The toughest part of the Macnab Challenge?
The Field|October 2020
The toughest part of the Macnab Challenge?
Grassing a salmon and bagging a brace require considerable fieldcraft but that third component of a Macnab, the stag, requires, in addition, physical fitness for the hill and rifle skills to satisfy a professional stalker
GRAHAM DOWNING

Next to catching a salmon, shooting a stag on the hill is, for most Macnabbers, the toughest part N of the challenge. Despite the increased interest in stalking in recent years, many otherwise competent and experienced sportsmen and women still have little or no experience in handling a stalking rifle, so the chance opportunity to complete the triple in a single day can involve a steep learning curve.

Your stalker will do his utmost to get you into a good shooting position within comfortable range of a beast, but while he is doing that he will also be looking for the right animal to shoot. Stag selection is that element in the stalking equation that is calculated to maintain and improve the long-term quality of the herd by removing the poorer beasts, thereby ensuring that the better, fitter ones go into the rut. Poor heads, switches – stags with long beams that have no tines on them – and old stags that are ‘going back’ will be the ones that the stalker wishes to take out of the herd first. That is especially the case early in the season when he wants to get his cull animals dealt with before the first frosts are on the hill and the rut gets underway.

“If I were looking at a group of stags through the spotting scope, I would also be looking for narrow heads and poor body condition,” adds Owen Beardsmore. A professional stalking guide for 15 years, Beardsmore is Merkel’s UK ambassador. “It’s also the demeanour of a stag that’s important and how he reacts within the group. A strong youngster will have a presence about him and I will want to leave him for the future. Poor youngsters we would shoot.”

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October 2020