Driven grouse shooting in the Scottish Borders

It’s not often I get an invitation to shoot driven grouse as a guest – make that never! – so it was a great surprise to get a phone call from a local shoot owner on Sunday afternoon. At first when he asked if I was free on Monday, I thought he needed a beater for a let day! Luckily for me he had decided to have a small end of season driven grouse day with some friends and I think I squeezed in by default, not being the most experienced of grouse shots.

My wife Cathy had taken the Monday off but was obviously happy to see the back of me and insisted I go. In all fairness I had turned down an invitation to shoot driven pheasant and partridge the previous week as I had to take our Briard, Shaggy to the Dick Vet in Edinburgh as he has cancer.

I turned up at my host’s house bright and early Monday morning to be told that the grouse would be pretty wild and I’d be lucky to get a brace. I thought I was lucky to be there, and a single bird would be good! The day was bright with a stiff breeze and the grouse were pretty jumpy right from the start. Unfortunately I drew a peg next to my host who is a very good shot and would be watching me closely.

grouse team

Most of us mortals don’t get the chance to enjoy driven grouse shooting very often and although we’ve all been told the theory a thousand times, the reality is always a bit different. Crouched behind your butt, terrified of not letting the grouse see you and turn away, nothing can prepare you for the sudden onrush of birds as you stand and try to pick one out from the pack. Couple this with having to convince the brain to shoot lower than it’s used too and the result (for me) is usually a miss! That said I did manage to get one on the first drive.

On the second drive I was at the far right hand side of the line. A small covey hurtled towards my host on my left and then turned across me. I hesitated a split second too long (as usual), only to then find myself lining up on a grouse and a flanker. I let the bird pass the flanker and fired, taking only some tail feathers!

After a quick picnic lunch in stunning Scottish countryside, we had two more drives and I finished the day with a brace and a half. My host was as kind as he could be at the poor quality of my (and many others) shooting, but driven grouse shooting really is an art that needs practice and experience. Just being out on a grouse moor was a privilege. The final bag was 19 brace of grouse, 1 woodcock and 1 snipe.

grouse bag

Here’s hoping I win the lottery and get the chance for more practice!

Anglo-American driven pheasant shooting in Scotland

Many tales, stories and jokes begin “There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman………..” Well this was certainly true of the team that met late in October at Glen Ample Estate on the south shores of Loch Earn in Perthshire. In fact there were three Americans, a Scotsman (who lives in Ireland), a Welshman, two Englishmen and an English Lady! And what a mixed bunch we were, coming from all walks of life; Paul is a celebrated artist and Tom an award winning chef. The rest of us mere mortals.

Team Glen Ample

We had all been invited for a day’s driven pheasant shooting by our generous host Bob, a successful American businessman who has fallen in love with Scotland, its history and its unique sporting opportunities. I stayed overnight with my good friends Kevin and Linda in Killin and the journey from there down to Lochearnhead through Glen Ogle was as spectacular as ever, the autumn colours magnificent at this time of year. We meandered our way up the south side of Loch Earn before heading up the glen. On arriving at the shoot bothy it was great to see an impressive display of Land Rover Defenders instead of the usual Far East offerings – especially as our host is the main Land Rover/Range Rover dealer in San Diego. Tom from Monachyle Mhor even had his Defender still sign written from a recent culinary promotion.

Introductions were made and there was a great deal of expectation in the air. The team was of mixed experience with this being Helen’s first taste of driven game shooting. Whilst the team got to know each other, Mike (the gamekeeper) had a quick look to see if he had any pheasants around!

mike     tom     11s     kevin

Peg numbers were drawn and we proceeded to the first drive where we all soon remembered how hard this sport is! Two more drives followed and the team began to get their eye in with some more successful than others! ‘Elevenses’ followed the third drive and there was a great atmosphere amongst the team. It was the on to ‘The Rocks’ where the birds were amazingly high and mostly too good for us! After another great drive, we returned to the bothy for lunch, just as it started to rain.

lunch1     lunch2

After lunch we headed back out into the now torrential rain and donned our waterproofs for one final drive. Despite the rain the birds still flew very well and everyone was in the shooting. Back at the game larder the bag came in at 80 pheasants, a terrific day’s sport, enjoyed in great company.

With guns dried and cleaned, we headed to Bob’s stunning shooting lodge on the shores of Loch Lubnaig for a lovely dinner prepared by Tom from Monachyle. A perfect end to a perfect day.

For more information on driven pheasant shooting in Scotland please contact us.

Novice driven game shooting day near Gleneagles

Our first novice driven game shooting day of the season proves a great success despite the rain!

Novice driven game shooting day near Gleneagles

On Saturday 19th October we held our first novice day of the 2013/14 season on a beautiful estate near Gleneagles in Perthshire. Six keen clay shooters (3 men and 3 ladies) from Edinburgh had signed up for their first taste of driven game shooting. The day was hosted by Ian Hendy from Exclusively Scottish and Eddy Buchan from Buchan Field Sports Services. Guns and cartridges were supplied by Castle Gunmakers.

