In these incredible images, the Belgian photographer Derek Malou captures some candid hunting moments over a year's shooting in Slovakia. Famed for its bounties of nature, large green areas and rich fauna the central European country is a hunting paradise. See more of Derek's work at DMalou.com or follow him on Instagram @d_malou
While my family and I have previously been rough shooting in Scotland, this time we were up for something new; stag stalking. The excitement shone through all of us as we prepared for this trip –especially for me as I’d been dreaming about this experience for almost my entire hunting career. To stalk, hunt and eat a Scottish Highland stag – this could not get any bigger.
We arrived at Tomatin House, just 20 minutes from Inverness, where we stayed with our good friends, Ian and Priscecil. In fact, we’ve known Ian ever since our first trip to Scotland, when we stayed at House of Mark, which they own, on the other side of the Cairngorms National Park. The Tomatin House had so much history including days of glory, being gutted by fires, as well as a darker side on slavery – but that is for another story to tell.
“I took the shot. With the silencer in place, I could see the hit almost perfectly.”
A few days passed and both my dad and uncle had successfully stalked a stag each while my brother and I got lucky with our shotguns, shooting a couple of snipes. We’d also made sure to make plenty of time for canoeing and eating well, but the time came for my brother and I to go stalking.
Guided by a local stalker, Lachie Smith, we drove to the nearby Braulin Estate and met with the gamekeepers. The first thing we did was to shoot from a distance to ensure the rifle scope was in place. The exercise seemed quite laissez-faire, but at least we convinced the gamekeepers of our rifle ability.
Then we split into two groups; I went into the mountains with my dad and three gamekeepers in a massive 8-wheeled vehicle, while my little brother went with my uncle. We arrived in the middle of four mountain tops and quickly spotted a group of deer. After watching them intensely for a while, we spotted another group, then another, then another. It felt like we watched them forever.
We started walking towards an old stag, knowing that at any minute a younger stag, positioned a little closer to us, could reveal us. We covered a few hundred meters of tough terrain, including a small river, and sure enough, the younger deer sensed us and started walking towards the older deer – we were revealed and both deer took off.
“I’d been dreaming about this experience for almost my entire hunting career. To stalk, hunt and eat a Scottish Highland stag – this could not get any bigger.”
After failing the first stalking attempt, we ventured to the other side of the mountain, driving there quite dangerously – at least compared to what my dad and I were used to! We made our way to the top on foot, but were spotted by a small group of three deer, two hinds and a stag. Once again, we were not sneaky enough, indicating just how difficult stalking can be.
My dad and I were suddenly left behind because the head gamekeeper, Richard, wanted to watch for opportunities in another valley on the other side of the mountain. After a while, he came back. Richard had spotted a group of young stags around a large group of hinds, who were following a beautiful and good-sized stag. However, in order to stalk as unnoticeably as possible, it would just be him and me going.
We walked downhill, pürsching, very slowly after each other. After a few hundred meters, Richard went down on all fours and we started crawling for about 200 meters. It was absolutely crucial that none of the deer saw us, not even the far behind young stags because they would potentially alert the others. We dragged ourselves using only our arms the last 100 metres to a little hilltop, where we hoped for a good view.
“We went down on all fours and started crawling. It was absolutely crucial that none of the deer saw us.”
However, there was only one place to lie that gave us a view of the stag, namely in a nice and cold pool of water. But this was quickly forgotten when I saw the most magnificent animal lying in the grass, and I lay there soaking wet, enjoying the situation for some 5-10 minutes.
Richard started calling back and forth to the stag, who was approximately 130 meters from us. It was October so he was in the rut, and he returned some loud noises while still lying down. It was truly intense. After four lots of calling both ways, the stag got up and called us back, while looking our way. I took the shot. With the silencer in place, I could see the hit almost perfectly and I knew from experience it was a good shot because of the way he jumped and took off.
He ran with his herd of 47 hinds and then he fell. We found him shortly afterwards, an old 10-pointer of approximately 125 kg. My dad came and we celebrated together, including carrying out the tradition of dabbing some of the blood on my face, given that I had never shot a red stag before.
When we got back to the hunting cabin (named the Hummel Room because a stuffed Hummel hangs there), I learned that my brother had shot a 12-pointer, a royal, from a good distance of 225 meters, which was great. That evening, plenty of whiskey was drank to celebrate a perfect hunting day.
‘Knæk og bræk’ to all hunters!
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