What weighs just under 28 stone (approx. 178 kg) and spent the summer getting soaked on a Scottish hillside?
The answer is the heaviest stag taken this season on the main forest beat of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, the jewel in the crown of the West Highland Hunting portfolio, where 2017 has seen an exceptional harvest of majestic male red deer, even by its own high standards.
To find out more, Leica caught up with headstalker and sporting manager Niall Rowantree as the season drew to a close in mid-October. “We took 50 stags this year from the main forest,” he explained. “The average weight was 17 stone 4 lbs (approx. 108 kg). And at least 22 of those were gold medal heads, which is exceptional. The biggest is probably a new world record for a Scottish-born hill stag.” As you might expect from such impressive weights, Ardnamurchan’s deer had put on a lot of condition over the summer. Niall and his team can back that up, through their monitoring of the herd using their Leica APO-Televid spotting scope, and from examining the beasts at close quarters following successful stalks. “The average weight was 17 stone 4 lbs (approx. 108 kg).”
“A lot of people would find the condition surprising, given the amount of rain we’ve had, but it’s been warm too, and if you think about it, being soaked isn’t too much of a problem, so long as you’re not cold at the same time,” Niall explained. Has it been particularly wet this year then? “Put it this way: it started raining here in June, and, with the exception of eight dry days, it hasn’t let up at all since then.”
Given the number of impressive carcasses logged in the larder, it’s clear that the weather didn’t stop Niall and his team leading plenty of successful stalking expeditions. “We had some very good hunting, and if I had any doubts about how waterproof my Leica Geovid 10×42 HD-B binoculars were, it’s gone now!” he told us, “They’ve been thoroughly tested and never failed to perform. We’ve also been very impressed with how easy it is to use the rangefinding readout to dial up or down on the Leica Magnus i riflescopes.”
For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to enjoy a damp day’s stalking on Scotland’s west coast ourselves, there’s good news: as you may have seen, Fieldsports Channel TV filmed the whole stag season for its “A year in the Life of Red Deer”. “Having the film crew with us has been a big learning experience,” Niall revealed, “But we’ve got some fantastic footage that you certainly won’t see anywhere else. They captured some great scenes of stags fighting during the rut – and rutting too! We even managed to get a ‘stag’s eye view’ by attaching a head camera to a mature royal – I don’t think anyone’s ever put a camera on a stag before.”
You can watch all the action at fieldsportschannel.tv