In pursuit of Scottish deer stalker Duncan Mackenzie across the land of his DNA

Day by day and mile by mile, he roams the land that has been in the bones of his family for hundreds of years.

Now deer stalker Duncan Mackenzie and his deep connection with the north west Highlands is to feature in an hour-long documentary that charts his lone existence in the hills, as well as his discovery of the settlement from where his forefathers were cleared more than 200 years ago.

Mr Mackenzie, a former policeman and butcher, works on the Eisg Brachaid estate near Lochinver where he has a non-sporting licence to shoot deer.

Today the stalker shuns the parties who pay large sums to shoot stags in the rutting season and instead adopts a more radical and precise approach to deer management.

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“I don’t take guests to the hill,” he says. “I’ve been out with guests in the past and it was always the testosterone-filled men that you had to keep an eye out for. It was just pull the trigger, get a stag, go home and get drunk.

"I used to fall out with them quite a lot. Many estates are still hanging onto Victorian principles, but I go in, shoot the animal I want and leave the rest of the herd quiet.

"I couldn’t take guests out now. I just couldn’t handle it. I’ve got too much respect for the beasts. It’s easy to shoot a beast. It’s not easy to shoot the right beast, all of the time.”

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Deer stalker Duncan Mackenzie was followed for four years by filmmakers for a new BBC Alba documentary. PIC: Richard Else.

He describes himself as the “last of the line” of his family, who lived in the Ullapool area for generations, with Mr Mackenzie’s deep knowledge of the area leading him to the remains of abandoned settlements in Inverlael.

An estimated 600 to 700 people were cleared from the townships in the glen in 1819 to make way for sheep, with Mr Mackenzie’s ancestors among them.

The stalker’s discoveries at Inverlael are considered to be of national importance, with archaeologists now leading further investigation of the site along with members of the surrounding community.

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“There would have been grandparents here, grandkids, dogs barking, children laughing, smoke, peacefulness – now gone,” he says.

Many residents were put on boats for the New World, although their records were later destroyed. But it is known Mr Mackenzie’s family were among those who made their home on the other side of Loch Broom where rocky, steep ground was prepared to grow food. Their new home was opposite their old township, which sat across the water.

"They were in this steep, barren bitch of a place, looking back at the ruins of their houses just sitting there,” he says.

The documentary was made by filmmakers Richard Else and Margaret Wicks of Adventure Show Productions, based in Newtonmore. The pair followed Mr Mackenzie and his two dogs for four years to make the programme.

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Mr Else says: “Duncan Mackenzie is literally one in a million – a man hefted to this part of Scotland and with an enormous set of skills that most of us have lost long ago. It’s been a real privilege to work with him and long days tramping the hills in all weathers has been amply rewarded”.

Duncan Mackenzie will broadcast on BBC Alba on Tuesday at 9pm, with the documentary available on iPlayer thereafter.

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