Stalking a majestic red stag in the Scottish Highlands and islands is the stuff of sporting dreams.
One of the country’s most majestic animals, the red deer is Scotland’s largest native land mammal and one of its most sought-after sporting trophies. But how much does it cost to shoot a stag?
John Sugden who heads up Campbells of Beauly advises: ” It depends where you go. For £700 you’ll get a beautiful day with ponies, in other words old school. The best way of getting a deal is to contact a sporting lets agency, like Galbraiths. They work with so many estates there will be a wide choice of options. It’s a common misconception to think that an agency overcharges but in fact that’s not the case.”
Opt for a week in a Scottish baronial hunting lodge and it will naturally set you back more than a couple of nights in a concrete cottage. Most estates will have package deals for stalking trips, which are worth enquiring about. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you lay your head at night, as you’re likely to be exhausted, but it helps to have a roaring fire, hot bath and comfortable space to relive the day’s exertions over a dram.
What you’re likely to pay
- Expect to pay between £400-£750 (plus VAT ) on average per stag.
- Early season stags (July to August) can be cheaper, and those late summer beasts on the high tops represent a different sporting challenge to autumn animals during the rut.
- Some estates will also charge additional trophy fees for beasts with particularly impressive antlers.
- Blank days (when no suitable shot is presented) are also chargeable for a smaller fee in some cases, so it’s always worth checking.
- Don’t forget tips for the stalker himself, any ghillies, pony boys/girls, cooks and housekeepers, depending on where you are staying. As always, amounts are discretionary and you should give what you think reflects the efforts made on your behalf, which can be considerable.
- |If you want the stalker to boil up the head so that you can take your antlers with you, there will be another additional charge, and skinning/caping for grander taxidermy mounts will be more again
The deer shooting season If you’re a keen stalker, then you’ll need to know which is the deer shooting season…
Head north for some memorable stalking
Where should you go stalking?
It depends on your personal preference, budget, and level of experience. Do you want to test yourself on steep, rugged hillsides or would you prefer flatter, more sheltered terrain? Do you dream of a regal rack to mount above the fireplace, or would you be happier to take a less glamorous cull beast for the good of the herd?
Would you like to go as part of a large group and stay in a fully catered hunting lodge or a cosy self-catered cottage? Are you an experienced stalker or would you welcome more of a guiding hand?
We investigated some options around Scotland.
Location: Ardnamurchan, Argyll
Accommodation: Luxury renovated castle, self-catered cottage or local hotel
Average price per stag: £800 (inc. VAT), with a limited number of top trophies available for a supplement
USP: Huge variety of terrain; heavy stags with impressive heads
Tel: 01972 500775
The red stags on offer at West Highland Hunting (WHH) are arguably some of the country’s finest, with many weighing in at 25st to 30st, with exquisite broad-beamed antlers. With a choice of beats covering 40,000 acres, there is something to suit all levels of fitness and experience. “We are very proud to be producing such top quality wild red deer,” commented Sporting Manager Niall Rowantree, adding: “Clearly, more than a century of selective management brings great benefits to the health of the herd. We adhere to all best practice guidelines and carefully manage the deer to produce sporting trophies only taken past their breeding best. We have a healthy population that is stable and invested in on an annual basis.”
Location: Isle of Harris & Island of Taransay
Accommodation: Luxury lodge, self-catered house or cottage
Average price per stag: Price on application
USP: The magic of hunting on an uninhabited island
Tel: 01859 550358
Red deer were introduced to Taransay in the early 1980s. Since then they have flourished and the population is now around 220. At just under 4,000 acres, Taransay is a truly beautiful location, with roughly eight to 10 stags shot per year.
Location: Fort William
Accommodation: Fully catered house or self-catering cottage
Average price per stag: Price on application
USP: Lochside location, with other water-based activities available
Tel: 01967 411242
Boasting 14,000 acres of stunning Scottish scenery, Kingairloch sits on and above the shores of Loch Linnhe. Highly knowledgeable guides are happy to assist guests of all ages and experience. With a herd of roughly 500 red hinds and 200 stags, Kingairloch takes around 35 stags per year. The website advises: “We do not shoot ‘trophy’ stags, we select mature stags with often fairly poor-average heads.”
There is a lochside restaurant on the estate, serving venison and seafood. At the time of writing the estate is fully booked for hinds and stags but it’s worth calling in case of cancellation (or to book ahead).
Location: Isle of South Uist, Outer Hebrides
Accommodation: Luxury catered lodge or hotel
Average price per stag: £450 (plus VAT). £1000 (plus VAT) for stags with 10 points and over, rising to £1200 (plus VAT) for a Royal 12.
USP: Chance to stalk on largest community-owned area in Scotland
Tel: 01878 700101
Covering the three islands of Benbecula, Eriskay and South Uist, the stunning estate is home to 700 red deer, of which roughly 50 to 70 are taken a year. The availability of early stags at a lower rate than their autumn counterparts makes South Uist a more affordable summer option.
Location: Isle of Arran
Accommodation:Self-catered cottage, hotel or B&B
Average price per stag: £410 for eight outings
USP: Practical training and experience
Tel: 01244 573000
The BASC Deer Management Scheme is open to all BASC members who hold DSC1, are at least registered for DSC2 and own a suitable stalking rifle. The scheme allows members to stalk red deer unaccompanied and is conducted on the southern half of the Isle of Arran and is a combination of open hill and forest terrain. While it is unaccompanied, there will be a co-ordinator to supervise the briefing, deployment of stalkers and culling operations.
Accommodation: Country house accommodation available on a self-catered or B&B basis. Evening meals can be arranged.
Average price of stag: Price on application
USP: Educational training courses ranging from complete novice to experienced stalker
Tel: 01465 871393
South Ayrshire Stalking offers a breathtakingly beautiful lowland setting and some fine red deer. The family-run business provides a full range of training courses over its 25,000 acres, from an introduction to stalking, right up to DSC2, so don’t worry if you don’t have your own rifle.
Accommodation: A selection of country house and lodge accommodation available on a self-catered basis. The estate office can recommend private cooks.
Average price of stag: Price on application.
USP: The estate has maintained the tradition of using highland ponies to retrieve stalked deer as they are more adept than vehicles at accessing the whole hill and do less damage to the land.
Tel: 01796 481355
Atholl Estates culls in the region of 300 stags each season over the five beats, most of which are let to accompanied guests. The objective is to cull out the old or less strong adult stags rather than focus on trophy heads.