Thursday, 10 September 2020

Hunting Goats In Scotland. Stalking Roe In Scotland.

An adventure in the Lowlands of Western Scotland featuring: your pal SBW, and South Side D a target shooter and sportsman who dives an electric taxi. 


Work, that curse of the stalking classes: 

Covid 19, overly emotional Milfs, air travel diminished by 97%, clients putting off having repairs done, annoying offspring, the range will be closed for the foreseeable, theatre-land may never reopen. A shortage of primers. I think its fair to say that your pal SBW and South-Side D are beset by difficulties on all sides. 


SBW: This is bullshit, shall we sack it off an’ go stalking?

SSD: Not doing much else.


SBW: Do you have a midge net?

SSD: What’s that?

SBW: Your only defence against Scotland’s apex predator.


I once read that the Scottish tourist board had conducted extensive market research. Scotland is a popular destination for all the reasons you might imagine; Whiskey, Salmon, Deer, Ginger Birds. 

The last two questions proved more illuminating: 

Will you be coming again next summer ? NO 

Why not? MIDGES!!!


Been a while since i made it North of The Wall, to the land where you can hunt Roe Bucks with a 22 centerfire, Mars bars are served fried, sausages are called Lorne and served skinless and square, Tablet is a cause of diabetes rather than yet another iProduct .


SBW: How much would it cost to go to Stranraer in a Taxi? 

SSD: Where’s that?

SBW: west coast of Scotland, south of Glasgow, for stalking purposes.  

SSD: £ LOTS, each way. But to you SBW, for stalking purposes, we can split the juice.

SBW: I’ve found this guy on the internet… 

SSD:  I need to sort out someone to look after the dog

SBW: No worries my ex wife would love to help me out, I’m the only person taking her side against the kids. 


A long time ago: I was making idle chit-chat with one of the guns at a shoot, as we fell to discussing a sportsman's travels he said ‘ ah yes the Scottish stalking experience, I’ve been, you spend all day crawling through very soggy ground, shoot a deer, then the walk back to the cottage turns out to be 200 yards, I bet you love it” 


That very morning a member called Gallowaycountrysports had posted on the Stalking Directory that he had availability and accommodation. A few days later we were on our way north. By london black taxi.


The first six hours pass in a pleasant re run of: the calibre debate, chewing over the  design stratagem of Porsche 1967 to 1992, the latest outrage(s) perpetrated by my daughter against her long suffering family, and the lack of strategy being deployed by our lords and masters at this most difficult of times.  


Somewhere just the other side of the wall the roads narrow and out pace slows considerably. We pull into a Shell service station where we were surprised to lean that the sad-arse sandwiches they serve are now ‘By Jamie”.  Yes that Jamie Oliver the fat-tongued deceiver himself, has sunk so low that he’s now shilling for the sweat shop where they fulfil service station sandwich contracts.  


At the service hatch a bleached, shivering whippet of an Emo is manning the till. His stupid haircut reflected in the luminous glow of his pasty skin. 


SBW What kinds of sandwiches do you have? 

Having seen Jamie Oliver’s fat face I was expecting some kind of mangling of the cuisine of several nations, Jerk Chicken with a Mediterranean Herb Crust, and the like.

The Emo: What’s this the feckin’ Krypton Factor?  

South-Side D: Think of it as a job, what’s in the meal deal?


Some crappy sarnies, indistinguishable from crappy sarnies not ‘by Jamie’  later. 


Alan calls

‘So yer nearly here? oh aye what’s yer vehicle?’ 

“We’re In a sherbet” then I remember to translate “a black cab, a london taxi”

“Slurhh feckin’ heel, what’s that cost? Poond-a-mile?”

SBW “Nah South Side D is a cab driver it’s his whip”
SSD “tell him it’s £LOTS to Glasgow ’bout £X a mile.


The rest of the drive passes without incident and were soon following Alan’s seemingly vague but surprisingly accurate directions through the village. By the time we arrive Alan has gone to bed leaving his lad to welcome us to the self-catering accommodation end of the business. Alan runs a great outfit, or I suspect Mrs Alan runs a great outfit, and Alan fronts it. 


If you’re thinking of heading north I’d warmly recommend Galloway Country Sports, they have something for every kind of visiting stalker or Gun. Alan is dad-shaped and around 50, a fantastic host and an experienced rough shooting and goose guide. His lad is built like a racing snake with the eyes of an eagle. Between them they provide some fantastic days afield. The beds are comfortable and the duvets reassuringly weighty. I sleep the sleep of the self-righteous.


