As well as marking the launch of Red Stag Media, July sees the beginning of our namesake’s stalking season in Scotland. For a hunter like myself, no other image conjures up our neighbour to the north quite like a mature red stag perched high aloft a craggy Highland glen, steam rising from his nostrils, looking down upon his own, private fiefdom. He is Britain’s indigenous big game animal and one that carries legend and folklore upon his primeval shoulders.
The Red Deer population of the UK is stable at around 350,000 individuals, with the bulk of those in Scotland. Only around 12,500 live in England, and many of those are feral, having escaped from private collections. There are regular sightings now in our own neck of the woods (Yorkshire) but so far as I know no one has any figures. Numbers for Wales and Northern Ireland are not readily available either.
To keep those numbers in harmony, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust estimates that between 50,000 and 70,000 red deer are culled each year although, sadly, the organisation states that poaching could add significantly to this figure. The good news, though, is that the species is thriving and with well organised management of wild herds in place, hopefully the interests of all parties affected by red deer numbers is balanced while providing consumers, restaurants and other catering businesses with one of the healthiest and most delicious meats available. Free range, organic, sustainable and humanely killed, there’s simply no more ethical a source of meat.
According to a 2005 PACEC report, deer stalking is worth £105m to the Scottish rural economy with two thirds of that remaining in the country. Then supported more than 2,000 rural jobs, with the value of which to the Scottish economy tops £70m. Let us hope this is full appreciated and taken into consideration by the powers that be when considering the next steps for the country, and in particular land reforms.
But let’s leave politics and economics aside, for they are a long way off when up on the hill. The heart of many a hunter beats faster at the roar of a Highland stag. Rabbie Burns sums it up perfectly when he wrote ‘My heart’s in the Highland, my heart is not here. My heart’s in the highland, a-chasing the deer,’ because once you’ve done it, it gets under your skin. In your idle moments, when the mundanity of office life strikes or you lie awake, kicking the duvet off in summer heat and trying hopelessly to sleep, that’s where you will return, to the Scotland’s highest peaks in silent pursuit of its most iconic beast, eagerly planning your next trip.
Every year, when we celebrate the anniversary of Red Stag Media, it will coincide with the opening of the Scottish red stag season and that will remind us, as if we needed it, that this is a company built on passion. Passion for food and farming, hunting and shooting, the great outdoors, the glorious British countryside. And then there’s only one thing to do … heed the bellow of the might red stag and follow his call north.