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In the Rut

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First beast down

In brief, I had a superb day’s stalking with a friend in the Grampians yesterday amidst the white-hot heat of the rut. What I thought I had seen on Islay turned out to be just a precursor of the real deal, and the day was alive with bellowing, piss-soaked stags in the most turgid throes of sexual enthusiasm. The ground was torn up, pizzles were waved around and the stench of the beasts blared hotly through the low cloud as we picked our way over the heather and in amongst them. While Islay was dominated by the blare of full-blown roaring, the feature of yesterday was a kind of wicked, repetitive bark like the laugh of some deranged villain. One stag in particular was relentless in his abuse of power, and his gasping coughs were simultaneously glorious and terrifying.

This beat is home to a staggering number of blackgame, and as if the spectacle of fighting stags was not enough, it took place beneath powerful flights of blackcock high overhead. Suffice it to say that I was in paradise. We came off the hill on the darkening with two good stags in the back of the argocat, and I nursed memories of the whole hair-raising spectacle all the way down the A90 last night into the small hours.

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