The following morning 

Alan’s birds have just arrived so he’s out looking over his pen and feeding them up. We stumble out of our rooms to find glorious sunshine, a neighbour enquires as to our well being, we ask after his. “sumingz rang, dez ner water fal-in from the sky” 

The village has no shops so we head into town, all of three miles, to look for a charging point and some breakfast. With me enthusing about the Scottish breakfast experience. Sadly no Lorne sausage is available but we do get a Tattie-Scone. It’’s a lot like the backing board for tiling. Which is a shocker as they are easy to make and usually delicious. 


Ingredients: 

mashed floury potatoes

an egg

some flour  .00 is best 

teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda 

perhaps a little cream or milk - emphasis on the little, the dough must be firm


Method:

mix into a dough

roll out and cut into pleasing shapes

Either fry or bake at a moderate temperature

Serve lathered in butter. Unsalted is my preference.  


SSD has asked that the record show that our visit to Stranraer was also the occasion of my saying the most Middle Class / English thing ever.

SBW “Is there a Marks and Spenser here? I need to buy pants”

Under-crackers un-purchased we return to the house in time to meet Alan and do my laundry in the wash basin. 


Wisely Alan wants clients to confirm their rifles and marksmanship, he tries to be as polite about this as he can, I suspect he’s had some resistance from clients before, and seems a little surprised at my enthusiasm. 

I’m keener on shooting a confirmation than the in-house photographer at St. Ursula’s.  

Here’s for why. 

Having survived [just] the shame of having a loaned rifle where the scope wasn't moored to the rings and missing the first five deer on a previous trip to Scotland, to say I’m keen never to have it happen again, is what is known north of the wall as a feckin’ understatement.


The sheep rifle should above all be portable, handy, and relatively light, as the sheep hunter carries a rifle a lot more than he shoots it. "Notes on the Sheep Rifle," Jack O’ Connor


There’s a question mark hanging over my .243 so I took my Tiktac. Its a wonderful target rifle, but there s something deeply un-stalking about it, its heavy, the opposite of handy, and all those sections of picatinny rail mean it snags on your clothes, Its also laughably Black Rifle.


Alan: ‘does an Afghan campaign medal come free wii that?’ 


Its way more accurate than me and has no trouble mashing up the 4 inch square used as a zeroing target. Zeros established we break for lunch. 


As Roe are best stalked at the top and tail of the day, Alan has a suggestion. 


How about we go and look for some Billies? 


I’ve met people who have been to Scotland to stalk feral goats before and none of them has had a good word to say about the beasts: they are extremely wily, live in inhospitable terrain and are pretty smelly. They often reside in places called Heart Attack Hill, Fat Boy’s End or Dead Plumber’s Gully.  

Alan explains that he cant stalk Roe or shoot Foxes on this particular stretch of coast as the landowner has a sentimental attachment to both, however he is a Juniper Berry enthusiast and as the goats eat them he’s more than happy for Alan to thin the trip. 


These are coastal goats, living where the Irish Sea batters mini fjords. We spend a while glassing the rocky outcrops, things that move turn into tricks of the light, every shadow seems to be cast by horns.  When we’re finally sure only shadows are moving we turn south and our luck improves, a trip of ten or so goats are just the other side of a bluff, we walk the long way around and begin the crawl into range. Oddly its still not raining. 


There’s something about seeing your precision rifle and its posh scope lying in the muck that’s deeply disconcerting, later I’m to learn that loosing a round and seeing your fettled Lapua case disappear between the tussocks isn't much better.  All I can do in consternation is mutter “that’s £1.08p I’ll never see again”.


With the goats only about 50m away SSD starts crawling forward and I’m trying to deploy the Harris bipod without that annoying D’oing noise from its springs. The goats are suddenly on the move, towards us. SSD is between me an them so I’m still to set up for a shot. I’ve taken all of five off-hand shots with the Tiktac all of them were over a year ago, in Norway.  Heavy is a help, but the shape and balance point are unwieldy. We both fire. Someone hits the largest Billie and it disappears down the seemingly vertical cliff. As SSD and Lad pursue it 

Alan points to the next spur, “There’s yours, can you shoot it?”    


“The mountain sheep keeps his horns as long as he lives, and on them he writes his autobiography. He records his age, his species, his good years and his bad, and his battles.”

