For years it’s been a dream of mine to watch Scottish red deer in the autumn so last week my boyfriend Steve and I journeyed to the west coast to find some. We saw deer every day but they were often on the peaks of the hills and too far away for photos. Even if the sights weren’t great, the sounds were fantastic. At night in the chalet I’d pause during dinner after hearing a faint mooing sound from outside. It wasn’t cows but the bellowing of breeding stags on the hill across the loch, working hard to protect their own harems of hinds or attempting to steal someone else’s. They bellowed long into the early hours and several times I woke up disorientated, wondering if I had dreamt it.
On the last full day of the trip after yet more distant silhouettes on the horizon we turned around and started driving back to the house, just about ready to accept defeat. In an almost cliched “nick of time” moment Steve suddenly spotted a stag with his harem in a field not far from the road. Naturally there was nowhere to pull over so we ditched the car in a layby, walked back up the road and crawled the last few metres on our bellies to avoid scaring the deer.
After several minutes of crawling I discovered that my hands were covered in roughly a dozen ticks, all tiny and luckily unattached. However, the ticks, mud and poo were all worth it for the views. The stag in the field below was in full rut mode, bellowing every minute or so and chasing the hinds around. None succumbed to his advances but he persevered, even jumping the hilariously named “deer proof fence” with ease. As well as the larger stag, there were also several younger stags feeding on the hill at eye level with us. They stared us down every time we shifted position but seemed content to carry on as normal and let us watch.
After several days of hearing deer without seeing many, getting to spend a couple of hours being completely surrounded by them was the perfect way to end our trip. Deer are one of those Marmite animals for some people, but I think they’re exceptionally special and I relish every encounter I have with them.