‘A lot of people do ask about my name,’ says Winston, a cheerful, smiley chap who has made stalking, butchering and selling venison his livelihood. ‘To be honest,’ he chuckles, ‘Being called Winston Churchill was a nightmare to live with at school, but it’s pretty good now. People remember Churchill Venison!’ There is a distant bloodline to the ex-prime minister (his father was also a Winston Churchill), but not one he shouts about.
Originally from a game-keeping family in East Anglia, Winston yearned for the hills of Scotland, and moved up here in the Eighties. He settled not far from Dunoon in 86, falling for the breathtaking views into Glen Kin and the Kilmun hills across the Holy Loch.
Winston continued stalking, taking foreign and local clients onto the hill to shoot deer. However, he soon realised that the meat was ending up abroad simply labelled Scottish Venison and that the foreign market prices were hard to control. Surely such a great local product would sell well at home? And so Winston Churchill Venison was born. Part stalking, part venison butchery and meat sales, it grew into a perfectly formed family business. Today, it offers a burgeoning online venison shop selling everything from whole haunches to prime steaks, sausages, and more. He also has outlets in local butchers, and his own Balgowan Larder farm shop. Winston and his workers sell at farmer’s markets and to restaurants, too, and he operates a fun-loving fast-paced venison burger stall at festivals and events, from T in the Park to the Inveraray Highland Games.
Winston remains a passionate stalker, though he’s handed much of the stalking to long-time employee Paul Kent, plus his own eldest son Angus, both born and bred on the hills. Winston says, ‘Paul seems to have a sixth sense about deer – he’s a huge asset.’ Depending on the time of year, a day out stalking can begin anytime from 3am onwards, at sunrise. Winston discreetly assesses the fitness of the day’s guests, taking a maximum of 2 people on any stalk. The deer retreat to the woods at night and he and the clients find a spot to wait for them to emerge first thing in the morning. Following and spotting can take between 3 and 5 hours. Winston says, ‘If we haven’t shot anything, we’ll take a break in the middle of the day, and head back out when the deer are coming back for the night. It can be a long, tiring day, but it’s always rewarding.’