“You are going to Ireland to hunt what?” That was almost the universal comment from friends and SCI Members when I told them that my wife, Vicki, and I were going hunting in Ireland. We had just returned from the SCI Convention where we booked a hunt with David and Lisa Moore of Celtic Field Sports.
David and Lisa live in Texas part of the year, and they live in Ireland during the rest of the time. David was born and raised in Ireland, and he really knows the “lay of the land” and the animals available.
Vicki had always wanted to travel to that country, and I kept telling her to find me something to hunt there and we would go. Upon meeting David and Lisa the last hour of the last day of Convention, it was “put up or shut up” time. We booked a trip to hunt sika deer, red stag, Irish ibex, and four horn or devil sheep as the locals affectionately call them.
Never having had a burning urge to hunt the four horn sheep, it was monster sika deer, Irish ibex and Irish red stag that caught my attention. Previously, I had hunted ibex in Spain and Mongolia and hunted red stag twice in New Zealand and Scotland. But, it was the lure of the Emerald Isle, and maybe a little more than subtle urging from Vicki! My thoughts of hunting that country would be to sit in a blind in lush meadows and hedgerows that were hiding monster red stag and sika deer. Was I ever about to be surprised.
David explained that the first part of the hunt would be conducted in the Wicklow Mountains with Jim Nolan whose family owned land adjoining the park. His family had owned that property for several generations. Jim is a volunteer with the Wicklow Mountain Rescue group.
On our first morning’s hunt, we saw 60 to 70 sika deer, but there was nothing to get excited about. David told us that during the rut in October, very good sika stags come to the call quite frequently. However, this was early September, and we would have to do a lot more climbing and glassing to locate a stag of my liking. While walking down the mountain that evening, Jim and I glassed down into a bowl and spotted a nice stag about 125 yards away. Having never hunted sika deer before, I had to depend on Jim for advice on whether or not to shoot. Jim stated that he could not be sure it was a 4×4 and felt it was a 4×3 in the fading light. I asked Jim if we could do better since this was the first day and his “maybe” reply was all that was needed to lower the Kimber .270 WSM.
On the drive back to the lodge, second thoughts about passing that stag were going through my head. Jim and I hunted that area the next day and still did not see the “shooter” I was looking for even though we spotted many deer. The fog and rain had moved in and made hunting conditions difficult for spotting that afternoon. Upon return to Broomfield Lodge, David said we should move south to Kenmare where weather conditions would be more suitable for spotting and stalking deer.
After arriving in Kenmare, we hunted that evening and the next morning. An eight-hour climb up and down the mountain, I finally shot a stag in the thick brush at 375 meters, according to my guide. Unfortunately, it was smaller that what I wanted. That evening we went stalking for an Irish ibex. David told us that that species had been on the island for more than 2,000 years and was a difficult quarry to hunt. Difficult to hunt was an understatement; we had to climb the side of a mountain holding on to whatever was available to keep from sliding back down. Most of what was available to hang on to was a ground cover with microscopic barbs. Luckily for me, the ibex was spotted and was downed with one shot.
Because the weather was getting bad in our area, David suggested that Vicki and I take a couple days to tour part of Ireland and drive the Ring of Kerry and see the Cliffs of Mohr. He added that he would take us stalking for Irish red stag in the area, but it would be very foggy and the success rate would be low. We thanked David for his honesty and took off sightseeing and, Vicki was ready to go!
Her ancestors came to America from Ireland. Living in Tennessee, we are used to rural roads, but our roads have shoulders and don’t have hedgerows growing against the side of the pavement. It got a little tricky when trucks and busses passed, going in the opposite direction. They would drive down both sides and the middle! We had a blast eating in pubs and staying at Bed & Breakfast places. It was fun meeting the locals, who were very friendly, and making new friends in each place we visited.
My guide Jim and I arrived at the mountains that evening and looked down into the bowl where we saw that stag we passed the first evening. Second thoughts about the decision to pass that stag were again on my mind. I told myself we were here to hunt and have a great time, and from that standpoint, we had been very successful. Finally, Jim and I left the bowl and climbed back up the mountain where we immediately spotted a group of stags. Jim said, “there is a shooter in that bunch about 250 yards up the mountain on the far right.” With a shaky rest and 40 to 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts, my first shot was a miss. However, the second shot dropped the 4×5 monster stag in its tracks. We hooted, hollered and gave “high fives.” After taking pictures and dragging the 200-pound-plus brute down the mountain, we put the icing on the cake by taking a nice four horn sheep we spotted while driving down the mountain. After all the hard hunting for four days, two animals came easy in one evening. But, that is how hunting is! You never know what the next moment will bring. We love Ireland and cannot wait for a return hunting trip. Thanks, Vicki!–Bill Swan