It’s safe to say that Grouse shooting is not for the faint hearted! Arduous hilltop climbs, bulky shooting equipment and breakneck speed Grouse – a small price to pay to witness these incredible game birds race across the moorland providing the guns with shots that are the ultimate test of their shooting ability.
Having completed my degree placement year at William Powell at the end of August, I was invited by Mark Osborne to spectate one of his driven Grouse days on a Moor in Derbyshire. Indubitably I replied with a very enthusiastic ‘yes please’!
The day commenced with a driven duck drive on the picturesque river which means through the heather covered hillsides. The Guns were aligned over the stone bridge above the river in front of the keeper’s house. The drive ended and a brace of duck was retrieved; a good effort as few duck were flushed that morning.
The day consisted of six exciting drives. I was most impressed by the speed of the Grouse, and not knowing how large the covey will be, nor where they will appear from. We stood in the butt waiting patiently to hear the sound of the keeper’s whistle – the anticipation is immense. Once the whistle was blown, you knew something was coming but that’s all you knew – you had to be alert and the trigger finger ready. These birds appear over the Moorland horizon in the blink of an eye. Now I understand why Grouse shooting is the ‘Sport of Kings’.
Unlike when shooting other game birds, Grouse shooting enables you to turn and shoot low behind. Indeed it is almost compulsory! This only adds to the intensity of the sport. I have now seen how crucial the safety briefing is and how easy it is to get disorientated in the heat of the moment. The other guns and often the flankers are only 50 yards or so away, so it’s paramount each gun is aware of their parameters – safety is no compromise!
The last drive saw us standing on a hillside of a beautiful heather covered valley. The purple heather for me was an unusual backdrop to the river below. The drive got off to a slow start. We waited until suddenly the whistle was blown and the Grouse appeared. They soared over the very high hilltop above, which would have challenged the most experienced Grouse shot. A truly remarkable sight.
The combination of rapid, turbulent Grouse winging at speeds of 70mph towards the Grouse butts in a truly scenic landscape, makes Grouse shooting one of the most exhilarating sports I have had the pleasure of being a part of. What’s more is the love and passion that the game keepers devote to the sport – it’s poignant to see.
Let’s just say I will be eagerly looking into organising my next trip to the Grouse Moor, and one day I will definitely have a go at pulling the trigger.