Hunt Report Isle of Raasay 26-28th of September 2014.
I left West Yorkshire on the Friday to go for an incredible adventure to the Inner Hebrides with Liam Perks who is an estate manager in Scotland from our group. I drove 440 miles which took around 9 hours meeting him at his house on the mainland in Sheildaig a good 50+ miles from Inverness, Scotland. When we got there, he showed me some of his guns, we had a nice little chat, then off to the local pub for a few where his lovely wife Emma was working for a couple of pints. Then we went to sleep for about 12.30.
I was rudely awakened at 6am by my alarm on my phone and but was somewhat compensated when I was greeted with a sausage butty and a cup of tea from Liam.
We packed up the car and set off to the ferry port to get the ferry over to Raasay, ready to start the adventure. We arrived at the croft and I met Liam’s Granny Jessie, Aunty Wilma and his Uncles Willie and Donnie. Liam and his family made me feel really comfortable, we had a butty and a cup of tea and then he gave me a chance to get used to the .270 Winchester and made sure I could shoot straight on a target. I put 2 cheap PPU bullets through to get used to the feel of the gun then put 2 shots 1″ away from the bull’s eye using the Winchester soft points and he was happy I could make a clean shot, so we got on our way to find a beast!
We started at a leisurely stroll down a path to begin the hunt and I thought that it would be a nice walk around the island; little did I know what was ahead. We got to the foot of a hillside covered in rocks and heather and we began to climb what seemed like an 80 degree slope zig-zagging up. I had to stop to catch my breath part way up; it’s not easy keeping up with an amateur triathlete. When we got to the top we had another rest and then tackled the last bit of climbing to get to the top of Raasay. We walked up and down small hills for some time seeing footprints and droppings of our quarry everywhere hoping to see a staggie over the rise each time. The terrain was difficult with rocks, heather moss and bogs everywhere. It certainly wasn’t like I imagined, but wild and beautiful nonetheless.
After some time of seeing nothing but hoof marks and dung, we walked over another bit of hill only to spook the beasts we’d been looking for and off they went frustratingly for us. We followed in the hope they would settle down, through the binoculars we identified a dark smallish stag with a nice rack and an absolutely gigantic stag that appeared to be a royal along with some hinds in tow. We followed trying to anticipate their movements as they left us in the dust in no time. After some time chasing, we spotted a lone stag at the top of a rise that we had no way of approaching
And he seemed to know that.
As we were almost about to give up hope, we gave another spot a look and spotted a large group of hinds. We kept extremely low crawling to a vantage point where we could spot them and be well concealed. We were hoping there was a big lad in and amongst the lasses, and we began to wait for him to arrive. We ranged the deer at between 305 and 330 yards. We knew that we’d not be able to comfortably shoot a stag at that range not knowing the drop and the impact of a 25mph intermittent wind could have on our point of impact.
When we’d been sat a while enjoying watching the hinds counting them and Liam showing me how to roughly tell the age of them, Liam caught a glimpse of antler poking from a dip near where the hinds were grazing and browsing. I couldn’t see him, but was happy to take Liam’s word for it. We slowly crawled out of our vantage point to go around a hill to our left in order to get final firing position. Liam scouted out a spot, but he said we wouldn’t get set up for the shot without spooking the hinds in the foreground. Liam investigated another spot and said he couldn’t get us both in, third time was lucky although not ideal. I crawled in behind the rifle that Liam had positioned on a rock for me to use as a shooting platform, I then struggled my way in to a position I could make steady for the shot.
I was rested on a sloped rock and I was struggling to keep my foothold in the slope of the hill in which my rock rest was anchored. The magnificent red stag was sat down; Liam advised me that we may have to wait 20 minutes or so for him to get up. The stag being sat down gave me time to prepare, I range found him at 120 yards, I knew that the gun being zeroed for 100, there was going to be next to no drop and the wind would have little impact at this range. I decided I was going to fold up the bipod and use the rock as a shooting rest, there was no way I’d level the cross hairs using the bipod on there and I didn’t want the clicking of the leg adjustment to spook the hinds in the foreground that were maybe as close as 60-70 yards.
After 10 minutes of waiting, the big beast began to look around as if he was about to make a move, he was facing to the left, stood 120 yards away at about 1 o’clock-2 o’clock from my vantage point.
He sprung gracefully on to his feet to reveal his full height and magnificence. He moved his front leg forward and before he had chance to complete his step, I found the kill zone with the crosshairs and
Dropped the firing pin on the primer, of the 130 grain soft point Winchester round. In the peaceful quiet of Raasay, the powerful un-moderated centre fire rifle made a huge boom, the recoil and noise were a little different from the rim fires I’m used to.
The stag appeared to flinch and began to stroll off with the hinds slowly as I re-bolted the gun. Being used to instantly dropping my quarry I was tempted to line up for another shot, Liam told me to wait. I was sure I’d made a good shot, but was nervous for the 3-4 seconds he appeared to walk calmly; he began to appear drunk staggering and stumbling, and was on his back in what seemed like the longest 10 seconds of my life. Eager to inspect my kill, I got straight on my feet and Liam told me to wait for the hinds to clear. When they had gone, we approached the beast with caution, Liam used the muzzle of the gun to test for eye reflexes and there was no response. An accurate shot had been taken and a very clean kill was made. The exit wound was visible on the side we could see on the beast, it was about an inch and a half across with blood and lung tissue around the edge.
We then rolled the beast and gralloched him as a team; the impressive size and putrid smell of the beast were equally as impressive as his fine rack of antlers. Once gralloched and bled a bit, we tied a length of old car seatbelt to the antlers of the monster with some nylon rope. We could see that the bullet had entered exactly where I was aiming and as the stag was ever so slightly quartering on the bullet had taken a diagonal path through the engine room, perforating the top of the left lung, severing all the arteries from the top of the heart and absolutely annihilating the bottom half of the right lung. It was understandable that he only moved 10 yards or so following the shot, he did well to stand as long as he did.
I began to drag the 21 stone (133kg) beast and only managed to move him 2-3 yards of the 2-2.5 miles we had to take him back to the croft. We tried as a team and only made it a further 15-20 yards. We were both worn out, dehydrated and weak at this point from the hard work we’d put in to find this great deer. We then ended up quartering the beast, taking the loins, liver and head too. Shame we couldn’t move more of it, but I’m glad we only took what we did as it was gruelling going dragging 3 of the legs, I had the loins rolled up in my jacket pockets and Liam was equally loaded up with the rifle, the head and the liver as well as the other leg. We carried what we had to the nearest point we could get the quad and then returned to the croft to get a drink and collect the quad.
Exhausted, we took the quad to pick up the venison we had dragged all that way, picked it up and bagged it. We took it to Liam’s car and left it in the boot. We had a celebratory bottle of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord each at the car, then returned to the croft. We were greeted by the best lentil soup I’ve ever eaten, which was the best remedy for being cold and worn out. Then spent the evening eating some lovely more home-cooked food prepared by Jessie and Wilma and relaxed until Liam started to fall asleep in the chair.
We turned in at this point and had a well-deserved 9 hours sleep.
The next day, we got the 10am ferry back to the mainland to begin my epic journey home and drove back to Liam’s to collect my car. I ended up on the road about 12.30pm and didn’t get back till 9.15pm so I had a long time to think about the events of the weekend. It was a truly wonderful trip and would still have been amazing had we not got a stag. The scenery was beautiful, the deer were mystical and it was truly an adventure to remember forever.