If you want to have a garden at Torridon you have to enclose it with a barrier to protect against damage from deer. This can be quite a task, requiring a fence at least two and a half meters high. I spent five stalking seasons working on the Assynt Resort in Sutherland. I worked as a gillie and a pony boy, bringing red deer carcasses off the hill on the back of highland garron ponies. Or dragging the carcass down the hillside to a boat on the loch to be taken home to the larder. There it would be prepared for the table or sent off to the game dealer.
Taking the barrel of thunder
Down from his shoulder
Wind in our faces he crawled
Before me to the rim of the hill
He was not sensed by nose or eye
Nor ear though a quiver of death
Fell through the chosen deer
Before the loud and hollow bang
Broke in my heart and head
The creature lay sudden dead.
Then when I looked into the stags eyes
Lifeless beast with hanging useless tongue
I looked to a ridge and into prehistory
Saw a man who had been there before me.
L.B. October 1978
Mid September onwards – during the time which is known as the break out- red deer stags and hinds separate out into groups of mature hinds and followers, with the stags becoming solitary and intent on securing mating success with as many hinds as possible.The stags have hard strong antlers with which to lock in battle against other stags. Sometimes a stag may develop poor antler structure with more single points rather than branching antlers; these animals are sometimes known as switch horns.
Red deer stags average about 13-14st for a hill animal. But red deer are really woodland deer; deforestation pushed them to the mountainsides and they evolved a smaller body mass to combat the colder environment.
A woodland stag could be in excess of 15-16st in weight. An ideal level of population for red deer numbers is 2.4 animals per 100 hectares of land. This allows the mixed vegetation of woodland and open ground vegetation to be in good condition.
From now until November the stags will be roaring, announcing their presence to other stags. They are the iconic animals of the Highlands, along with the eagle and the otter; exciting elements in our shared existence.