THERE’S no finer sound on the hills at this time than the roaring of the stags as they go into battle during the yearly rut.
Their majestic sound carries for miles across the glens as each testosterone-fuelled male tries to scare off his rivals and impress the ladies.
On one occasion in Glen Doll, I remember hearing a noise I first thought was a team of forestry workers with chainsaws in the woods - it turned out to be duelling stags facing off somewhere beyond the pines. But it’s also the time the stalking season reaches its most important period.
Scotland’s access code has, over the years, seen a welcome rise in the number of estates providing good information about where and when shooting is taking place and which hill routes would be preferred.
Providing hill goers are sensible and carry out the requisite checks there is no need for anyone’s enjoyment to be spoiled. The same goes for landowners. If they make reasonable and polite requests it benefits everyone.
If you are in any doubt, you can check the Heading for the Scottish Hills site which gives advice on walkers’ rights and responsibilities as well as providing phone numbers for automated messages from some estates about where and when stalking is taking place. However, if you feel any request being made is totally unreasonable you can stand your ground.
Many years ago in Glenshee, as we made our way up the track to climb Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ a little man in a deerstalker came rushing over to challenge us.
This tweed-clad martinet had a really bad dose of small-man syndrome. In clipped military-style tones he told us: “You can’t walk here today - we’re stalking. Sorry.”
Now we had driven a long way and only because of earlier advice from his office that there would be no problems. We weren’t turning back, and I think he soon realised that.
It wasn’t a fair contest - three large angry men carrying ice axes versus the Mini-me of a would-be Sherlock Holmes impersonator. He gave us an alternative route and we carried on our way.
Later that day, we met the estate stalkers on their way down the hill and got to chatting. Judging by some of the names they used to refer to their boss, we gathered he wasn’t too popular in any quarter.
Thankfully, that was an isolated incident. Most of the dealings I’ve had with stalkers over the years have been positive.
For instance, a meeting with a party of shooters in Glen Affric ended with an amicable settlement - they would prefer if I could go one way round the ridge and they the other. That wasn’t a great problem for either of us and we were both able to enjoy our day.
A call to the Balmoral estate for information was met with a positive invitation to go walking there, along with a big thank-you for bothering to ask.
Or when I called the head stalker at Corriemulzie for stalking information during an expedition to the remote Seana Bhraigh one snowy and wild January day. He told me it would be fine to proceed and even suggested I drive in further than stated on the notice boards.
Ten minutes later he called back to give me a tip on a route that would shorten my day without spoiling my trek. Now that’s co-operation.
(First published Daily Record, September 26, 2013)