Tomorrow is Burn’s Night, the day when Scots go wild, toast the haggis and drink too much whisky. Robert Burns was not only a poet, but also a voracious haggis eater and well known for his creative haggis hunting techniques.
If you haven’t got your haggis ready yet, here are some of the best ways to hunt them – and a recipe for cooking them, once you’ve caught one. They’re notoriously hard to catch, but with my Top 5 Methods, you should have a fair chance.
First, a disclaimer: While it’s legal to hunt and kill most haggis species, I do not condone the slaughter of haggis. Also, running around the Highlands with bows and arrows comes with its own risks and I do not take responsibility for any injuries.
#1: The Virgin Method
You may have heard about unicorns having a particularly liking for maidens, but did you know the same is true for haggis? So, find yourself a virgin, position her in a quiet spot and lay in wait for a haggis to come and sniff at her ankles. Then be quick to throw a net over it (other weapons might hurt the virgin) and bag it swiftly.
#2: The Pepper and Whisky Method
According to some, haggis love pepper and cannot resist its smell. Add some (single malt) whisky and you will have the perfect haggis bait. Dig a hole, cover it with thin sticks smothered in pepper and whisky, then lay in wait for the haggis to approach and fall into your trap. You need to make sure that the sticks are brittle as most haggis don’t way more than a pound.
#3: The Thistle Method
It is well known that some species of haggis have evolved to have longer legs on one side, enabling them to run clockwise around mountains (there are rumours of another species running anti-clockwise). It’s easy to take advantage of that by hiding behind a large thistle or gorse bush. When a haggis approaches, jump out and surprise them. They’ll try and run away in the opposite direction, but will stumble and fall, making them easy pickings.
#4: The Slow Starvation Method
It may be a bit late to use this method, but I’m going to list it anyway. Haggis are notorious for hating snow, so in the winter, you’ll find them cuddled up in their burrows. Simply cover the entrance to their tunnel and wait for a few weeks until they’ve starved to death. They don’t dig burrows themselves and use abandoned rabbit warrens, so they won’t be able to escape as they lack the necessary digging skills. The disadvantage of this method is not only that it takes a long time, but also that the haggis will be severely reduced in size.
#5: The Bow & Arrow Method
I’d recommend this only to the seasoned haggis hunter as the risk of injury to your fellow hunters outweighs the chance of success. Dress in tartan (it’s believed that will soothe the haggis and make them sluggish), then take your bow (using unicorn hair for the string) and an ample supply of arrows. I have seen shopkeepers sell bows and arrows on the Isle of Skye for the annual haggis tourist season (true story!), so if you don’t have your own you can always get your supplies there. Dip the tips of the arrows in whisky and lay in wait, hoping that a haggis will smell the Scotch and approach. When it sees your bow, it will freeze in fear and you can simply pick it up.
Now that you have your haggis, you may like to know how to prepare it for Burn’s Night. Don’t despair, here’s my favourite recipe.
Good luck with your hunt!
Do you have any other methods of hunting haggis? Let me know in the comments!
Scottish storyteller. Tea drinker. Cat tamer. Highland walker. Believes in unicorns and happily ever afters.