The Stories Sheep Horns Tell - Jack O’Connor


I love it when the leaves change colour - Hodgeman


He’s right, there on the next spur, partially concealed by the dead ground, my Goat is waiting patiently for his dinner invitation. Yet another outdoorsman’s skill that still eludes me is the ability to judge distance. Alan’s call is 300 yards, deduct 10% is 270m which the muscle memory in my fingers tells me is fifteen clicks aka 1.5 milliradians. The legs of my bipod are a constant annoyance to me, off the bench they are too long, prone, which i hardly shoot,  they are ok-ish, off the tussocks of scotland they are invariably too short. The first one sails over his head, which prompts him to make the fatal mistake of standing up, so after a bit of contortionism on my part he catches the next one on the left side of his spine. While I’m still listening to that resounding TWACKKK expanding ammunition makes as it hits flesh, as if by teleportation he disappears. 

To my delight I actually find one of the Lapua cases. £1.08p up on the day!


A deer that has been shot at will go around the side of a hill a quarter of a mile away and lie down. A ram will leave the country.—"The Bighorn," Jack o’Connor


Its a long walk around the spur tops and when we get to the patch where Billy was last seen there’s a patch of frothy lung blood, and no more. Nothing, zip, nitch, nada  no sign of a trail to be seen. There’s only one way to where we were when I took the shot and we just walked along it, there’s only one way down from where the blood trail starts and stops.  The mini canyons are treacherous under foot and the drop below enough that the medics would be well pissed off by the time they recovered you, or at least your body.

Alan is ahead of me and has taken a turn away from the direction of travel, I skirt round to catch him up and squeeze past him to climb into the line of sight he’s gesticulating down. There’s Billy sitting panting under an overhang, its just the place you’d want to shelter if you were going to overnight there. I wind the clicks back off and put an SST through his neck. Another £1.08p case tumbles away never to be seen again. 



High above us and 300 yards across a mini fjord Lad and SSD are struggling with two goats the extraction looks like the 200 yards are ‘feckin vertical’. Turning back to our own situation this isn't going to be easy, especially with the long dead black weight of the Tiktac to hump along. 


On opening him up, Billy has been doing very well for himself, easily the fattest wild animal I’ve ever butchered, great globs of shining white fat around his organs. I’ve still got his dinner pate sized liver in my freezer. Gralloched he’s lighter but not that you’d know it draggin’ him along.

You can see why the locals shoot ‘em with a little Tikka Triple Two. 

As I puff along the Tiktac seems to have trebled in weight .


A couple of words about Alan’s place

If you want to go shooting with a few pals and make a few days of it, you’re the customer alan had in mind when he set up shop. He has his own pub that you can stock yourselves. Being only three miles out of town you can call in a takeaway delivered or, you could copy a team from France who bring their own chef and use the fully equipped kitchens.  


A Galloway Roe Buck 


I’ve been having a run of luck, lucky for me not so lucky for the new people. At my gun club we have an unofficial hunting committee - if you express an interest we’ll hook you up with some stalking. 

I know a couple of people who I regard as as near to dead certs as its possible to be. We go to their ground, I tell the guide ‘this a newbie they need to shoot a deer’, they see deer, I shoot deer, they don’t. Sometimes I shoot more than one deer.


Lad and I hop out for the truck and as soon as we’ve negotiated the first fence we have a doe under observation. Not doe season but every night is ladies night, girls get in free, so it wont be long until a buck shows up. Sticking to the hedgerow we make out way up the field conveniently into the wind. About 30 feet in front of us, there’s a bustle in the hedgerow as a Roe fawn makes several frantic attempts to first ram and then jump the fence. We wait patiently until he thinks better of it and turns, sprinting across the field. Stooping down we do a bit of glassing. Lad is all over it, doe one, doe two which I could see but then the Buck which is both standing between them and invisible to me. Trying of suppress the hateful doioiing of the Harris bipod’s springs and get set up, I even had time to dial the zoom in a bit. The Buck stands at three quarters, Buck helpfully turns broadside, takes a step or two, I take up stage one of the trigger, one more step, “stay right where you are” and pop-TWACKKK. Lad awards me the accolade “Feckin’ textbook”. Buck runs on about 20 feet and slumps into the dead ground. The girls are now nowhere to be seen. We saunter over. he’s never going to win a medal but has  pleasing symmetry. I couldn't wait  to take him to dinner. 

In that great tradition of Scottish stalking, instead of dragging the deer across the field back the way we’ve come, we amble down a tarmac road that was just the other side of the hedgerow we’d crawled along. 


SSD is yet to score a deer.


About half of our trophy stash


Unlike most of the places I go stalking Alan has full food processing and vacuum packing facilities. I spend the last day in the chiller doing the butchery and caping the Billy and Nanny SSD shot. To my surprise, in a moment of wild profligacy, SSD commissions not one, but two rounds of taxidermy. I get the feeling he’ll soon know how the punters feel when they get out of his taxi.  


More Soon 

Your Pal

SBW 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good sir... I always enjoy your posts!