Walked-up grouse shooting – a few tips
The spring grouse counts were cause for optimism for many. Favourable weather in late May and early June – the key hatching weeks – offered promise. And yet, here we are with just days until the season opens, this year on August 13th, and prospects for Lagopus lagopus have changed somewhat...
The very long and harsh winter just passed saw widespread deep snow and low temperatures in upland areas. So, whilst counts might have been promising in spring, the heather on moorlands throughout the north of England and Scotland was struggling – regrowth appearing in many areas as late as June. The nutritionally deplete heather, it would now appear, affected both the quantity of grouse eggs laid and hatching rates. Small brood sizes were the result.
Unusually dry weather since has also had an impact on the availability of insects that are so important to grouse chicks. Add to this a lack of available water, and it starts to become clear why so many estates are anticipating a poor year.
All is not lost, though. In some areas, reports have led to many cancellations; in others there may be modest harvestable surpluses. Perhaps as a consequence, we will see keen driven grouse Shots take a walked-up day instead. After all, to be amongst the heather-clad hills at all in pursuit of the king of gamebirds is a true privilege.
Top tips for walked-up grouse
Be safe: The most important rule of any shooting. Establish clearly your safe angle of fire and be aware of the position of your fellow Guns at all times – keeping in a straight line is important, as is communication with your fellow Guns. Never swing through the line, and break/unload your gun when negotiating obstacles or difficult terrain. Remember your ear defenders and eye protection.
Think comfort: Walked-up shooting can be hard work, particularly in warm weather. Be prepared for rain, but travel as light as possible – thin waterproofs that can be stowed away in a bag are a good idea. A sturdy pair of breathable and supportive ankle boots are far better than wellies, and a gamebag is often very useful. Dress to blend in with the landscape, too, otherwise the grouse will see you from afar. A decent level of fitness will help enormously.
Watch the dogs: A well-trained team of dogs is crucial, and learning when the dogs are onto something can help you prepare for the shot. Keeping dogs from ranging too far will reduce the chances of flushing birds out of shot. It is also important to mark shot birds properly so that you can direct dogs to the area if required. And always be aware of where the dogs are when you are shooting.
Fieldcraft: Where are the grouse likely to be? Are you being quiet enough? Can you judge whether a bird is in/out of range in a split-second? In which direction are the grouse likely to fly once flushed, based on the topography, wind direction etc.? These are key questions you should ask yourself.
The shooting: Most shots will be taken at low, going away birds flying at speed. Be prepared to shoot as soon as the birds flush as they will soon be up and away. Practice at a shooting ground beforehand is time well spent – become familiar with shooting at birds flying at all angles – crossers, incomers, going away – and against a dark background. Bolting rabbit stands are often a valuable training aid. A smooth gun mount is a big help, too.
Guns and cartridges: Those who shoot a lot of walked-up game tend to opt for a lighter gun to carry. Remember that you will also be shooting at going away birds, so choke, cartridge choice and load should be chosen accordingly. It’s no surprise that many walked-up grouse Shots enjoy using a side-by-side, and with this in mind the team at Gamebore have developed the all new Regal cartridge...
Gamebore Regal cartridges – words from the maker
The all new Regal cartridge is a true 2.5" (65mm) game cartridge incorporating all the latest technology and performance of its 2 3/4" cousins to give the game shooter the edge over old 'traditional' 2.5" loads. Loaded in a new high quality red case with a nickel head for clean ejection, and Diamond shot in true English sizes for perfect patterns, this takes the traditional game cartridge to the next level. F2 blended powders deliver smooth recoil in lightweight guns but deliver downrange speed and performance which simply cannot be equalled and provide complete confidence to the game shooter whatever the quarry. Also available in 16, 20 and 28 gauge.