The idea behind these days is to give an all round experience of the game shooting world to shooters who may not have the confidence or even the budget to take on a full driven day from scratch. How many of us were thrown in at the deep end, having little idea of the realities, expectations and etiquette needed to go game shooting? Although many of us are brought up with shooting from an early age, our sport needs to attract the keen shooter who has little or no knowledge of this world. Most importantly this needs to be done in a safe, controlled, friendly environment. All too often we see guns in the line who would have benefited from a little extra guidance.

And so our day went like this; Eddy and I greeted our clients at about 10.00 am at the Bothy. The weather was not great but our host had the log burner going well and the kettle on! After all round introductions we ascertained everyone’s experience levels, finding that all had shot clays to varying levels. We quickly but thoroughly ran through basic safe gun handling, moving on to a more in depth discussion of the differences between standing in a cage and standing on a peg. Safety was obviously the main topic of conversation and the clients were given an understanding of the work and positioning of the beating team and pickers-up.

The rain eased off and we went just outside the bothy to do some gun-mounting and footwork practice. This helped Eddy and I with gun selection and gave us an insight into the real experience level of each individual. We then discussed how peg numbers are drawn and how the shooting line is set out together with all safety implications.

Back inside, our host had some warming pheasant broth ready for us. With the aid of photographs we then discussed quarry recognition and what to shoot and what not to shoot! The session was really interactive covering all aspects of what to expect on a live drive. Despite the rain we headed back out to shoot some driven clay targets. The weather made the targets quite tricky but some great coaching from Eddy meant that everyone got their eye in and confidence was high.

So then for the real thing. Peg numbers were drawn and the whole team (by now very wet!) proceeded to the first drive. Adrenaline was definitely flowing and you could sense the expectation, excitement and nervousness coming from all the guns. Despite the rain the birds flew well and safety standards were excellent. Some guns had more success than others but all were in the shooting and all were totally blown away by their first experience of driven game shooting. We then had chance to watch the dogs and pickers-up work whilst having a quick de-brief and a question and answer session.

It was then on to the second drive with guns learning to “move up 2”. Safety issues specific to the drive were discussed and the drive proceeded with most birds being cleanly killed. With the bag at 24 – exactly what we were looking for – we returned to the bothy to dry off and get a cup of tea. Guns were dried and cleaned and lots of smiling faces discussed the two drives and the events of the day.

Over then to the game larder where we gave a basic demonstration of how to hang, pluck and clean the game, together with a few recipe ideas! Making sure our host was out of the way, we then touched on the etiquette of tipping and thanking the ‘keeper.

The day rounded off at about 4.30 with a small sloe gin and a toast to our host, his team and the birds. The feedback we  received from all the guns was really positive and all felt that they now had the confidence and knowledge to begin their game shooting careers!

For more information on how to book one of these novice driven game shooting days please contact our sporting agency.

Kelso game shooting and horse racing weekend

Kelso game shooting and horse racing weekend organised by Exclusively Scottish!

The team of guns and their wives from Bristol arrived at their accommodation on Friday afternoon. We had arranged a lovely old farmhouse for them to stay in close to the shoot and only 20 minutes from Kelso. Upon arrival the Aga was turned up, the wine opened and the cheese devoured! The dogs ran around their new surroundings whilst the guests ran around trying to bag the best rooms. Once all the food and drink was unloaded from the cars, the guns got ready for the evening duck flight.

_21Z6345            _W3C1075
Our shoot host took the team of five guns to two ponds splitting them 3 and 2. The weather didn’t seem too promising at first but as the dusk drew in, so did the clouds, making for a great backdrop. After a long wait the first mallard appeared dropping onto our pond and two out of the three were cleanly despatched – a good start. The night got better with birds coming in at regular intervals and with the guns on good form the bag grew steadily. At 6 birds apiece the team sportingly put away their guns and all birds were picked. We met up with the other two guns who had an equally successful evening bagging mallard and teal.

With the birds in the larder and the guns cleaned, it was straight to the local pub for some great steaks and a dram too many!

The guns met us the next morning looking remarkably fresh and still talking about the previous evening’s great sport. They were then briefed on the day’s proceedings – a full mixed species walked up day. First off they were taken to a large ‘splash’ where fieldcraft would be put to the test both with the silent approach needed and the quarry recognition – they had been told to shoot only the wild mallard, the teal and snipe. Once the birds lifted (the reared mallard first), the shooting began. The sky was full of all three species, most of which were too good for the guns and soon out of range. After picking up it was clear that only mallard had been bagged and our host assured the team that one was not wild!

