The morning of my 40th birthday..... That's one I'll NEVER forget. Alone, because
the other guys had all decided the weather was not suitable, or their wives had
other ideas for them.... Bloody cold, miserable day, icicles after overnight rain.
I'd left home on Friday afternoon, damned annoyed that I'd been deserted, but
obsessed with getting up the Glencoe valley to the Maimai hut for the weekend. I
was convinced that the previous few days cold weather would force the stags to
roar, and there was no way you could have kept me at home! Well, maybe at
gunpoint perhaps, but I'd have certainly jumped anyone who'd tried it! I'd just
bought myself a new rifle for my birthday, a Winchester Model 70 lightweight
308, laminated stock, 6 power scope etc, and I was determined to do the business
The walk from the Summerdale Hilton to the Maimai was pleasant enough,
despite the intermittent showers. I was there with barely an hour to spare
before darkness set in, so after dumping my pack in the door, I set off up the ridge at the
back of the hut. Just as it was getting too dark to see, a stag bellowed across
the basin, about half a mile away. I roared back at him, and he responded, and
slowly moved towards me, moaning and roaring as he came. The light faded all too
quickly, and I withdrew before he could scent me, but eager to resume the encounter
Sleep was hard to find. I was haunted by thoughts of the big cast antler we'd
found a few months before, not far from where this stag had roared. It was a 6
beautiful points, and if the other side antler matched, it was a superb stag.
Knuckling the sleep from my eyes, I was out of bed in a flash in response to
the 5:30 alarm! A gulp of orange juice, and a chocolate bar, and on with the wet
boots without hesitation today! Happy birthday to me, 3 hours walk from the
truck, 2 hours drive from home! Stumbling up the hill in the dark, trying to get
high above the stag before first light, happy as a sand boy! I was carrying an
empty pack in readiness for the return journey, and very, very confident of
success. Sometimes, after a lifetime spent hunting, you just know when its
your lucky day!
As it was getting light, I was up onto the well defined game trail leading up
to a low pass which crosses into the next valley. The open tussock sections
between strips of beech forest petered out just below the summit of the pass,
where solid bush commenced. Still no sound from the stag of the previous
evening... despite my repeated roars to stir him up.
Entering the trees at the summit, I moved cautiously, ears alert... then,
faintly, far down through the trees, a roar! I gave him a hearty bellow in
and he responded angrily. Silence for 10 minutes, then another roar, only 100
metres away! Bloody hell, the hair on the back of my neck erect, heart pounding,
I roared again, crouching in behind the base of a huge beech trees, 308 poised,
eyes scanning in the direction of approach.
The massive stag moaned and grumbled as he came striding into view, intent of
dealing to the invader of his territory. Angling across the hillside, not
directly towards me now, and I'm desperate to get a clear shot. Finally, at
about 30 yards, there's enough space between the trees and the 308 blasts out at
him, centered on that mighty shoulder. And down, he's mine, and now I breathe
again, walking carefully forward. Bloody hell, just look at those antlers, and
what a stag he is! 14 points, I'm shocked!
What a birthday present! The walk back to the
truck with the head, and 100 lbs of venison, was definitely a mission, but I smiled
along every step of it! A treasured memory, which time does not erode.
At the time, this stag was the best I've shot,
and the antlers are still tucked in the garage, too good for knife handles,
along with a 12, and several 10's.