Deer hunting in the beautiful Scottish Highlands

In 2019 I read an article by renowned outdoor writer Craig Boddington regarding deer hunting in Scotland, something that has long been on my to-do list. Boddington had hunted with International Adventures, which he highly recommended, and I went online to look into the questions, then emailed. Within minutes, I received a phone call from Michael Grosse, who along with his wife Danielle and son Justin run the company, which provides hunting opportunities around the world.

My son, Josh, and I would immediately book a deer hunt in Scotland, and my wife, Ginny, would come for half price as a non-hunter. A tour bus and guide are readily available, not only for non-hunters, but also for hunters wishing to see all the sites.

Well folks, due to the COVID pandemic Scotland was shut down completely in 2020 and then again in 2021. At the start of 2022 we were wondering if our hunt would ever come to fruition, but we finally learned that it was a hit, and Josh and I were soon booked to hunt during the first week of June.

A real beauty about International Adventures is that they arrange everything for you, including planning and even round-trip airfare, which is included in the overall cost of the hunt. International Adventures also only has four deer hunters at a time, to keep things small and very nice playground, and it’s one-on-one field guiding service that I was really looking forward to.

We planned our trip to arrive in Edinburgh three days early to explore and enjoy the sites, with five days for the hunt (followed by two more days in Edinburgh before returning home). Our bus picked us all up at the hotel and then it was a three hour drive due north through the scenic Highlands to the very quaint and pleasant Loch Kinord Hotel in the small market town of Dinnet. The meals provided there were prepared by a bona fide chef, and well, folks, it was such a pleasant atmosphere, we all got along very easily. Sitting on a terrace and listening to the wood pigeons cooing as the sun set really topped off the evening.

Our location in Scotland was at the same latitude as Sitka, Alaska and had the same long days at this time of year. You can literally hunt from 4 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., but deer are usually only out in the open early in the morning and late at night and spend the rest of the day under cover. Because the nights and sleep time were short, it was strongly recommended to take a nap at noon.

I always inform my hunting guides of any physical limitations I may have well before I show up, as it is best never to take them by surprise. In my case, I haven’t fully recovered from losing an argument with an unruly horse, and my left knee needs a brace, and trekking poles are needed to cover rough terrain. Right now I’m not very nimble or fast, but I get around. Michael Grosse assured me that it was not a problem at all and that we were going to do it! He was right.

The alarm clock woke me up that first morning at 3 a.m., and soon after, I was riding with Justin Grosse to meet the game warden who was to be my guide that morning. Sean Emmett is the chief game warden of a 27,000 acre estate, of which he knows every detail very well. First, he presented me with his rifle, which I would use. Bringing your own firearm to the UK isn’t impossible, but in my mind it’s very impractical due to all the bureaucracy and rules. For a small fee per hunt, it was very wise to use the game warden’s rifle and ammunition.

Sean Emmett enjoys what he calls a “worker’s rifle,” and the fancy wooden stocks and pretty blue steel aren’t his cup of tea at all. He likes stainless steel and composites and really likes the 6.5 Creedmoor caliber, a caliber I know very well. I was allowed to do a few dry fire drills to get acclimated to the trigger and scope, then off I went for the hunt. The muzzle of the rifle was also fitted with a suppressor (aka silencer), which is standard and very acceptable in the UK as far as sporting guns go. In addition to calming things down, the suppressors also eliminate a lot of recoil. The noise and recoil of use reminds me of firing a .22 rimfire rifle.

The typical way of hunting deer in Scotland reminded me of my Michigan elk hunt in the Pigeon River Forest, which means driving a vehicle until a likely prospect is found, then getting out and hunt down. Also, while stalking, the game warden carries the rifle as well as shooting sticks, and ready the rifle when it’s time to shoot, which worked well for me. Sean’s rifle and large scope were rather heavy, but accurate.

We had run a number of rods, but after further consideration Sean said we could do better and move on. Roe deer are small deer, with an adult weighing (live weight) 50 to 70 pounds. Their antlers grow straight and are usually forked, usually making them four-pointed. The best and most mature males will usually have six points, and anything with more points than that is a real trophy. The objective of the hunt is to score at least six points, International Adventures has a record so far of having hunters score 100%, and the hunt package raises two dollars per hunter.

We eventually worked within 50 yards of a decent deer that was lying in the tall grass and unaware of us. I held on to the shooting sticks and Sean did deer calls to shake the deer off, and he told me to be ready to shoot when the deer pounced because he would whirl around and disappear quickly. The buck suddenly jumped up and started a whirl when I pulled the trigger, and he fell for the count after a 20 yard dash. I was very proud of my very first deer and couldn’t wait to go after the second. It was a real honor to share the field with Sean Emmett and Justin Grosse.

When we got back to the Loch Kinord hotel, we discovered that my son Josh had pocketed two six-point dandy dollars first thing in the morning. He used game warden Ross Duncan’s Tikka rifle in .243 Winchester (game wardens all use quality rifles and optics and hand load their own ammunition) to drop his first dollar at 20 yards and the second 100 meters away.

Josh would rest the rifle on a fence post as the first male climbed towards him and suddenly appeared, and he used another fence post to take a trick shot as the second male went through a small gap in the brush. Like me, Josh was impressed with how the suppressor tames both noise and recoil.

Because he already had his two dollars allocated to him, Josh would accompany Michael Grosse and me on a two-plus hour drive south to hunt deer from the farmlands, which had not been hunted for over two year. The area, made up of woods and fields of green crops, reminded me a bit of my home region of Thumb, with the fields surrounded by dense hedgerows, which the deer appreciate.

Owner Peter Leslie was ready and waiting when we arrived. Michael Grosse showed me his Steyr-Mannlicher rifle in .270 Winchester, topped with a Trijicon Accupoint scope that featured a bright green dot that would be great for low light shooting. The scope was 6-power, which I liked, and the rifle had a set trigger which would help with proper shot placement. Michael also had an old fashioned shooting stick which was a wooden stick with an antler on top.

We all got into Peter Leslie’s Land Rover and started patrolling his 400 acre farm looking for a big deer. We saw plenty of deer, including four and six point bucks, but Peter insisted there were some real hidden gems that usually only appeared in dim light. He, of course, was right.

It was well past 10 p.m. when a dark-bodied deer entered a field of green barley about 400 yards away, and Michael and Josh, using their binoculars, confirmed it was a dandy male with a heavy mass. I wasn’t comfortable with a 400 yard shot in low light, but the buck suddenly started chasing a doe, which stalked towards us, eating the distance. The two deer turned sideways and stood sideways, as if they had received a signal. I commented that the range seemed to be around 275 yards, and Michael used his rangefinder to confirm 281 yards and told me to place the green dot directly on the spine to allow the bullet drop, which I ‘have done.

I had a solid double and my shot surprised everyone, because I shot as soon as Michael confirmed range and ball drop. When the reticle is perfect, with a hunch, I pull the trigger. The male, hit in the center of the rib cage, ran 30 meters before falling for the count. He was a six-pointed dandy with a mass heavy enough for the bases of the antlers to be joined on his skull. It was definitely an older stag and I was really happy with the day’s events for Josh and me. We would now be able to join Ginny and do some rounds.

Seven of our party’s eight dollars had been taken on the first day, and the eighth was pocketed at 4:30 the next morning, with all four hunters in our party scoring 100%.

Needless to say, folks, I plan to return to Scotland for another hunting adventure at the earliest opportunity, and with International Adventures, of course.

Email freelance outdoor writer Tom Lounsbury at [email protected]

Comments are closed.