Having spotted some reds coming off the hill onto a vulnerable restock site which has only recently been planted, an inspection soon confirmed the damage that was being done.
It was also close to a barley field where some serious damage had been done to the crop by red deer at night. Just before last light a small group of three reds came on the site through a broadleaf wood and I shot a calf, the hind and a yearling, (all under the General Licence regulations) but as the light had almost gone after the gralloch I left these in situ as a recovery in the dark was impossible; the tracking was tricky at the best of times and with temperatures close to freezing now they would be fine to collect first thing the next morning.
I returned the next morning and waited up above the damaged crop area, to intercept the deer as they worked back up to the tops at daybreak. The reds were rutting hard, it was a cold morning and roars echoed from all around us.
Using a deep gulley I could get across the moor and lie up on top of a small heather outcrop and wait. Big stags were busy all around and the hill seemed to echo but I could see smaller groups of deer below us working as they fed directly towards my ambush point.
It was one of these deer that I wanted to shoot, again to try and thin out the reds who were making the journey down to the arable fields and replanted woodland overnight.
As a group of hinds with a couple of young stags in tow came in range it was simply a matter of selecting one of the stags, who was clearly distracted, and once he came clear and broadside taking the shot.
All gralloched and recovered, my route back to the chiller on the ATV was via the reds I’d left the previous evening – getting to them in daylight with the bike was a much safer option although still tricky!