The Isle of Skye
Leaving for the forest at 4.00 am
The Isle of Skye is immortalised in this poem.
Sail round the cliffy West,
And, rising out of the main,
You there shall see the Maidens three,
Like Choosers of the Slain;
And go wherever you may,
With a new and deep surprise,
The Coolin blue will fill your view
And fix your gazing eyes.
Alexander Nicolson (1827–1893)
Light velvety rain pressing on your face. Lights flickering in the distance. The smell of damp and wet grass, the noise of flowing water.
Four o'clock in the morning and we head off driving through small unlit lanes and tracks for about an hour when we come to a halt and get out. The fine rain is still falling. Car lights flicker in the yonder and another vehicle comes into sight. The Ghillie's have arrived. Pleasantries aside a quiet discussion takes place, very little wind, very wet underfoot on the already soaked heather its decided to do a forest walk. Deer had been spied last night. Deer returning to the forest.
We walk off in single file down a forest track used by loggers treading carefully and very slowly so as to minimise the noise. The young Ghillie, Ross who is 17 and just finished school explains that we are to approach a clearing. Keep low and keep quiet. The road bends and to the left is a big clearing rising towards the sea and trailing off at the other end to a small burn. On the top of the ridge totally unexpected a stag stands purveying his domain. The wind carries our scent and the stag bolts over the rise. Deer will smell you before they see you.
The morning continues with the soft rain disappearing and the sun pouring through the trees, our walking continues and within moments a hind is spotted, the lead Gun gets into position with the gun resting on a tripod, takes aim at which point you can feel the adrenalin racing through your body. She stands no more than 80 feet and soon she will be no more. You can feel the tension in the group, the anticipation of a moment. As quickly as the hind appeared it disappears into the forest. No shot.
The Ghillie beckons us and we gather, Ross explains that the lack of wind makes it very difficult especially as what little wind there is is constantly changing direction. His plan is to take us to a glen he knows where there is a stone sheep round. Keep very low and very quiet. After 40 minutes of crawling along a ditch we arrive at the edge of the glen. Sure enough four Hinds are on the opposite side of the glen. One of the guns and the Ghillie crawl into the sheep round. The deer are cautious. Half an hour later we leave. No shot made and the deer now seeing us run off into the protection of the dense forest. Ross explained that the deer were too far away to make a safe shot. He explains that when he pulls the trigger he wants to kill the animal outright, quickly and without pain, so he would not make the shot unless he was very confident he could achieve this, the spotted hinds were scoped at about 300 feet which was to far to be sure of a clean kill.
We leave the glen. The sun is up over the tree line shafting down the valley. The sky blue and clear. Pockets of mist linger here and there. We walk back up the hill.
Deer everywhere but nothing killed. Ross explains that you have days like this but what a lovely way to enjoy some of the most stunning scenery, watch the sun rise over the ocean and in some way connect with a real world.
Talking with Ross he explains he didn't much take to school. Ironically aged 17, he can't drive a car yet but has a firearm licence and uses a rifle that is more powerful that an army issue. He earns a living by using his skills learnt as a young boy stalking and killing deer and selling the meat, his office the glorious surroundings of Skye. He loves every bit of what he does, and doesn't imagine he will do anything else.
The following morning a six point stag was shot.
Leaving for the forest at 4.00 am