First Scottish red stag of the season 2011. Woodland stalking, Scotland.

We have a good population of red deer on our lease, but I have not been really successful so far. I do see them quite often in Spring and throughout Summer, I also saw a few stags during the rut last year, but when it comes to shooting, I see them in such places I do not even take the rifle off my shoulder… They also tend to disappear for Autumn and Winter months, but are still there as I do see many tracks, just not where I usually go.

Red deer tend to stay in one part of the forestry and it is not easily accessible. We only have one main track going through the block and it follows one side of the land, but reds prefer to stay on the other side. This usually means at least half a mile of dragging through a boggy ride. Not really for me, so I stick to roe deer if I am further away from the track.

It was early September but in Scotland it is still early for any action, and previous year the rut was not in full swing till about mid October. However, it looked like older stags already left male groups and younger staggies were wandering around. Two stags had been already shot this season and the last one was clean, so I decided to have a walk around one morning just to see what was moving.

Weather was not great and I did not see a thing. I was going along the fence and turned to one of the rides that would take me to the track and back to the car. It was the ride where I got a buck earlier and really last chance to see anything that day. I was rather walking back to the car than carefully stalking when I suddenly froze as spotted something further down the ride. I looked through the binos and could see the tips of the antlers. There was a stag behind the trees looking at my direction. I slowly put up the rifle on the sticks and watched him through the riflescope.

All I could see were the tips of his antlers and part of his head obscured by the branches. He was looking directly at me, but could not figure out what I was. I felt wind on my back and thought that was it. However, he was still there and looking at me, but he could not see me through the branches.

I watched him through the scope when spotted a movement behind the stag. Another set of antlers, so he was not alone. When the second stag went out of the trees further on the ride, the one I was watching took a few steps forward to see what I was.  With his neck stretched he looked directly at me and I felt wind again on my back so decided to take a shot. The only place to put the bullet was the neck, so I steadied the rifle and squeezed the trigger.

The stag dropped on the spot and I could see another 6-8 pointer behind him running to the woods.

I waited a few minutes and approached the stag. He was a nice 2 years old 6-pointer. Nothing really special, but a good one to take. The Hornady SST bullet expanded well and never exit the neck.

Now the fun began. Gralloch took me a few minutes and I was ready to drag it to the track. Not further than 300m, but I was wet after first 10m… I dragged him on for another 10-20m and waited to rest a bit and have another go.. It took me an hour to drag him to the track, then a few attempts to load him.

First stag of the season 2011

He was 68kg (150lbs) at the dealer so not a big deal, I saw stags more than twice his size, but I was really knackered… Maybe I should be doing  it more often to work on my fitness…

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