeps on like this, nature may manage itself. I understand that across Scotland estates are being cautious with their culling until it is clear how much bad weather the deer are going to have to endure, and how many deer may die on the hill as a result.