The Arran stalking scheme experience

James Sutcliffe

James Sutcliffe

James Sutcliffe is BASC’s deer officer. He has over 10 years’ experience of recreational and professional deer stalking and gamekeeping. He has spent time guiding in New Zealand and managing wild boar and red stags in Germany. James is a keen rifle and shotgun shooter who enjoys working his Labradors throughout the game shooting season.

The Arran stalking scheme seems to hold a very dear place in many BASC members’ hearts, and the competition to get a place is often fierce. During my first few years at BASC I wondered why this was.

Of course, I understood the appeal of independent, unguided stalking for a week and the price seemed very good value too. But, what is it about this island that keeps pulling members back?

Taking a trip to Arran

Last year I got the opportunity to go up for the last week of the hind season. This was the perfect chance to find out exactly what BASC members experience when they head out onto their beats. But first, you have to get to the island.

The ferry heads over from Ardrossan, a small harbour town to the west of Glasgow. The crossing takes around 50 minutes and, unless you’re like me and really don’t do well on boats, it’s relatively easy going.

At the other end you arrive in Brodick. This is the main town on Arran and has enough shops and cafes to keep you going for the week.

Stalking the beats

As it stands, I have only (briefly) stalked three of the eight beats that are part of the Arran stalking scheme. I’ve found each one has its own unique feel to it.

All the beats, bar one, share a few common features. They have a good mixture of woodland, clearfell and open heather moorland. The gradients vary from beat to beat and you need to have a decent level of fitness if you want to get the most out of your trip.

Finding the deer

As far as the deer go, every beat I went on had signs of deer everywhere you looked. Once I started to take the time to figure out where the deer would be, I started seeing good numbers of them.

Although these deer do venture out onto the open hill, they are definitely not hill reds. They are woodland reds and have the large body size and often large antlers to show for it. They are also far wilier than other reds I have stalked.

The slightest swirl in wind, wrong footstep or unintended movement and they were locked onto me and gone in a flash. No stopping for one last look, just gone!

This coupled with challenging environments, makes the Arran stalking scheme some of the more exciting stalking I have done in the UK.

This might sound like a bad thing, but it really isn’t! I enjoyed the challenge and if you are successful, you really get a sense that you have worked for and earned that deer.

Tips to help you succeed

After speaking to many of the members who attended the Arran stalking scheme, I found that getting onto the ground early and waiting for light was the best way to start a day.

I’m personally not much of a fan of thermal imagers. I feel that they take away the enjoyment of deer stalking. But the general consensus is that they are a very useful tool to have with you on Arran, so I recommend you take one with you.

Particular mention has to be made to Chris and Bob. Both aid in extraction and keeping members on the ground safe. I have seen them extract deer from places that I never would have thought possible. They make sure that every deer that is culled ends up in the food chain, as best they can.

Concluding my trip

I definitely understand why spaces on the Arran stalking scheme are so coveted. The stalking opportunity on offer is unlike anything else I’ve found!

Add into that the fantastic value, plus the fact that you get to visit one of the most stunning islands I’ve ever been on, and you get one heck of a good deal!

Applications for the four stag weeks are now open. ​

Spaces for the Arran stalking scheme are available via an online ballot system.

Find out about venison recipes