Trip to Scotland Part 2 - The Birds

Discussion in 'General Hunting' started by Coot_Meurer, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    After a great hunt for the stags on our first day, day 2 was much more lackluster. We slept in, then heading back down towards Inverness to pick up the others guys that were coming in. Since their flights were delayed, we detoured to a block of timber in Ross Shire to have a crack at the Sika. A couple hours of effort yielded nothing but challenge whistles from the other side fo the road (where we couldn’t hunt). With enough time we might have formulated a plan to lure the stag across – but we needed to get to the airport.

    John arrived on time, but the other two (a father son combo) were delayed more. So, back to the Snow Goose Inn for fish and chips with a pint. From there, we sent Frank and John back north, while brother and I waited in the airport. They arrived about 8:00 PM, so we quickly loaded their bags and started on the 2 ½ hour drive back to the north. The conversation was sketchy, mostly because they were in the throws of jet lag.

    Back at the cottage we unloaded, checked out who would be shooting which loaner shotgun, then headed to bed knowing morning would come too soon.

    Morning arrived too soon (as expected) and off we went to a field Frank had scoped for geese the day before. The plan called for shooting both graylag and pinkfoot geese. The greylags are mostly local birds. You would recognize them as the origin of grey farm geese, but these birds are quite wild. The pinks are migratory and come down from Iceland and Norway.

    Mostly to whet my appetite, before setting out, our guide and friend Frank shared with me his lanyard – just to show me what was possible. We did not get any bands (they call them rings) or collars on this trip, but we did know they were possible.


    We set up on a harvested oat field with a deep ditch along one side.. Even though we were 4000 miles away from home, geese still act like geese. The day before this field had several hundred geese in it. A mile downhill was a loch (lake) that was roosting several thousand birds. There is never a sure thing when hunting birds, and this morning proved that.As the morning dawned hundreds of geese got up and headed out – in exactly the opposite direction. The birds that come north obviously had other plans and veered off the field at 300-400 yards away, heading northeast. We weren’t flaring birds, because they weren’t coming close enough. Finally, we had a small bunch come to the field and worked like they were supposed to. We ended up with those 3, and a few crows.

    I did almost get one of my bucket list items, a black neck pheasant. He came walking across the field towards the decoys, but stopped about 50 yards out and changed directions. What makes this bird a trophy is that these are supposedly the original pheasants stocked in Great Britain by the Romans. They aren’t good flyers, which is why most game farms don’t rear them, instead opting for the regular ringneck (they call them bluebacks). What they do well is survive, especially in marshy terrain.

    That afternoon most of the crew napped to try to defeat jet lag. Frank and Scott went scouting and found the southbound birds. Same plan was set for repeat, just on a different field.

    To put it mildly, the next day was a some hot barrel action. Around 7:00 the first birds appeared in the field, and we were perfectly on the X. It was very much like snow goose shooting – big flocks rolling in, getting shot at, and additional flocks on the horizon heading in. We left the field at 9:40 with 34 geese (and one sailer to pick up when we drove out – so 35). What made this day special for me was Frank went to pick up a sailer a couple paddocks over, I took over calling. So not only was I shooting Scottish geese, I was calling them.


    Our third and last day on geese was also good. Maybe not hot barrel action, but solid and steady. Many times we had to pass on a flock because it also had whooping swans mixed in. In the UK, swans are highly protected and are all considered property of the queen. They are to the UK what Pandas are to China. Not even an accident would excuse you. Speaking of mixed bag, day 3 was definitely that. We also added several more crows (they have 5 species from the pigeon sized jackdaw up to the goose sized raven) some pigeons, and a lonely duck.


    Also managed my first Pinkfoot (which Frank said was an Icelandic bird, not a Norwegian bird due to some difference in the beak coloration). What was also interesting was laying out the pinks and greylags side by side for comparison. The pinks sounded and acted like Specks, but the barring on the greylags made them look more like specks.



