Made Another Trip to Scotland

Discussion in 'General Hunting' started by Coot_Meurer, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    After a long 2 year wait, a 7 hour overnight plane ride, and a much delayed 2 hour flight to Inverness I was finally back in the Highlands. After claiming my “right up to the limits” baggage full of gear and gifts, I could see my brother and Frank sitting in the coffee shop awaiting my arrival. A quick load and off we went to the Snow Goose Inn Fish and Chips with a pint before heading north to Caithness.

    Arriving at the cottage we unloaded, got squared away, and passed out.

    Morning came much too early – especially since my body said it was still the middle of the night. We walked out the truck and noticed with great joy the trailer on the back contained an Argo Cat.

    Our destination was just over the shire (county) border into Sutherland, and as we got nearer the omens were good. We saw stags and hinds everywhere alongside the road . Crossing the bùrn (small creek) I looked across the clearcut to see a sika stag standing within the boundary of the area we were to hunt.


    Scott had Sika on his wish list, having only killed a spike on our previous trips. We made our plans and stalked into the wind. My brother went towards the clearcut while my friend and I dropped over the edge of the berm and down onto the margins of a very small creek.

    We had gotten about ½ mile along when we bumped a sika female. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we realized we were moving too fast. Less than 100 yards further along, our slow movement was rewarded.

    Not 200 yards away (later ranged at 171 yards) stood a majestic stag, looking directly toward us. With the strong wind in our face he could not scent us, and it was obvious his rut clouded brain had not identified us as danger.

    Slowly but deliberately I put my tripod stick down and rested the rifle. This is when problem number 1 arose. The ground was soft, very soft, and the sticks kept sinking. After about 8-10 inches of downward movement, they appeared to come to a stop. I again found the stag in the cross hairs, but with the facing position had only the choice of a frontal chest or neck shot. My choice of shot did not matter, because just as I pulled the trigger, problem 2 happened. The left most stick went down another 2-3 inches. Too say my shot went wide would be an understatement.

    Fortunately, the stag was either rut crazed or deaf and dumb (or perhaps a combination of all). He did not flinch and continued to stand in challenge. A quick reposition of the sticks and a more deliberate aim was rewarded with a loud “THWOP” followed by a glimpse in the scope of a stag hitting the floor. I heard “Cracking good shot mate” so I had a second verification of a good hit. I reloaded again and covered him, but my shot was true and he was down. I reached over and thanked my host with a handshake. The German Shorthair "Van" was rewarded with “the find” and all 3 parties involved were pleased.


    My goal was to shoot a respectable representative head, a solid 8 or perhaps even a 10. As we walked forward I realized I had far surpassed that. This was truly the stag of my dreams. As we laid hands on the beast, the proper traditions were observed. The stag was given his last bite, his wound was filled with a leaf, and another bit of vegetation was dipped in the lifeblood and handed to me to wear. It was an overpowering moment.


    After our dirty work gutting the animal – we stalked on. This was classic moorland intersected with a block of planted spruce, and skirting the edges was a workout on the legs. We pressed on until we made it through the second clearcut. By this point, we were both tired and ready to head to the truck for some lunch. Following the directions on OSMaps (The UK equivalent of OnX App), we worked our way out. When we were within 100 yards of the road the inevitable happened. We quit stalking and started walking and talking (albeit quietly). You can probably guess what that means? Sure enough, a monstrous 8 pt sika charged across the clearing at less than 25 yards. Sticks out, gun up, whistle to stop – all wasted effort. The stag plunged headfirst into the dark wood without hesitation.

    Back at the truck, the second moment of joy was about to unfold. My first ArgoCat ride as we headed out to retrieve the stag. Unlike the stag – when dreams become reality and the outcome is BETTER than expected, the ride across moor and bùrn in the Argo was decidedly NOT BETTER. It was unpleasant. I had not realized the designer of the Argo was a 5’ troll that hated tall people. The ride did get better though when we came back. Actually the ride was not better – what was better was the knowledge that we were not dragging a stag uphill ½ mile across bog and moor.


    After a bit of rest, some lunch (pork pies, crisps, and coffee) and a strategy session it was decided I would go back to the meadow where I spied the big sika in the morning. LeviGSP and Brother Scott would go to the second clearcut that was covered in sign.

    I quietly exited the vehicle, and headed toward the meadow. I found a slightly higher hump of ground to seemed to provide a view of the entire meadow while being favorable for the current wind direction. I arranged my sticks, rifle, checked the ground for a soft and reasonably dry spot, and then promptly fell asleep for nearly an hour. I woke up with the last hour before dark still available to me but saw nothing.

    Meanwhile, the other team went down to the logging access road and drove down as close to the clearfell as possible. It wasn’t long before they spotted a stag and hind at the limits of proper identification with binoculars. Realizing there was no way to make an approach across at least ½ a mile of clearcut, they carried on. Not much further and they were rewarded with a young stag standing broadside at perhaps 250 yards. The beast was staring their direction but clearly not excessively alarmed.

    With a solid rest, and a quick ranging, Brother Scott held for 240 yards and sent the shot on the way. He lurched (the beast, not Scott) forward and stopped, then staggered a bit disappearing behind a small stand of trees. Confident in the shot they started the approach and let the German Shorthair “Van” have his head to find the stag. Quickly “Van” found the downed quarry.


