Charles Helderwerdt – Solognac marketing & communication director – with his buck
Forget the traditional ‘week’ in August and September. Charlie Jacoby argues that May is the best time of year for Scottish shooting
Scotland is where the world wants to be in April and May. And I am at Glen Farg in Perthshire, one of the best bits of Scotland at this time of year.
The combination of great roebuck stalking and superb pigeon mean shooters will travel thousands of miles, put up with the often amusing food and brave the uncertain weather for a chance at these two prized quarry.
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Alan Croston works for Cervus UK. He is looking after a party of six from French retailer Decathlon. He says: “You start by doing a lot of reconnaissance work before they arrive, look where the deer are. Obviously these guys are here for three days, which is six stalks. So we spend three days looking for the deer.”
The French are loving it. They don’t have deerstalking in France in such glorious surroundings, and they are even impressed by the daytime activity – pigeon shooting. “They only have a two week window for the migration of pigeons,” says Alan. “Then after that they have nothing. Really, so they are basically stuck, they have got to come here. Or Hungary, which is 25 times more expensive.”
You may have seen Decathlon shops outside Reading, Birmingham, Belfast, Glasgow and other places, and you may have dismissed it for being full of overpriced golf clubs. Not a bit of it. Decathlon has its own hunting clothing and accessories brand called Solognac and, if anything, its kit is underpriced. Forget about the width, however, and feel the quality. Solognac needs to be good if it’s going to face pigeon shooting in weather like this.
Michael Foulds of Decathlon says: “Decathlon is a very well kept secret over here in the UK, but Decathlon is the world’s biggest sports retailer. And there are 12 or 13 of them over here in the UK.
Getting the pigeon hide set up
“They are big, they are anywhere from 3,000 sq metres to 6,000 sq metres in the UK and on the continent go up to 10,000 sq metres. It is the Tesco of sport.”
Decathlon sells hunting gear which is kind of unusual for a sports shop. “It is unusual for an English sports shop,” says Michael, “but it is very normal for a continental sports shop and it is very normal particularly for a French sports shop which is where we come from originally.”
One of the French party with his buck
For Michael, Scotland means deer stalking. “It means hunting, it means everything we know about Scotland, everything we think about Scotland the Europeans share that view,” he says. “The French consider Scotland a fantastic place to come. We were here testing equipment, there was only one name in Europe to come and test this sort of stuff and that was Scotland. Everybody wanted to be here.”
The weather might be foul but the pigeon shooting is excellent and tests the guns to their limits. Birds that normally go past at around 55 miles an hour are breaking the national speed limit in this wind.
We are also here to stalk roedeer. All of us get either highseats or accompaniment. I go out with a local stalker, Sean. He shows me lots of animals. We see around 20 in the morning. But either they are does or in the wrong place or retreating. Finally, we find a cull buck in the right place and I start my stalk in. It is all going so well. The buck is just over the brow. It hasn’t seen me, nor the camera. But then disaster strikes and it’s off. So no roebuck for me. But the French are in the big bucks.