My name is Al Smith but everyone calls me Hillbilly Al, which got shortened to Hal some years ago, and it stuck. After leaving school, I decided that I wanted to be outside as much as possible so thought that a job with animals would be ideal Through BIAZA I found a job as a field biologist’s assistant, which I loved and it gave me a great opportunity to travel and see some amazing places, meet different people and to see animals in their natural habitat.
I soon learnt that I had a real passion for primates and talked to people about furthering this passion into a career. I was told about Rodbaston College and found I already knew someone that was a lecturer there, so I enrolled. After leaving Rodbaston I decided to look into zoo keeping as the Field Research had become a little bit too much, and I had at that time met the girl who would later become my wife, and I wanted to spend more time with her. I was lucky enough to work at several zoos all over the UK, my favourite being Dudley Zoo, because I met some of the best primate keepers I had ever worked with and had total respect for them.
During this time, my elder brother and I, would make sure we booked our yearly holiday together – fishing, hunting and wild camping in Scotland. We always chose Scotland because their laws on wild stays are different than ours (In Scotland, you can camp for two days in one spot as long as you respect the land, then move on to another spot.) In August 2012, It was my brothers turn to chose the location for our annual holiday and that year he chose a wonderful spot in the Abernethy forest, Strathspey, in the Scottish Highlands.
The site was perfect, Water nearby, open grassland and plenty of tree cover.. We set up camp around 20 feet inside the forest using tarps and hammocks and then set about building a fire.. While out collecting wood I looked for game trails and found loads of signs of rabbit activity in the clearing not far from camp.. There were also lots of fruits such as blackberry and plenty of dandelion and cats tails.
The next morning I woke around four am, way before my alarm was due to go off, but that’s usual for me.. I’ve always been an early riser. I got out of my bunk, dressed head to toe in realtree camo, stoked the fire and put the coffee pot on. My brother was still lightly snoring so I kicked the bottom of his bunk to gently wake him. I could see it was starting to get light above the canopy, so got my rifle ready (only a point 25) and we quietly made our way to the treeline and the rabbit field as I now call it. As we stepped out, we stayed close to the treeline and headed left towards a huge blackberry bush I had noticed the night before.
Now, I usually hunt alone because my brother has a heavy footfall, but after a few steps, I couldn’t hear him behind me, so I looked back to see if he was still there. The look on his face was something I had never seen from him before. Both his mouth and eyes were wide open and he was looking straight past me. Now to be as honest as I can be, I don’t remember fully if he pointed or spoke, because the next few seconds are a little blurry in my head. I looked to see what was upsetting him so much and got the shock of my life.
There was a dark figure crouching down with its back to us, I reckon it was about fifty feet away and even crouched down, looked easily to be my height (5’2″). It looked like it was eating berries from the bush, from the way its shoulders were moving and the way it was hunched over. It then raised its head a little, turning slightly towards us, and tilted it to one side, as if listening. It stood up and turned at the same time and was now looking straight at me. It must have stood seven to eight feet tall! It was covered in jet black hair all over its body, except for the upper chest and face and its skin was very dark, except for its bottom lip which looked pink. It had a wide nose and large eyes. Its features reminded me of an older bonobo chimpanzee, but the face was much flatter, especially around the mouth. It was going bald on top and to my eyes, this picture of a bonobo is what i was looking at, but with a much flatter muzzle.
It looked to be around four feet across its shoulders, with longer hair on its forearms and and on its chin. I have never been so scared in my life, although it never once took a step towards me or made any threatening movement, It was just its sheer size and the fact that in my mind it should not have been there. I don’t know how long we stared at each other, it felt like forever. I had an overwhelming feeling to put my rifle down, so I dropped to one knee, really slowly, and placed my rifle on the ground. It then turned and walked off into the treeline, just looking back one more time, to see if we were following it. Then It was gone. I looked back to get my brothers reaction but he wasn’t there, he’d also gone, so I grabbed my rifle and ran back to camp, panicking now realising that I was all alone.
By the time I had got back to camp, my brother already had his tarp, bunk and bits stuffed in bags and was working on mine. I tried to stop him as I wanted to stay and look for what we had just seen, but he wouldn’t even speak to me. I’d never seen him like that before. He later sold all his camping and fishing gear. Not very long after, we stopped speaking all together. Although I still see his wife occasionally, she tells me he never leaves the city now.
I went back in 2016, to the exact location and I admit now that I had taken on looking for these creatures. I was full of such big expectations, but other than tree breaks, leans and a very quiet vocalisation, that I couldn’t quite make out, nothing happened. I had, of course, heard of Bigfoot before all this happened but never really thought about them.. Now my eyes are wide open. In all of my years spent in woodland and forests I have never seen anything that I could not explain straight away, that is before this sighting, which has changed my life. As someone who has worked closely with primates, I believe that what i saw was a simian and not a hominid. To me it was not human in any form, to me it was a big ape. The body looked very much like an upright gorilla, the arms and thighs were huge, Just like a gorilla. The face was much flatter, but still very ape like.
I can’t even walk my dog now without wondering if there something in the trees…
Other reports in the area include Lairig Ghru Pass followed and spooked.