Scotland - Land of the Clans, Malt Whiskey, and Roe DeerPosted Feb 8, 2019 By member Bob Greving (Bob posted this article when he discovered his hunt was up for auction again in 2019) My Scotland adventure started at the SCI chapter banquet in 2016. I bought the hunt donated by International Adventures Unlimited http://www.internationaladventures.us/. The European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) is a Eurasian species of deer indigenous to the United Kingdom. Males are referred to as roebucks. The deer is a relatively small, reddish to dark brown coated deer that is well adapted to the northern Scotland climate. The deer weigh 30 – 75 pounds and stand 2 – 2.5 feet at shoulder height. With May-June being springtime in Scotland many of the deer still carry ragged capes from shedding heavy winter coats. June is the usual rutting month so some of the bucks have yet to shed all of their velvet.
Michael and Danielle Grosse (with their son Justin), of International Adventures Unlimited out of Gunnison, Colorado were our hosts for the hunt. They run a family owned business, catering to hunters looking for a complete hunting experience. Because of the location of the hunt, non-hunters can enjoy daily touring hosted by Danielle who provides a most enjoyable time. I found Michael and Danielle to not only be gracious hosts but some of the most thoroughly informative outfitting operations I have experienced. The pre-trip information provided covered every aspect of our trip, even down to tipping suggestions. I never felt more fully informed of what to expect and what was expected of us.
June seems to be an odd month to hunt deer in the rut but the roe deer is unusual in that it is the only one that delays implantation. Fawns are born in late May, and the does come into season shortly after that. Implantation is then delayed until fall. While interesting and unusual it provided me with the rare opportunity to hunt when all of my normal hunting would be otherwise out of season.
Accommodations were exceptional with comfortable rooms and good food and drink. Our morning hunts started at 4:30 AM. The weather was cool in the morning with intermittent light showers. My first hunt was on Ballogie estate. I met my gamekeeper guide, Peter, who was dressed traditionally in tweeds and a necktie. He familiarized me with the rifle I would be using. It was a Sauer 202 in .223 Remington. It was equipped with a suppressor and bipod with a 4X15 Stutzen scope. The combination I estimated weighed over 10 pounds. Thankfully, in Scotland, the tradition is for the gamekeeper to carry your rifle until it is time to use it. The rifle trigger had been adjusted to what I estimated to be about a 1 pound pull. I’m glad I was not hunting with heavy gloves on.
The method of hunting there is spot and stalk. With thousands of acres to hunt we used the gamekeeper’s truck to cover a large amount of the estate frequenting fields that Peter had seen deer in previously. The ‘roads’ ran the gamut from paved country roads to little more than a game trail. One feature of the hunt I was surprised by was the presence of numerous pheasants. They were everywhere on the estate and were calling to each other seemingly constantly. We also spotted Black Grouse and Red Grouse on the estate. Hills in the area are not at high altitude but the higher we went the more sparse the vegetation became. At the highest levels there was little more than heather, gorse and rocks, lots of rocks. Lower altitudes contained the pastures, tilled fields, forests and lochs (lakes).
The roe deer are skittish creatures but I did not at first appreciate just how skittish and sensitive their hearing and eyesight is. I found this surprising since the deer have virtually no natural enemy in Scotland. While there are foxes and ‘wild cats’ similar to our bobcat, these predators are not large enough to be a viable threat to an adult deer. On our first stalk I blew it by not being quiet enough, even at well over 100 yards away. I would not make the same mistake a second time. On our second stalk we had no cover to hide our advance on the grazing deer and even the movement on our bellies was noticed by the buck who ‘barked’ at us and bounded away. These deer make a sound that is best described as a bark and it sounds remarkably like that of a dog although not identical.
Finally, we spotted a deer walking along the fence of a large pasture. The grass was about knee high and we got down once again on our bellies to move closer for a shot. The grass was soaking wet and soon so was I even though I had rain gear on. We approached behind a small rise and when we crested it we were about 120 yards from the deer. Peter set up the rifle on its bipods and I lined up the crosshairs and squeezed the trigger. As previously noted it didn’t take much of a squeeze to fire the rifle and the small caliber and heavy rifle weight produced nearly no kick at the shot. I had a nice mature roe buck later aged by the gamekeeper at 6 years old.
The afternoon stalks start around 5:00 PM. My second deer would be taken on another estate. My gamekeeper guide’s name was Chris. Chris hunts with a Tikka in .243 Remington with a Zeiss scope. Like Peter’s gun it sported a suppressor and bipods making it as heavy as Peter’s Sauer. To my amazement Chris had installed a Jewel trigger that I swear was honed down to a half pound pull. Maybe safety alone is why they insist on carrying the gun. I almost could pull the trigger with my heartbeat alone.
We started the hunt searching for deer in the ‘high country’ of the estate. High mountains, rocks, heather and not much else appeared to be there. We did see red deer, a Scottish hare, and some grouse but no roe deer. After exploring what seemed to be a large part of the estate we descended to lower forested tracts. In one section we spotted a Red Stag just off the trail and Chris noted that this particular area of the estate was designated as a recovery area for trees planted there. The stag was not supposed to be there. He asked if I wanted to shoot him to get him out of the area. Of course I said ‘Yes!’ enthusiastically. The idea of taking a Scottish red stag at no additional cost was very appealing. We circled back but the stag had vanished into the forest.
We spotted a nice buck and several does in a field and attempted a stalk. As seems to be common with these small deer our stalk was more of a belly crawl. We had nearly reached a point where I could get a clear shot when an estate vehicle drove down a road running next to the field. The buck bolted and ran up the far hill ‘barking’ at the does as he went. Overall, we had a number of ‘blown’ stalks, including a notable one through a marsh where the wet moss and mud sucked at our boots. In some of those attempts the deer simply moved away before we could get into position. In others the wary nature of the deer or our sound, movement or smell caused them to exit the area before we were set.
We were losing light when we spotted a red deer in a field just 50 yards off the side of the road. When we looked closer at the red deer Chris spotted the head of a bedded roebuck in the field. All we could see were its ears and antlers. It looked like a good buck so I got out and tried to get a bead on him in the scope. I expected him to stand and run at any second but he stubbornly just laid there and looked straight at us. I did not have a kill shot except in the head or neck which I did not want to take and potentially ruin a mount. For what painfully seemed like forever the standoff continued as light was fading and my eye and muscles became weary and tensed up. Chris tried calling to the deer to no avail and he even went to the truck and started the engine to get the buck to move. I was just about to call it too dark to shoot when he stood and turned broadside to me and I tapped the trigger on my second roe deer buck. It was 10:45 PM. Due to the late hour and darkness we took some quick photos and headed to the hotel to dream of the Scottish Highlands and the small beautiful deer that occupy these hills. I still had some time before the end of the week and Danielle was a gracious host taking my wife and I to even more castles, distilleries and places of interest. If this hunt appears on a future auction register I highly recommend that you go for it.