Top tips for walked-up grouse shooting
James Chapel shares his top tips for walking-up grouse...
Safety is key and should be your highest priority.
Grouse tend to hug the contours, so it is of paramount importance that you know exactly where your neighbouring Guns are, and ensure that your muzzles never stray in their direction.
For this reason, it is important that you keep the line as straight as possible.
You can shoot walked-up grouse in front or behind, but you should never swing through the line.
And watch your footing – if you are going up and down slopes or over broken ground and through gulleys, you should break and unload your gun.
A certain level of fitness is required to shoot walked-up grouse as the day will invariably involve a lot of walking over rough, uneven or steep ground.
So bear this in mind before booking or accepting an invite.
You will have to carry everything with you, so plan ahead and keep your kit to a minimum.
Cartridge belts are preferable as they distribute the weight more evenly than cartridge bags or laden pockets, and are therefore more comfortable. The double belts that hold 49 shells are ideal.
If you are not shooting, a good-sized gamebag is crucial.
You will also need a lightweight waterproof jacket – leave your tweed coat at home as the physical exertion will keep you warm – and, as with driven shooting, you don’t want the grouse to see you from a mile away, so wear muted colours that blend in with your surroundings.
Of course, ear defenders (the electronic ones are best) and protective shooting glasses are a must.
Stout, comfortable walking boots (wellies aren’t ideal as they can be sweaty and don’t provide sufficient ankle support) are important, as are gaiters to prevent burs and seeds from getting into your socks.
Guns & cartridges
As with all forms of shooting, your choice of gun and cartridge will be personal, but bear in mind that you will exclusively be shooting going-away birds, often at fairly long ranges.
So I would say that a 12, 16 or 20 bore would be preferable over a 28.
You may also want to factor that into your cartridge choice – on driven days, we won’t like No. 5s as they carry further, but on walked-up days the heavier pellets are advantageous as they offer a greater degree of penetration on going-away birds.
Canines are key
As with all forms of shooting, a team of well-trained gundogs is crucial, both for flushing birds at close quarters as well as retrieving them to hand.
We tend to use spaniels and/or labs for all our walked-up days, but shooting over pointers is a pretty special experience as they add a different dynamic to the day, providing a great spectacle for the Guns.
If you want to take your own dogs along, what is key is that they are steady and work the ground at fairly close quarters (see page 144).
Focus & fieldcraft
Being a good walked-up grouse Shot is largely about concentration and focus and being able to react quickly.
Grouse tend to run if they can, but you don’t want them taking off more than 20–25 yards away because by the time you take your first shot they will be 30–35 yards off. So remember to keep your voices down and try to move as quietly as possible.
Fieldcraft is really important, too, so think about where the grouse are likely to be, and watch the dogs – different dogs will react differently when they get onto the scent of a grouse, so tune into their behaviour.
And when a grouse does get up at longer range, as they invariably will from time to time, I discourage Guns from using their second barrel as you are more likely to wound birds at that range. Conversely, it is really important to use the second barrel when it is appropriate to do so.
Read about a day's walked-up grouse with James HERE.