Walk-up grouse shooting can be a challenging sport especially to the acclimatised city dweller!
Across the moors from Lancashire to Yorkshire and on up to the Highlands of Scotland this is a past time enjoyed in late summer which can test your resolve and your body to the limits. Walk-up grouse shooting can be a challenging sport especially to the acclimatised city dweller!
Occasionally practiced on blisteringly hot days and surrounded by squadrons of midges shooters tread the heathery ground and unsteady peat in the search of the red grouse. Walking up the steep moor we find our treasured heroes three guns an additional dog handler and five pointers and retrievers out this morning to shoot over some moorland which this year has had a low count.
The midges tighten up their formations and sweat starts to run from my brow
This land on the Eastern side of Yorkshire has had a lot of rain this year and together with a bout of strongle worm the grouse population has suffered. There’ll be no more driven shooting here this year just an opening season day for the land owner and his family. Our keeper Mike Marshall has plans in hand to deal with it. “We’ve had two great years in a row and I’m not surprised the numbers are down a bit” he says.
But that does not mean that no more shooting can take place though. We continue to climb the moor in the bright sunlight. There is a breeze today and cloud scurry across the sky but we are not feeling it yet down here. The midges tighten up their formations and sweat starts to run from my brow. The cap finds its way into my pocket.
It is only then that I realise Jack had in fact shot two birds both some distance apart from each other.
Without warning Jack pops of two shots a puff of feathers is the first sign of a grouse I’ve seen today, the grouse spins off into the heather tumbling with wings out stretched. Mike’s dogs are straight off and fighting over the quarry just out of my view. One of them quickly brings it to his heels “our first bag of the day” he says.
Howard’s dog ‘Chase’ gets fed up with his missing out on the action and went running off into the distance chasing a runner and sometime later returned with it to release it into Howard’s hands and into his bag. “Where did that come from” I ask. It is only then that I realise Jack had in fact shot two birds both some distance apart from each other. I must be missing more than I think with this tiring hillside.
These grouse have really had a tough year.
Shortly later we have to cross a stream with a number of slippery rocks. We help each other across while the dogs revert to ‘puppy’ status and rollick in the water. A few hundred yards on the other side a large covey blasts forth heading to our right. We all got two shots off and added three birds to our bag. One of them has obviously been hit twice and looks somewhat tatty.
We set off this morning with a 10 brace limit and so far we’ve had a good start. Then we came to a quiet patch. The dogs continued ahead just searching for grouse and after what seemed like an eternity I was certain that there are no more to be had. The morning started to get late and I look back to where we have been. Have we really walked that far without a shot? These grouse have really had a tough year.
decided to make a bit of a run for it disturbing a number of grouse as they went.
Mike reminders us all again to keep a straight line as we continue up the moor. We carry on with our feet rhythmically trudging through the course heather. My legs are beginning to ache and my breathing is getting heavier.
Crossing over a somewhat rickety fence we are again reminded to keep in line unfortunately we now came across a small flock of sheep. Blackheads who decided to make a bit of a run for it disturbing a number of grouse as they went. Great I thought.
I was fortunate to be on the left flank and caught the last bird with my second shot.
As we climbed still further the midges departed us as a cool fresh Westerly breeze and the flatter terrain spurred me on. “Time for some coffee” said Mike. ‘What now!’ I think to myself wishing we had stopped half an hour ago or more. Mike then whipped out of his game bag the most delicious sweet Latte type coffee I think I’ve ever tasted. ‘Starbucks has nothing on this’ I thought. Maybe it was the thirst and exertion getting to me.
Now refreshed we started the climb out of the small gully in which we have taken our break and continued on. A large crow ‘cawed’ out from above, making me worry that the grouse would again take flight before we stumble upon them. But of course the Red Grouse’s first instinct is to hunker down under cover down out of sight and nothing stirred.
‘Where is that Max?’ He never was a particularly good retriever
A few minutes later three more Grouse popped up energetically beating their wings and attempted to head downhill. They headed to my left further up into the gully which we had just left. I was fortunate to be on the left flank and caught the last bird with my second shot. Max my aging Golden retriever quickly bounded off in hot pursuit.
After some time I started to head down back down the gully to find Max sniffing around in the undergrowth of the little valley which frankly should have been cut back or burnt out some years ago. This is a commercial grouse moor after all. I would have thought some fresh heather shoots would be ideal but I’m sure the gamekeeper knows his job, so perhaps I should keep quiet on this point. ‘Where is that Max?’ He never was a particularly good retriever; perhaps it’s my fault, maybe I haven’t taken him out enough. Anyway he’s getting old these days. The Grouse is found.
We re-join the group again and soon find another fruitful patch. This time as the guns sound out we are a little more successful. Four of the beautiful grouse make their way into our game bags.
Just one Grouse short of our bag
We then wheeled off to our left on to a flatter area of the moor. Another bird pops up immediately almost right under Howard feet and between him and me, instinctively Howard raised his shotgun. My first thought was ‘I’m going to get a face full of shot here’. But Howard’s muzzles rose straight to the sky and over our heads before coming down way behind us all. The grouse headed off down the hill and Howard bagged his bird.
We were now nearing the road where I could see the Land Rover waiting to pick us up. Just one Grouse short of our bag but it had been a great day. Hopefully next year this moor will be opened up again and we will be invited back to have a go at driven grouse with a number of our companions.
thank our client for his invitation and make sure we treat him well at Christmas this year.
For now it is time to head off for a late dinner at the local pub. Mike the keeper comes with us and we ask him a lot about how he keeps the moor. It turns out that some of the shooting rights are leased from another land owner and he is unable to manage that land properly. I’d like that spot of old thick heather dealt with in the next few years.
Mike maintains his largest challenge though is the foxes that make their way across the moor. “They seemingly come up from the towns” he says, “It is their main breeding ground these days”. What a fun day I have had this is what walk-up shooting should be when the birds are thin on the ground. I must thank our client for his invitation and make sure we treat him well at Christmas this year. I hope we get to see the moor again this time with coveys flying towards us in waves.