Do you know what a Macnab is? The Macnab Challenge has its roots in the 1925 novel John Macnab by John Buchan. The story follows three successful, but bored friends who, under the mantle of John Macnab, issue a warning to three Highland estates: within 48 hours they will remove a salmon or stag, undetected, and present it at the door of the house. And so the "Macnab Challenge" was created and has been taken on by sporting enthusiasts since.
The modern day Macnab involves bagging a salmon, stag and brace of grouse within one day between dawn and dusk - a mean feat for even the best sportsman . In September we had not one, but two Macnab attempts! So the question is...were they successful?
Twenty-four year old Shamus Palmer came across his Macnab attempt quite by accident, Shamus said: "It was totally unplanned. Having woken up at at 5 and met with Ghillie, Craig, we were on the moor by 6am to try and find a stag. We stumbled on a small herd at around 7am which included a beautiful 11 pointed stag. After a short stalk I was in a position to pull the trigger and thank goodness I didn't miss!
Craig jokingly said that shooting a stag before breakfast usually means a Macnab is on the cards. We laughed and after a delicious fry up breakfast we made our way down to the River Dee. After about an hour of fishing and a particularly dreadful cast, I hooked a fish just as the fly came out of the fast water and into the slower water on the side. A gentle but meaningful take. I shouted “Fish” and the thought of a Macnab became ever present in my mind. My father teased from the bank as I played the fish…that it was probably just a sea trout due to the fact it wasn’t a particularly impressively sized grilse. But, a salmon none the less.
The last challenge was now necessary to attempt so Craig and I made our way up the side of what could possibly be the steepest hill I’ve ever walked up in the hope of finding a grouse! After about an hour of walking….we heard a cubby of cackling and white bottomed grouse sprung from the heather. I felt the pressure but what a relief to bag a grouse meaning I had become a Macnabber! I am delighted to say the least."
Earlier this year the estate donated a Macnab as a Charity Auction prize and the lucky recipient, Leith Robertson, arrived at the estate to take up the challenge. It is quite a challenge to bag a salmon, stag and brace of grouse within one day between dawn and dusk. So...how did it go?
Leith said: "Taking on the challenge of a Macnab we knew would be a difficult one and being a salmon fisher familiar with Scottish rivers I had reckoned that catching a fish to order would be very hard! We set off at 5.30am to find a stag hopefully a woodland beast which would make the stalk quicker. My stalker, Fergus, said going to the targets for practice could disturb the deer so I received a very quick run down on his rifle and off we went. We happened on a herd quite quickly spotted by Fergus and within 20 minutes or so we were in a position to get the rifle trained on the deer and Fergus selected a good beast to the back of the herd. I was pretty apprehensive as I had only stalked once before in my life and that was 20 years previous. However Fergus was great, calm, experienced and patient as I fumbled with the site to train on the stag. Fortunately my aim was not too bad and so at 6.30am I could count the stag as the first challenge completed and we were well ahead of schedule.
After breakfast we set off on walking up grouse to shoot a brace. We had been warned that grouse numbers were down this year and I think this was Colin the Head Keeper forewarning that we might have a fair old hike on our hands. And so it was straight uphill on the South East of Glen Tanar for an hour and boy was it hard work! However not for the Glen Tanar team who never seemed to be out of breath! In the line with Colin was Fergus, Aidan, and Malcolm with his three dogs. We flushed periodic grouse and I managed to bag a brace. The views were splendid and I could see all the way to Bennachie and Tap O' North and had we gone a bit higher would have looked down on my home town of Stonehaven. It was interesting to see Colin's lunch box, an avocado, a ryvita sandwich and an orange - that's a modern keeper for you. He did succumb for a nip out of the hip flask however.
Achieving two parts of the Macnab had me on the river by 3pm to try and hook a salmon. With the help of Philip we tried a few pools at Deecastle and saw fish but were finding them very elusive. I stopped for a quick pint and some fish and chips and decided at 9.15pm it was too dark and the Macnab was not to be. However, I had booked fishing at Monaltrie and Glen Muick on the Dee the following day and I managed to land two ten pound salmon so I am a 48 hour Macnabber! Although I didn't manage to get the full lot between dawn and dusk I thoroughly enjoyed my day out and many thanks to the Glen Tanar team who were superb."