Driven grouse shooting takes place in potentially extreme weather conditions and those doing the shooting or accompany them, often spend hours braving the elements. Everyone thinks of hot, still August days when they think of grouse shooting. If you are very lucky, that might be the case, but always be prepared for very heavy rain and on occasions even worse. We had sleet in the afternoon of August 12th 2010 in the southern part of the Peak District. It can often be very cold, very wet and very windy even at the start of the grouse shooting season.
Depending on how much walking there is and how wet the moor is, will depend on whether you choose to wear leather boots or wellingtons. If you opt for leather boots which are often preferable in terms of ankle support and having a good grip, by and large most people now wear modern waterproof ones, there are leather outer boots with a waterproof membrane. There are plenty to choose from, but Meindl, Harkila or Laksen are probably the best and with boots you do as with most other forms of clothing get what you pay for. When wearing boots, we would strongly recommend wearing a good quality gaiter above, so as to better protect against midges and to try and keep out the heather seed heads which can cause irritation if they get into your boot and rub.
Few people nowadays seem to wear shoes such as the old Hoggs or Church’s brogues which were fashionable up until the 1970’s. I suspect that their grip was generally poor and even on moderately wet or spongy ground, they leaked.
If you opt for wellingtons, then leather-lined are generally very good at this time of the year, but you might be over warm particularly if you walk far, in neoprene-lined ones. Again, go for wellingtons with the best ankle support as some are incredibly flimsy and can make walking uncomfortable or even dangerous over uneven or rocky ground.
Staying on the wet weather theme, then you do need a first class waterproof coat and preferably you should take a spare, so you can change at lunchtime if you have had a very wet morning. There is nothing worse than putting a wet coat back on after lunch! There are masses of good quality waterproof shooting coats to choose from. We obviously think that the William Powell Balmoral Ventile coat is the best, but Schoffel, Barbour, Musto and the like all make good ones. August or September grouse shooting even at high elevations tend to be not ideal for wearing heavy tweed shooting coats. Technical ones are probably better at this time of year, but moving onto tweed ones, when the days really do get colder towards the end of September and into October and November. You could consider having a thin waterproof coat such as a Schoffel Alabama/Ketton Venturi Jacket or a Barbour Sporting Featherweight Jacket but worn over a normal non waterproof shooting jacket. Or indeed you could wear a cape which although it does look very Sherlock Holmes’, is incredibly practical and waterproof. We do two models, the Deerhunter Poncho and the Rainwear Poncho and they can either be worn on their own or as an extra layer on top of another waterproof coat which perhaps isn’t as waterproof as it used to be! You should never underestimate how rain can get through almost any waterproof if you stand out in a downpour at 1,000 feet above sea level for eight hours. The wind merely adds to the joy! Another new addition to the Grouse shots clothing this year is the John Field Hurricane Raincoat. It is Â¾ length and seriously waterproof but not restrictive to shoot in.
A really nice tweed shooting suit with a sports style jacket that you can shoot in (probably with an action back to allow proper gun mounting and swinging) looks good and is lovely to wear when it’s not raining. Even if you aren’t a great shot, you do look the part!
Breeks are preferable and if you are walking up grouse, then go for lightweight ones. If it is colder then go for heavier weight tweeds, but even good quality waterproof tweed breeks which Schoffel, Musto and Laksen all make, are not ideal in continuous driving rain as whilst they may be waterproof, the rain runs off them into your boots or wellingtons! On that score, lined (but not necessarily waterproof) breeks are much more comfortable than unlined ones as the lining prevents itching particularly when it is warm.
Shirts are probably the next most important item. Grouse are wild and stay alive because they are very wary. They are a far cry from reared pheasants and partridges. You should therefore wear a dark coloured shirt, so that you blend into the landscape. Having a shirt done up with a tie reduces the heat loss and prevents water ingress. The new William Powell anti-midge shirts are colour wise ideal for grouse shooting and on those hot balmy August and September days when midges can make being on a grouse moor unbearable, they definitely are the answer as are the anti-midge shooting socks and the anti-midge cap. However, colour is the key if you want to ensure that the grouse come to you and are not diverted to your neighbour.
I would wear a jumper on top or a waistcoat (which makes the colour of your shirt even more important) and a cap or hat which you can shoot in and really does break up the outline of your face. Again a white face bobbing up and down over the top of the butt will do little to encourage the grouse to come to you. You should ensure that anyone in your butt (even otherwise experienced loaders) do the same. A Terylene scarf like the Barbour Wind & Rain Choker is ideal to further prevent rain going down your neck or your body heat escaping.
Always take a pair of lightweight waterproof over trousers. They are much better than waterproof breeks. Again the Schoffel Wyoming/Saxby Venturi Overtrousers, or the John Field Overtrousers are ideal or what about the fully waterproof shooting kilt which is much easier to walk in or put on or take off.
Having shot for years next door to a moor owner in the Peak District who has only one eye, the other being shot out, I would strongly recommend good quality shot resistant shooting glasses and these are best with detachable lenses so that you can use them as sunglasses when the sun is very bright, clear glass or yellow lenses when conditions are very dull and you will struggle to pick the grouse up against the background. This is particularly the case later on in the season when the moorland colours are very muted and even flying grouse blend in too well.
Hearing defenders are essential both for the Gun and anyone else in the butt. It is amazing how delicate in particular young children’s ears are and the Peltor ear muffs are a very cheap and effective way of protecting their hearing.
In terms of other equipment you will need other than your gun, gun sleeve and cartridge bag, gloves can be useful as they do help hide the whiteness of your hands which when waved around act like a mini flag to the grouse. Midge repellent is a must as is some form of butt marker, which you can accurately mark down the number of birds you have shot and where they are. This makes picking up so much easier particularly if you have a good draw. An easily carried game bag will enable you to put things in that you need as a spare such as a jumper, fleece, drink, waterproof trousers and the like.
However under control your dog is, a dog lead is essential and preferably some form of stick or corkscrew to tie it down with, in case there isn’t a suitable peg provided in the butt. You may very well find a walking stick of some type will add to your experience on the moor.