Unfortunate circumstances means there has to be a quick change of plan for Chris Dalton as he stalks red hinds at Kinnaird
It’s funny how the best laid plans in stalking often don’t materialise in the way you intend – maybe the weather or a gut feeling means you end up doing something entirely different to your initial plan. This was precisely the case in early January up at Kinnaird Estate.
I had deliberately left a few days clear of clients up on the hill in order to get some filming done for The Shooting Show, working on the hind cull at Kinnaird. The dates had been planned for a long while, and the diary was kept clear while Graeme and I were staying up in Craignuisq – known to us as HQ.
With the camera ready for action, the only thing that could thwart our filming activities was the weather and even that, apart for the odd day, was looking good.
Craignuisq is one of a number of estate cottages dotted around the ground and it is so convenient as we can simply walk out of the door and either jump on the bike to whichever area we were headed or just walk up the hill. The chiller is behind the shoot HQ in the farmhouse courtyard so everything is literally on the doorstep.
We settled in on the first evening – checked and got all the kit ready; camera batteries charged, mics checked, tripod readied, and finally all the stalking gear up together.
The weather app predicted a frosty forecast, so conditions were perfect for filming – really good light early morning and no rain – maybe not the best for hill stalking but I will settle for a dry day every time.
We were both up and about far too early and actually sat waiting for time to go. Even though I wanted to get up onto the hill before first light, an hour in pitch black was a bit too soon even for me! Anyhow, we all set off on the bike – including Zosia, my GSP – who, as she’s a small dog, has her place at the side of me on the bike.
Graeme balanced himself precariously, with the camera, tripod and dog trying to displace him. We managed to make it to the bottom of a stream gulley in one piece, and made our way towards the route I intended to take to the edge of the hill.
The stream noise would hopefully dull any sound we made making our way up the hill. All went well and we soon approached a number of hinds and calves – the closest of which were probably 40 yards away and had no idea we were there! No safe shot though as we were shooting uphill with the deer sky lined, but Graeme did get some of the action on camera.
We waited and allowed the reds to move away from the valley and slowly crept past them, moving further up towards a patch of willows that delineates the edge of the open hill. I nearly always find deer here in the early morning, as they work up from the arable fields where they feed overnight, moving back to the safety of the hill .
As we reached to the top of the stream gulley we ducked under the stock fence and crept up the sides of the gully from where I could use the glass over longer distances to scan for what – if anything – might be approachable.
One thing to note here is that it’s most certainly not a ‘normal stalk’. Deer that I could get into and shoot, if it were just me and the hound, are not an option. I need to get into deer with the hound, Graeme and camera plus full-size tripod and into a position where he can film what I am doing and the shot!
So we need a bit of luck for deer to be in the right place. From our position, I could now see a group of hinds with calves settled, clearly in a spot that suited them, browsing contentedly.
I had an easy approach as, once we dropped back down to the stream, I could follow it for 300 yards to a fork which put us behind a ridge which we can sneak up from the other side. From the top, we have a shot of no more than 160 yards into the group.
We just need to make sure we don’t skyline ourselves, but with the sun coming up behind us that should be relatively easy. And the light was good, so the gods were clearly favouring the hunter today.
Having discussed the strategy in detail with Graeme I made a final check before moving off. The last thing I want now is to disturb some reds that I haven’t seen and for them to run across my settled group of hinds and put them all up.
Then I spotted a lone hind behind and above us – and something did not seem right about her; firstly she was on her own which was a bit odd, but also she was not moving normally. I am not sure if it was the body shape or size, I can’t really qualify why, but I knew immediately something wasn’t quite right. When you have spent a long time watching deer you just know.
So a new plan; no way I am leaving here. I needed to go and see what was wrong and she looked like a hind that needed to be culled in any event. The approach was tricky. We would be exposed for a good part of the stalk and so getting me to a shooting position – with Graeme, camera et al – was not an option. He stayed put.
I had cover briefly but then the moor opened up. Fortunately I managed to make a further 150 yards in the open by crawling through the heather and got to about 190 yards from the hind.
From here I could see she was in poor condition and carrying a fore leg. It was slow and careful progress to get to a shorter patch of heather to allow me to use the bipod for a stable shot. Having made it, without detection, the shot was easy and the hind dispatched.
When I got to her the problem was immediately obvious; she had a broken front leg. It was a recent and almost certainly the result of a bullet. The cause will remain a mystery, but what I do know is that it was not a result of me or any of my guys on the hill. I would have known if someone had shot at (and injured) a deer.
I have my suspicions and, anecdotally, we have had an increase in injured deer which seems to directly correlate to increased culling and night shooting nearby, but who knows for sure.
Anyhow, a good result for the morning and the correct deer removed from the hill – but we did not achieve our ultimate objective of filming some hind stalking which was a pity. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be this time!
Rifle: Haenel Jagersport 10 in .243
Scope: Leupold VX6 -HD
Binoculars: Meopta Range 10x 42 HD
Knife: Emberleaf Garron Custom
Boots: Ariat Catalyst Defender
Kit: Merkel UK Ltd
Roe sack: Apex Predator Napier
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