    The final note I have on the last day hunt was how awesome the scenery was. During the dark we noted lights moving across the horizon. Once it became light we realized we were within 2 miles of the North Sea and those lights were ocean going ships. I wish I had a picture that conveyed this, but iPhones just don’t manage to capture awesome scenery.

    So, whats next? In 2020 I am heading back (unless I can make it happen in 2019). I still have red grouse and black neck pheasants to shoot, along with a bunch more castles to visit and whiskys to sample
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
    Giveem3outdoors, timer, Nock and 6 others like this.
  2. carnivore

    carnivore 12 pointer

    Nov 17, 2007
    Congrats on a great trip.
  3. Drahts

    Drahts 10 pointer

    Apr 7, 2015
    Awesome trip! Congrats!
  4. Big_Steve

    Big_Steve Spike

    Aug 21, 2007
    Richmond, Ky
    Glad to read part two. Sounds like an amazing experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading both write-ups. Thanks.
  5. pentail

    pentail Bacon Staff Member

    Sep 25, 2002
    Savoring the smoke
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  6. bondhu

    bondhu 12 pointer

    Jul 3, 2015
    Battle Run
    Congrats on the adventure.
  7. Nock

    Nock 12 pointer

    Sep 9, 2012
    butler co
    Once again awesome story and hunt. Noticed the mallard. Do they have any other duck as us?
  8. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    I have only shot mallards and teal. But yes they have some that are the same and some similar.
    Their teal are Eurasian Teal, that look pretty much like a Green wing, maybe a few ounces bigger, and missing a color strip on the chest/flank (hard to explain with just word)
    They also have pintails and gadwall that are identical to ours
    Their wigeon are Eurasian (rusty red head) that we occasional see on the coasts here.
    Their divers are called pochards (and look like a redhead crossed with a canvasback)

    That all being said - most duck are shot at night so species id is a bit harder. I think if you go back a couple years and search under my name you will find a writeup I did on a Scottish duck hunt. Bait, lead, shooting at night - all of that is considered the norm. They actually try not to shoot ponds during daylight so as to give them a rest. Just a reminder that rules/laws/and ethics do change dramatically around the world.
  9. Another great hunt story. Do share info about the shotguns if you can and which of the many and varied Scotch Whiskies you like the most? Also, do the Scots require steel shot be used when hunting water fowl? Thx.

  10. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    First - little bit of grammar nazi - there are NO Scotch Whiskies, or Whiskeys. Proper spelled in Scotland it is WHISKY. Only when it comes across the pond do we add the E. That being said - My favorite of all time is Balblair 83. They distill and release on the master distillers decision - so they may have years go by between bottling. When we made our first trip I specifically targeted Balblair, having only heard that they had one of top 10 Scotch Whisky of all time. They were generous and let us taste their entire offering, and then we dropped almost 300 pounds on a bottle of 83. we say this for sale in NYC for over $500 for the bottle. I dont know if any whisky is worth that much, but this one is so good you almost believe it is worth it.

    As to the shooting - mostly we shot Spanish O/U guns. Our guide is not so traditional that he feels the need for a SxS. One of those guns has well over 50,000 rounds through it (he keeps meticulous records) and while loose it is not sloppy. Inland, over ponds or fields, you can shoot lead. On the foreshore (coastal waters) you must shoot non-toxic loads. I am not sure what the rules are for lochs - but then they rarely shoot those instead leaving them as roosting water.

    You can also bait, which is normal for duck ponds. We didn't bait for geese, there was no need. Not trying to be critical, but they could tighten up their combine settings and spill less grain. Many of the fields we were in probably had upwards of 4 bushel to the acre of waste grain. Couldnt tell if this was planned and the way they replanted for the next year, or if this was just lack of precision in harvesting.

