The benchmark of around 150 points has been passed by some way since the 20th century, with some scoring over 200. Iain Watson reports.
Roebuck seasons come and go, remembered by stalkers for many reasons — a first buck, a trophy scored, an atypical animal, a new rifle or permission or, for very few, the trophy of a lifetime. It has been said on many occasions that, in terms of the quality of its roe, Scotland as part of the UK punches way above its weight when compared with other European countries. A trophy taken in 2016 once again underlines this, and in terms of the records and scores accepted by the CIC its position in the top 10 per cent of recorded roe trophies is currently secure.
Time was that the benchmark for a high-scoring roebuck was set at around the 150-point mark and no doubt this figure remains the Holy Grail for most of us. However, since the passing of the 20th century, a number of Scottish bucks achieving the once-mythical 200 points have appeared. Included among them is this season’s highest-scoring trophy.
Very large trophies tend to tick one of two boxes. Either their existence is unknown and comes as a complete surprise or they have been husbanded by the estate and allowed to achieve their potential. The Esslemont head falls into the latter category. Calum Campbell, the estate stalker, came across the animal in 2015, deciding that he was best left, having at that point a strong head with a wide span; he was then a typical six-pointer. A year later and with a multi-pointed antler on one side, he was displaying
very strong coronets and main beams.
Esslemont has a track record of producing big trophy roe, with a buck from 2010 scoring in excess of 180 points. Incidentally, both bucks were stalked in almost the same location on the estate, which may be coincidence or a reflection on the importance of identifying key buck territories on your stalking ground and assessing the development of their tenants from season to season.
The evaluation of this head neatly demonstrates the international credentials of the CIC and its trophy evaluation system. At the end of his visit to Aberdeenshire, Mr Raun took his trophy back to Denmark, where certified CIC measurer Sten Breith scored it after it had completed its 90-day drying-out period. Sten recorded the score to the international database in Budapest before returning the measurements to the UK for inclusion in our national database and this year’s review.
Staying with high scoring, a second very large multi-pointer came from Fife and scored 167.99 points. Like the Aberdeenshire head, it originated from an area with a long track record of careful management that has, over the years, produced a number of top-division heads and has broken the 200-point barrier. Size apart, what both these trophies have in common is that they come from animals which have been allowed to achieve their potential in getting to maturity before being stalked.
In the case of these two, their ages were estimated as being between six and seven, one being culled in the spring and the other in the autumn. It remains the case that year on year trophies are presented which, had they had the benefit of another season, would have achieved a trophy score or a higher category of medal.
When the forerunner of this review first appeared in the early 1960s, roe stalking as a sport was in its infancy. That was reflected in the scarcity of heads that could be scored and in the scores they achieved. Management and the development of roe as a sporting asset was being actively promoted, as opposed to eradication which some did, and still do, favour. How far things have come.
The popularity and demand for roe stalking has never been higher, the population of roe has increased beyond expectation, and its value as a trophy animal is widely recognised. As far as Scotland goes, roe are and will remain our most significant trophy species, far outstripping the other three in the number of trophy heads they produce.
Every year there is an increase in the number of heads that are taken in the hope that they will be medal heads. Often disappointment follows, as what the eye sees and the scorer handles turn out to be two very different things. Nevertheless 2016, while perhaps not a vintage year for roe, more than met expectations in terms of the number of heads measured and the range of scores they have produced.
While the east-coast crescent of East Lothian, Fife, Angus and Aberdeenshire continues to reign supreme, the central belt represented by Stirlingshire and its small neighbour Clackmannanshire produced some good trophies, as did other locations, including East Ayrshire where James Watson’s memorable trophy achieved 162.87 points. From Fife, Mr P. Gudgin had a first medal head with an atypical seven-pointer, scoring 130.89.
It now remains to be seen what 2017 will bring. The winter period has been mild, which usually points to strong antler development as body resources are not expended in merely keeping warm. No doubt a number of big trophies will be taken early in the season. While animals are easier to locate when the cover is low, early shot bucks usually lack colour and can turn out to be lacking in weight.
Bear in mind that heads are best prepared with a full skull and presented uncut for evaluation. In Scotland the CIC will be present at the Deerstalking Fair in April, and with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association at Scone in July and Moy in August, where we look forward to seeing old and new friends with their trophies.