    As an aside - I should point out at this time, that perhaps I was a bit harsh on the Argo. The design of the Argo (except for the cockpit) is truly brilliant. It can go across terrain that would impassible to an ATV, and its low center of gravity means it is nearly impossible to tip over. That being said – the ride back across bog and moor with Stag as cargo redeems the vehicle, the Argo has certainly has a niche.

    Stag loaded next to his deceased relative, Argo loaded back on trailer, team 2 headed my direction. Upon arrival they played coy and acted as if they had shot nothing, but soon the cat was out of the bag. I walked around to the Argo and my first words were “You’ve shot a Sika, congratulations”. They both corrected me and said “No, just a young red with a poor rack.”, but I wasn’t so sure. The antlers were quite dark, and did not angle out quite like a red does.

    It was quite late by the time we got back to the larder, so after hanging, removing the pluck and head, and weighing, we just headed to bed. Just for the record, my stag was 12 stone with head, pluck and hocks removed – so reasonably assumed to have been 14 stone or better on the hoof. Brother Scotts stag was right at 10 stone so perhaps 12 stone on the hoof. If you dont know, a stone is an "olde English/Scottish" measure for 14 pounds. I could have used pounds, but using Stones seemed much more fitting.

    The next morning we slept in, had a proper Scots breakfast then went out to work on the heads. Along side the wall, the difference between the two was more evident than we thought. Based on facial coloration, antler color and growth we felt this could be a red x sika hybrid.


    We took a drive a couple hours to the south to deliver the heads to a guide (also a taxidermist) we had hunted with before. We wanted to drop the heads off for adding to the crate he was getting ready to mail. We also wanted a second opinion. From the picture he thought it was probably just a run of the mill red stag.
    However, when we presented the boiled heads he noted some antler characteristics that were exactly right for a red, and favored perhaps a sika. Malcolm was much less certain that this was a pure red, and instead suggested that it might be an F2 or F3 hybrid, mostly red but showing some sika characteristics. His parting comments on the subject were to look at the hocks when we got back. A white hock gland was the mark of sika, while the red/brown would be for a red. Upon arrival back, the hocks did show a white gland so we suspect that this was indeed a hybrid stag.

    There is a part 2 - and that covers shooting Scottish geese.

    Hope you enjoy
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
    Nock, Giveem3outdoors, timer and 10 others like this.
  2. JR in KY

    JR in KY 12 pointer

    Jan 25, 2006
    The Occupied South
    Very nice hunt with a great story detailing it all.
    Congratulations on your success!
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  3. EdLongshanks

    EdLongshanks 12 pointer

    Nov 16, 2013
    Northern Kentucky
    Awesome! I’m no expert but your stag looks huuuuge. Nice work. Congrats on the trophy and the memories with your brother.
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  4. 1wildcatfan

    1wildcatfan 12 pointer

    Jan 2, 2009
    raised n Bullitt Co.
    a great trip. congrats.
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  5. barney

    barney 12 pointer

    Oct 11, 2005
    Thanks for the great story. Congrats!
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  6. gds

    gds 6 pointer

    Jan 2, 2005
    Congrats. Great story , I enjoyed reading it .
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  7. bondhu

    bondhu 12 pointer

    Jul 3, 2015
    Battle Run
    congrats on a great trip
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  8. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    Not huge - but definitely above average. In the Highlands most stags tend to be thin and 8-10 pts because it is a harsh environment. Down in the south (England) the conditions are better so they grow better antlers. This stag is the equivalent of a 140-150 class whitetail.

    In the past, they have even brought in elk (they refer to them as Wapiti because Elk in Europe means moose) to try to improve the antler genetics - but most of those die out because of the harsh winters.
  9. xbokilla

    xbokilla 12 pointer

    Jun 28, 2012
    Awesome! Thanks for the story!
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  10. Zeb

    Zeb 8 pointer

    May 20, 2008
    Goshen, KY
    Congratulations! - Awesome story, thanks for sharing. Posts like this are what hooked me on the site years ago. Good stuff!

    I really enjoyed Scotland in general but what little I've seen of the Highlands was amazing. I only made it as far north as Knockie Lodge (while on a tourist boat that was running sonar looking for Nessie on Loch Ness). It was super cheesy but we had a blast. The wife wants to go back soon and has her sights on Orkney. Hopefully I can sneak away for a hunting day. I'd love to head over there and hunt with family or buddies. Bucket list for me for sure!

    Great post
    Coot_Meurer likes this.
  11. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    No better time than now. Pound to dollar is still good rate so slightly cheaper. Truth be told - this was cheaper than going to TX and shooting deer under a high fence. Even when we did the full deluxe route in 2014 and 2016 we spent right around $3500 - including airfare. This trip probably cost $2000, stayed in less fancy accommodations and cooked our own meals.

    If you do go, let me know and I will point you in the right direction. We stayed at Dunnett Head, and could look across and see the Orkneys every day. The Orkneys have great goose shooing, but not so much for the deer.
  12. Nock

    Nock 12 pointer

    Sep 9, 2012
    butler co
    Amazing hunt and story. Congrats. I’d love to go there some day. Waiting for part two!
  13. Hoosier Sasquatch

    Hoosier Sasquatch 6 pointer

    Sep 11, 2017
    Madison, Indiana
    What an adventure! Thanks for sharing.
  14. Drahts

    Drahts 10 pointer

    Apr 7, 2015
    Great hunt! Awesome country! The Highlands are one of my favorite places.
  15. carnivore

    carnivore 12 pointer

    Nov 17, 2007
    Thanks for sharing. Very cool.

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