High seats feature in some of my most enduring stalking memories, from the unforgettable sight of fallow does cautiously emerging on to a frost-encrusted paddock to a pugnacious monster of a sika stag strutting combatively from the dense spruce margin into a misty forest ride.
With the safety of a permanent earthen backstop and the comfort and concealment that a high seat offers, it’s easy to see why elevated hunting blinds are enormously popular both in the UK and throughout much of continental Europe. But, for some reason, we don’t see as many here in Ireland as you might expect.
I use a number of high seats in the forests I manage. Initially, these were mostly of the portable, metal type and, though they did the job, I learned the hard way that you get what you pay for.
In the damp environs of south Kerry, models from the lower end of the price spectrum had a depressingly short lifespan and, some years back, I started replacing many of them with home-made timber versions. While more time-consuming to construct and requiring a little more maintenance, they last far longer if properly installed.
Earlier this year, I was handed the deer management of a mixed conifer plantation sprawled across the hillside above my house, where a healthy population of sika were beginning to make a real nuisance of themselves.
Untamed for some years and spilling across steeply undulating hillside, the tree cover contained few easily navigable tracks and the clearings and rides were bumpy and overgrown. It was clear from the outset that stalking through this forest would be impractical and I quickly came to the conclusion that the only way to get on top of the problem would be from a few carefully sited high seats.
Keen to make the best job of it I could, I called local experts Niels Nielsen and Dermott Long, of Irish
Deer Hunting Ltd. Managing huge tracts of forestry to the east of the county, they maintain a large selection of seats for their annual stalking clients and I had been very impressed with what I’d seen of their handiwork.
“Make sure you put it in the right place,” was Niels’s first pearl of wisdom, delivered with a laugh. “It sounds obvious, but there’s a lot to think about. First, make sure that you actually need a high seat. Ground blinds are simpler to build and, in some cases, they’re just as good and easier to use.”
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