Goat Stalking in Scotland
- Monday, 03 June 2013
Charly Green goes Stalking for some Feral Goats in Scotland and finds that it makes for some challenging sport.
In early September 2011 a close friend and I (Lee Jackson of Wiltshire Deer Stalking) left our part of southern England to cross Hadrian`s wall and take on the sporting challenges of Scotland`s feral goats. After a long drive we were greeted by Colin Lockerbie who manages the stalking on Forrest Estates in the Galloway Mountains.
We discussed the plan for the day and where the goats were likely to be. Colin explained to the resident stalker, John, that I was after a trophy for the wall, and Lee was happy with a cull animal of either sex. John carefully checked with us that both of our rifles were correctly zeroed and we departed in two estate vehicles.
As we decamped and donned our kit Colin and John were already glassing the mountain sides. We made off as a group towards the hill fence, stopping to spot as new ground became visible. I was secretly hoping not to spot anything at this lower level as the mountain tops held great mystique and I had promised my children a picture from the very top. No goats were visible at this point so we split up, Colin taking Lee to the left of the hill and John guiding me to where he suspected the bigger billies reside.
I quickly realised that John was a far fitter man than me! I felt as though I was jogging to keep step with him over the tussocky ground. We made fast progress, stopping only to glass into folds and valleys as they opened before us. Looking back we could barely make out the two tiny figures of Lee and Colin disappearing over the opposite end of the mountain shoulder.
John must have realised that I was finding the climb tough, he stopped at a good vantage point allowing me to catch my breath, but he wasn`t even breathing heavily. Up we went again and some sections became a scrabble using both hands to grab at the heather and haul ourselves upward. We reached a rolling plateau roughly half way up the mountain face and cautiously we crawled to the edge of a crag and glassed over this rolling foreground and up the mountain above to the distant peaks. John lowered his binoculars and leant over to me saying “there they are”; he motioned toward the very top of a saddle between two peaks. Sure enough about twenty goats of various sizes and colour were grazing, evenly spaced across the hill top.
We watched for about five minutes before John spoke again saying that there was one particularly good billy at the far side of the group. As I focused in on this animal I could see he was big but at fifteen hundred yards he looked like a speck of grey fluff with horns. At this point two more billies came over the top of the ridge and joined the group. John explained to me that this would not be an easy stalk; the goats lower on the face would surely spot us if we attempted to go straight at them. There was a crag within reasonable distance of the big billy but it would necessitate climbing above the group and coming down over the hill in order to utilise it.
Now the tough work started, Using every possible fold and outcrop we stalked upwards to the very peak of the mountain. Suddenly there was movement thirty yards in front of us. A grouse stood silhouetted on the skyline. She looked at us for a few minutes before deciding that we didn`t belong there and silently skulked away into the heather.
Our stalk resumed. Coming to another good vantage point about 900 yards away we watched the goats again. Now I could see each animal clearly. The beast we had selected was head and shoulders above the others. He was repeatedly chasing a lesser male away from a nanny and then lying down next to her until his rival came back forcing him to stand and chase once more. As we watched we could clearly see that he had a pronounced limp and was struggling to stay on his feet. This confirmed our decision to take him out of the herd.
The approach from now on would be very tricky since the wind was swirling and our previous plan would put the wind on our backs for the final approach. The only option available was to make quick progress over two hundred yards whilst in full view and just hope that we weren’t spotted. I followed John closely as we half stooped and went round the face of the mountain. The lower goats had noticed us and were bunching up with the main group. Suddenly we dropped into small ravine and out of sight then John led me up onto the ridge and in behind a large crag. He told me that the billy would be within shot from the very top and instructed me that I should crawl forward as he watched from my right. I made my way forward on my belly until I could clearly see our quarry and his companion grouped one hundred and eighty yards away.
This quick approach had me puffing hard so I forced my breathing to steady and put the cross hairs onto the big grey billy. He was lying down with two others behind him; I waited. The rival Billy approached and he stood to meet it; still no shot. He lay down again. This went on for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually he took half a step forward clearing the other goats behind. I gave a two inch allowance for the wind and squeezed the trigger. The shot thumped off but I heard no strike and the goat had not reacted! I turned to John and asked, “Did I miss?” He said “No you hit him and I heard a good strike”.
I was back on the billy now as he was trotting away with the rest of the group; no follow up shot was possible so I waited. The group stopped after forty yards to look back at the source of the commotion and I was able to see my trophy wobble before throwing his head back and collapsing.
John came over to me and shook my hand. We watched as the remaining goats milled around the fallen billy and I was able to take a photograph before they departed over the hill. We approached my beast and John checked him for any reaction - nothing. Another hand shake and many thanks on my part. We dragged the animal lower off the mountain and took some trophy pictures before caping him and hiding the remains of the carcass out of sight of any hill walkers.
The journey down hill was significantly easier and quicker although by this point the sun was beating down and we were both sweating profusely. Back at base we met up with Colin and Lee who had also killed at the opposite end of the march. We swapped stories and congratulations before loading the car with our incredibly pungent trophy and headed back to our hotel for a shower and a few celebratory drinks.
Charly Green can be contacted at: www.shavesgreen.com 07706 395979 or 02380 282941