Thursday, 15 August 2013

A Stalking Revolution

Stalking, until a week go, was very much a male-dominated profession, but that's about to change. Caledonia TV have teamed up with Ardnamurchan Estate, West Highland College and West Highland Hunting's Niall Rowantree (at right in photo, standing with Estate stalker Stevie Grant) to begin the training of three young women as stalkers.

The girls started with a five-day deer management course at Thurso which gained them a deer stalking qualification at level 1, and since the beginning of this week they've been with Niall and Stevie getting a first taste of the practical side of stalking - so they've already been out with clients shooting stags.

They couldn't have come to a better place to learn their stalking skills.  Ardnamurchan Estate is one of Scotland's top stalking estates, with clients coming from all over the world to shoot its carefully managed stock of top-class red deer; and Niall's breadth of experience in all aspects of deer and wildlife management makes him a perfect teacher.

The girls all come from the Scotland's west coast and western isles.  Chrissie Gillies was born and brought up on a croft on the Isle of Raasay, just off Skye, and has done shepherding and freelance outdoor education as well as working for the North Harris Trust.

Mairi Alice Bartlett has worked in Gaelic TV for five years as a reporter and presenter, and has also done freelance work.  She comes from the Isle of Lewis, and says that she took on this stalking opportunity as a personal challenge.

Megan MacLellan comes from Morar, and took a Gaelic and Media Studies degree at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye.  She now works for the BBC's Gaelic department in Glasgow, by whom she has been given four weeks time off so she could participate.

The girls' experiences are being filmed by producer Julie McCrone and director Les Wilson of Caledonia TV, working with researcher Ramsay MacMahon.  The programme, in four 30-minute episodes, is due to go out on BBC Alba, the BBC's Gaelic channel, in early 2014.  Caledonia TV, on their website, describe the programme thus, "Three girls leave the cosy comfort of home to train as ghillies on a Highland Estate. They'll swap their mascara and hair-straighteners for tick-removers and guns. These girls have never met a deer, let alone shot one! They will have to pull the trigger on Bambi, gralloch (or gut) a deer and cut off its head and legs, charm wealthy hunters and beat to raise game birds - while avoiding being shot themselves! There are challenges - physical, mental and social. Have they got what it takes?"

This sounds like great television, but the very fact that the programme is being made indicates how closed the stalking world has been to women.  If they stick with it, these young women will bring their own, refreshingly new approach.  We wish the three girls the very best, and look forward to watching the programmes.

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