The Red Deer In Scotland.
In Scotland, as throughout the UK, “hunting” means riding a horse and following a pack of hounds. What we in North America call hunting the Scots refer to as “shooting” or “stalking.”
Scotland has substantial and well-managed populations of roe deer and red deer. Roe deer are handsome little creatures comparable in size to our Coues deer. Red deer are the largest species hunted (OK, stalked) in the UK.
Red deer are distributed throughout Europe and seem to vary considerably in size, apparently depending on factors such as diet, weather, and genetics. In Scotland, red deer stags seem to run about the size of large mule deer, weighing around 225 to 300 pounds on the hoof.
For shooting roe deer centerfire .22 cartridges are acceptable with minimum 50-grain bullet, 2,450 fps muzzle velocity, and 1,000 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. For hunting all deer species minimum bullet weight is 100-grain, with the same 2,450 fps muzzle velocity minimum, and at least 1,750 ft-lb of muzzle energy.
In the rest of the UK, a rifle for red deer must be at least .243 caliber. While Scotland doesn’t specify caliber for red deer, the 100-grain bullet weight minimum in practical terms has the same effect.
The 2,450 fps minimum eliminates a lot of “deer cartridges “ of the .30-30, .32 Special, .303 Savage class, even some heavy bullet loads for the .300 Savage and .30-06.
On our Scotland visit we stayed at Corriemoille lodge, once the home of legendary African hunter W.D.M. Bell. During an early African safari, Bell kept the entourage fed by shooting hundreds of plains game animals using a 6.5×53 Mannlicher cartridge.
Colin Hendry (left) has been a Head Stalker on Scottish estates for some 35 years.
He and Dave made a long and interesting stalk on this red stag. Dave shot it at
about 80 yards using Colin’s Tikka T3 .243 Win fitted with 6X Zeiss scope, using
100-grain RWS cartridges.
After the .220 Swift cartridge was released Bell used it to hunt red stag on the estate. Both rounds would be illegal for red deer today, the 6.5 being too slow, and the Swift bullets too light.
While hunting (stalking!) red deer stags at the Scardroy estate in Scotland, I asked Head Stalker Colin Hendry for his thoughts on deer cartridges. Hendry has been Head Stalker for some 35 years, the last 20 at Scardroy.
“Seven mil (7×57 Mauser) is a good all-around cartridge for stags and hinds. The .270 is another good one, I find it a bit noisy, I have a suppressor on it now but still find it that little bit noisy. The suppressor is very useful, anything to keep the deer on your ground and not scare them too much.”
Another cartridge Hendry likes is the .25-06. “It shoots a good bullet, a fast bullet.” The 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser and the .308 Win are also popular with UK shooters.
Hendry does most of his own shooting with a Tikka T3 in .243 Win fitted with a 6X Zeiss scope. The “two-four-three” is highly regarded, though some consider it better suited to expert shooters and precision shot placement. For roe deer and pest control (foxes) the .223 and .22-250 Rem have a following.
Many foreign shooters prefer to avoid the hassle of traveling with firearms by using an “estate” rifle. Hendry says they get quite a few German shooters, who really like using their own rifles and put up with the inconvenience.
Often these German shooters use relatively powerful rifles such as 9.3×62 and 9.3×66. Such power isn’t needed for Scottish deer, but they use the same rifles to shoot boar in Germany, sometimes to hunt in Africa as well, and stick to their old favorites.
The bullet holes in this steel plate were put there by one of the most famous of African hunters.
On Dave’s Scotland trip he stayed at Corriemoille lodge, the home of legendary hunter W.D.M. Bell,
from the 1920s until his death in 1954. This old steel plate still stands not far from the house.
Bell evidently used it for targeting his rifles, possibly for testing penetration of various bullets.
The ammunition for the .243 we used was 100-grain softpoint loads from RWS. Colin Hendry has found these loads to give excellent accuracy in his Tikka. The bullet is a bit harder than most other cup-and-core 100-grain loads. Hendry likes it because it stays together, gives good penetration and won’t break up if it hits bone. Hunting partner Wayne van Zwoll and I both had 1-shot kills on broadside shots at close range (both at 60 yards) and in both cases the bullets exited.
Suppressors are very popular with Scottish riflemen. Of course they protect the hearing of the shooter and stalker, with a benefit of also tending to reduce recoil. Gamekeepers like the reduced noise, as it doesn’t alarm the remaining animals in the herd after the shot.
Another popular accessory is a bipod, all those I saw were made by Harris. Generally the shot comes after a hands-and-knees crawl followed by a belly slither to the crest of a hill, or at least a bit of a fold in the earth. The shot is taken from prone with bipod at close range. For red stag stalkers the sport is in getting close without the game ever being aware you’re in the area, then one sure shot and a clean kill.
By Dave Anderson
Lodging Upper Corriemoillie
IV23 2PY, Scotland, UK
Tel: +01997 414253
Scardroy Sporting Estate
Tel: +01997 477280