    On that note - throughout the entire UK I dont see much precision agriculture. It reminds me of the fields back when I was a kid in the 70s, lots of hedgerows or fences (and lots of game) and somewhat sloppy farming. If you go to Germany you will see precision ag on par with anything we have in the midwest. If there is a grain on the ground there, it was because they wanted it there for the wildlife, and they know its there.
  11. Thank you for the info. My knowledge of Scotch is limited having spent most of my life thinking I did not like it based on limited samplings of lowend offerings like JW-Red or Cutty Sark. A few years ago, my wife and I decided we would educate ourselves to the many and varied tastes from Scotland and began acquiring and sampling many from Speyside, Lowlands, West Coastal, Skye, Islay, and Highlands as well as the Orkney's which only have two that I know of. I was pleased to learn that there are some which I really like and enjoy even more than a good bourbon. From what I can tell so far two of my favs are The Dalmore highland single malt. It comes in a variety of age stamps and blends. They are all good. The other is Highland Park 12 which is an Orkadian single malt. It too comes in a variety of ages. It is a little more smokey where the Dalmore is none. Both are very good. I was fortunate enough to acquire two bottles of Highland Park Valkyrie which was their 2017 special offering and which won first place in the international Whiskey/Whisky championships. The first time I tasted it, I was sooo disappointed because it seemed overly bland and not nearly as layered as even the HP12 and certainly not with all of the fruitcake and spice of Dalmore. However, after is breathed for a few weeks, it became much more complex and interesting. Not my best but a good one.

    Finding good scotch is hard where I live. Not many folks like it so, nobody stocks much of it. When I travel I try to look for interesting ones. Thank you for sharing about the Balblair 83. Since you were in Caithness, is it a Highland? or a Coastal East Highland? and was it a single or a blend? It sounds a little pricey for my taste but still, if it is extraordinary??? What did you like about it? I know what I like but people have varied tastes.
  12. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    Best advice I could give is check out Groupon or one of those travel sites that does cheap packages. Off season (Sept and May are best) you can often get airfare from a major airport (Chicago or NY/JFK), along with 7 nights B&B and a rental car for around $750 a person. Thats less than you spend for a week with the Giant Rat at Disney. Fly into Glasgow or Edinburg, then start on a big circle -going up to Invarray (pronounced IN VA RAH). Glasgow is the northernmost part of the lowlands so you can catch that style. Then from Invarray North and East you are solidly in the highlands. You can veer off into the Islay region if heavily peated whisky is your thing, or bypass it. Travel Ft. Augustus and Ft William - then detour up to The famous arched railroad trestle and castle from Highlander before coming back down to Loch Ness and Inverness. Slight detour north to Tain/Edenton gets you Balblair and Glenmorangie, then up the coastal road to Dalamore. One the way back down south of Inverness you will come down through the Caingorm mountains and the Speyside region. In the same speyside region is Perth and Perthshire - home of the famous William Wallace battlefields and such.

    So - figure $3000 for a couple, another $1000 for souvenir and other stuff - and you have a vacation full of whisky and memories. If your head clears for a day or so I could recommend a shooting guide as well.
  13. supergoat80

    supergoat80 10 pointer

    Aug 31, 2012
    Looks like an awesome trip I’d like to do that sometime.
  14. Gforcetrivers

    Gforcetrivers 8 pointer

    Sep 23, 2016
    Is there much other hunting pressure there?
  15. Coot_Meurer

    Coot_Meurer 10 pointer

    Nov 4, 2006
    Not here anymore
    There really isn't, not compared to what we see here. The Orkneys are famous for the geese so the guides up there stay booked up, but most self-regulate, shooting a couple brace per person.

    The area we hunted we never saw or heard another. Our friend says that there is only one other wildfowl hunter in the entire shire (county). That doesn't mean the local farmer might not go out and whack a couple opportunistically for supper. Part of the reason for the low pressure is the difficulty getting supplies. I shipped over and brought over a lot of items because it is either just not available or priced out of reach. A set of breathable waders, if you can find them, run $400 and up. Decoys are $200 or more dozen for shells, full bodies are unheard of.

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