This should be the best week of the year for deer stalking. The rut is in full swing, but the stags are not yet run – ie exhausted from the effort of running their hinds – so there is noise, life and movement everywhere on the hill.
Unfortunately, it looks like we shan’t see the best of it this year. Today the wind was strong from the west all day, bring icy squalls with it at regular intervals. Sensible deer keep away from the open hill in this weather, clustering in the shelter of trees and low ground as much as they possibly can. It is still exciting to watch the rut but not as much of a spectacle as it would be if the weather was kinder. We have friends in to enjoyt the stalking for much of the week so I hope we can still put on a good show for them.
Today it was my turn to be behind the rifle. We found the stag photographed above lying up in a sheltered spot, looking rather sorry for himself. He had obviously just been chased violently off a group of hinds by a larger competitor and was taking time out to recover. He was lying down when I shot him, and he never got up. He is good old, cull stag. We thought he was quite small but he actually weighed in at about 17 stone.
From where we shot him, we saw more stags with hinds in sheltered spots at the back of one of our woods. So we went off for a closer look. to do so we had to walk along the edge of the wood which gave us a chance to see some of the forestry work which has been done this year. The area shown in the photo below was an area of lodgepole fine which has been cleared, leaving the Scots pine to grow further.
As we walked through the woods we also saw reminders of the mortality we suffered from the bad winters of the last two years. It is the calves of course who suffer most, but no-one is immune. We saw the skeletal remains of two substantial stags whilst we were walking.
When we got into position to ssee the next stag properly we decided he was too nice to shoot. He was large-bodied and carrying 13 points. Although he was obviously an old stag he deserved another year on the hill. But to get a look at the next stag along we needed to move the first stag out of our way. So we showed himself long enough for him and his hinds to make for the wood and then proceeded along towards the next stag. However when we got there we found that the stag we had disturbed had indeed gone into the wood, but only on the way to chase off the other stag and take his hinds. So we never saw the other stag at close quarters. And having decided once that the first was too good to shoot, we couldn’t change our minds.
We had to make do with the just one.