Friday, 12 October 2012

Stag Party

A lot has been going on since my last post.

We've had some beautiful weather with light winds, blue skies and hard frosts (for this time of year; -5). More importantly, the rut has finally come to my beat....with a vengeance!

It's a fantastic time to be 'oot the hill' when the corries and glens are reverberating with the roars of the stags. Strangely, the intensity (and the timing) of the rut seems to vary from year to year.

It's quite unusual to find a stag that has been killed while fighting. I haven't found any in the last two years. Yet three years ago there was a strong rut and I found 3 stags that had been gored to death. From what I'm seeing, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find one or two this year.

On the stalking side, things are a little frustrating. This estate is trying to establish a resident stag herd. To this end we have about 70 stags that stay all winter and are fed. This gives them a big advantage. And a big body. And a big set of antlers.

Unfortunately for me, a lot of these animals find their way onto my patch. And there they hold the hinds against all comers (as it were, ahem). This means that every time I take a guest out stalking I have to make my excuses as we pass these stags over.

So each 'feeder' becomes an obstacle that has to be circumvented in the quest to find a 'shootable' stag. Furthermore, they are also such stiff (ahem, again) competition that the wild stags take one look, get a serious dose of, and disappear off from whence they came.

Fortunately nearly all the guests we have are regulars or experienced stalkers. And- all credit to them- they understand our policies and agree with our selective culling. Which is just as well really, seeing as I've just blanked for the second day in a row. Ouch.

Monday, 1 October 2012

A Rough Start

Time's up!! The time for waiting is by. There were guests out on all 5 stalking beats today.

As we left the landrover I did what I do on the first stalking day of every season- rack my brains to think of anything that I might have forgotten. I've actually developed a little mantra. It goes; riflebulletsbinocularstelescoperadioandbackupstagropesdragropesdogstickguest.

It works very well but doesn't cover all the one-offs that come with the first day- like remembering that your horse is still 3 miles up the road in his summer lodgings.

As it was everything was where it needed to be apart from the stags. First indications were that the rut had started. I could see various groups of hinds, scattered about, with stags in attendance.

On closer inspection, all these stags proved to be our humungous 'pet' stags. If I shot one of them it would be a hernia for the horse and the high jump for me.

However, as I investigated one group, I could make out a young stag that didn't look right. When I got the binoculars on him I could see he looked thin and rather hingin'-luggit (his ears were drooping). Then I noticed these growths on his underside and I made the decision to shoot him.

I've come across fibroids before but never as bad as this.