Thomas Ernst, 55, has been hunting for nearly 40 years, receiving his hunting licence in Germany back in 1979. When John Rigby & Co. announced the launch of its Highland Stalker in .275, the German air force officer was one of the first hunters in the queue and took home the fourth rifle to be made in May 2017. Here, he explains why the rifle has been his faithful and reliable companion since then.
As an air force officer, I am the producer of the German military tattoo, which takes place each September in Dusseldorf. The build-up to the event is very busy, but when it is all over I get the chance to spend more time on a hobby I have enjoyed for almost my whole life, hunting.
I’ve hunted all around the world – in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Alaska, Austria, New Zealand, Namibia and what was then called Yugoslavia.
I even wrote a book about hunting in 2016. It is called Jagd Gefährten, or Hunting Companions in English. The book is about things you take with you on a hunt. One of the sections is about a wonderful rifle, a Rigby. I was invited to the shop in London for a photoshoot when I was compiling the book.
When I was there I asked Marc a question I had wanted to ask him for a long time. I said you have wonderful guns, but I cannot use such large calibres in Europe for deer hunting. Why don’t you have smaller calibres? He replied: “I have a secret. We are just working on some of those rifles – in both .308 Win and .275 Rigby.”
I told Marc that I’d be very interested in one of these Rigby rifles so that I could use it in Europe. I had always wanted a Rigby rifle that I could use almost daily and a calibre suitable for hunting in Europe. He offered me one of the first four Highland Stalkers to be made. Marc actually had to take the first batch of Highland Stalkers to IWA at Nuremberg when he was promoting the launch. My gun was on display at IWA and then went back to London to be customised before it came to me. I took delivery in May 2017. I am now the proud owner of the fourth Highland Stalker made by Rigby, which is really special.
I love craftmanship in a gun. I have a 1927 Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ shotgun for that reason and Rigby is a brand synonymous with craftmanship. I like the people who work at Rigby, like Marc, who is a wonderful ambassador for his company and brand. The Rigby guns are not made en masse. The fact that there are not many of them makes them special. They have a custom stock and each one is special and unique. When I see Marc touching a gun in his shop, he is always wearing white gloves, showing his respect for his workman’s craftmanship.
But one of the important things for me is to be able to use the gun regularly. I wanted a rifle I could use daily in Europe – northern Germany, in particular, where I live. That’s why the Highland Stalker in .275 Rigby appealed to me so much, and I love the gun.
When I tested my Highland Stalker on the range I switched to Geko Zero ammunition and since doing that I’ve been very impressed with the accuracy. It works perfectly. On the range, I took three shots from 100m and managed to land them all within the diameter of a 20-euro cent coin.
I remember my first field outing with the Highland Stalker, a successful roebuck hunt at about 120 metres. More recently I had a great adventure hunting fallow bucks in northern Germany. I was invited there by a friend. I live 50km away and we don’t have a lot of fallow deer where I live. But there are a lot of huge fallows in this area, so it is a perfect place.
It was dark and early in the morning when I shot the first fallow in the forest with my Highland Stalker. He was moving around, but I dropped him from about 90 metres. I shot the second one the next morning at about 70 or 80 metres. My Highland Stalker proved once again to be my trusty companion.
For my next Highland Stalker adventure, I’m thinking about going back to Namibia to hunt smaller animals like the springbok and blesbok. You have to shoot from more than 250 metres, so it’s long distance, but it should be another great challenge and I know my Rigby Highland Stalker will be up to it. I can’t wait.