[S]talking deer in the Scottish Highland is the hardest, most physically demanding single activity Iâ€™ve ever done on camera. It doesn’t look like much. A nice walk up some hills, across the moors, in traditional Scottish kit, carrying nothing more cumbersome than a walking stick. You donâ€™t even have to carry your rifle. The gamekeeper does that for you. The hills and peaks, the mountains of the Highlands are incredibly beautifulâ€”the footing alternately firm and hard against flinty rock and hard packed soilâ€”then soft and spongy among the heather and scrub of the moors, then steep, near vertical inclines. The idea is to walk up, at a reasonable pace, higher and higher, the incline gradual, legs fine, then not so fine, then burning with exertion. After a few miles, by which time, youâ€™re congratulating yourself on having made it so far, the gamekeeper might spot a suitable animal through his binocularsâ€”about a mile away. â€œIf we sneak around the back that wayâ€”behind that mountainâ€”and make our way quietly across that ridgeâ€”pop out over there-â€ he suggests, pointing at a harrowingly steep range of what sure as hell look like mountains to me, â€œwe might just surprise him.â€ This is yet another climb requiring some skill and no small amount of exertionâ€”and at least another hourâ€”all in the cause of sneaking up on an animal who, more than likely will be gone by the time we arrive at our position. We spend a lot of time crawling through wet heather and brush. Itâ€™s raining in that kind of omnipresent, thin drizzle kind of wayâ€”almost a mist that the French used to call â€œLe Crachinâ€. Which is to say, by the time I finally manage to successfully shoot an old stag in the brain, I am pretty happy at the prospect of walking downhill for a change. But, no. Downhill, it turns out, is worse. MUCH worse. A couple of miles of relentless incline and my knees, deprived of the kind of shock-absorbent cushioning of my younger years, are in full rebellion. Iâ€™m hobbling like Long John Silver, making little grunting sounds with the impact of each step, trying, somehow to take it sideways all the way home.
Hat tip to Vanderleun.