Birds      Darren
Next up was a long walk over moorland of heather and grass. The team lined out with beaters in between each gun and dogs kept well in check. Several grouse got up quite early but were out of range. The guns kept up their concentration and soon a brace of grouse were added to the bag, both shot by guns who had never been on a moor before! As the heather turned to grass there was a shout of “rabbit” and this was cleanly despatched with a single shot. Further on a few partridge lifted and it wasn’t long before 4 had been added to the bag. The team now had four different species in the bag and spirits were high as they stopped on the hill for a picnic lunch.

walk      lunch
After lunch the host treated the team to a fantastic partridge drive where they were told to only shoot the very best birds – and they did, adding 20 more partridges to the bag. Next was another walk in open grassland with the birds testing everyones reactions and fieldcraft. All the guns were in the shooting and the walk added cock and hen pheasants, partridge, snipe and hare to the bag with an “easy” pigeon being missed. To finish the day, the guns requested a ‘pigeon drive’ and a small fir wood was surrounded and beaten through. The wind was now up and the birds were testing the guns to the limit and only two were shot.

Team      team2
A fantastic day of sport was at an end with eight different species in the bag. The team retired to the farmhouse where Exclusively Scottish had arranged for outside caterers to put on a fantastic 4 course meal. Stories were told, jokes made and plenty of wine consumed. The perfect end to a wonderful day’s shooting.

All the guests met us at The Cobbles in Kelso on Sunday for a cheeky aperitif before we headed off to Kelso racecourse. Exclusively Scottish had reserved a table in the hospitality suite and a good lunch set us up for the day. Lots of discussions were had as to the form of the horses but when it came down to it there was quite a lot of pot luck going on. One horse was called ‘Shooting Times’ and so of course we all backed it – unfortunately it didn’t win. There was a huge crowd and great atmosphere at this lovely racecourse and by afternoon tea, most of the guests had backed a winner or two.

kelso       kelso2

After the races it was back to the farmhouse to get rested and changed before meeting at the pub for a full Sunday roast. Some of the party were beginning to flag now but the whisky soon livened things up and the singing got going!

Guns, wives and dogs departed on Monday morning with smiles on their faces after having a fantastic weekend of sport and over-indulgence.

If you fancy a similar game shooting and horse racing weekend, or any tailor made shooting experience, then please get in touch with the sporting agency.

Exclusively Scottish attend the CLA Game Fair

Exclusively Scottish and Castle Gunmakers were at the CLA with Lairds Sporting Directory, Tolley’s, Crowcombe Court, Powder Hill, Bentley Sporting Cabinets, Jonathan M McGee Photography and Lasarotta Ltd.

CLA Game Fair stand
Although we couldn’t justify the expense of a full stand at this year’s game fair, we were fortunate to buy some space with Lairds Sporting Directory on the ‘2nd tier’ Gunmakers Row. Lairds is an up and coming web based shooting directory and is definitely going places. Our host Nathan gave us a great spot at the front of the stand which we shared with various high quality shooting related companies. Everyone got on really well and there was a great atmosphere on the stand.
Ian and Cathy
Friday turned out to be very hot – almost too hot, and the feedback from standholders was that people were not really feeling like shopping! That said the bar was full even at £4.20 a pint!. Cathy and I had a fairly busy day selling a reasonable amount of product and talking to lots of customers interested in bespoke shooting packages.

Saturday was busy enough with lots of friends visiting the stand and lots of interest in Exclusively Scottish. Nathan hosted a great party on Saturday night with good hangovers to prove it on Sunday!

CLA Stand Display
Sunday was pretty quiet and a bit disappointing all round with not many sales and less interaction!

All in all a good fair for Exclusively Scottish but the CLA need to do a rethink on layout and prices. On top of our stand cost we had to pay £250 just to be on the campsite which was a half hour walk! For the public, the high ticket and food prices mean that they have little else to spend and many felt they were a bit ripped – off. Here’s to next year!

Next show – Galloway Country Fair at Drumlanrig!

CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall

Not long now to the CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall and Exclusively Scottish are excited to be sharing stand number E0445 on Gunmakers Row with Lairds Sporting Directory.

We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting some new ones, and are very grateful to Nathan Little of Lairds for giving us the opportunity to share a stand with him and some other great companies and individuals. We will be displaying a small range of our exclusive products as well as offering some great hunting, shooting and fishing deals in Scotland.

There seems to be a great buzz around the industry at present despite the still difficult times and a big thanks goes to Ben from Keepers Mate and Victoria from Shotgun and Chelsea for flying our flag. Thanks also to the team at the SCSTG.

If you have any friends thinking of shooting in Scotland then get them to come along for a chat. We need to make some sales to cover the Caravan Park fees! See you at stand E0445!

Countryman Fair at Highclere Castle

Exclusively Scottish, Castle Gunmakers Ltd and Shooting School UK team up again for Highclere.

Highclere Castle stand
After the success of the West Country Game Fair, Exclusively Scottish decided to have a go at the Countryman Fair at Highclere Castle near Newbury. I had only been to Highclere as a visitor years ago and couldn’t remember much about it, but we thought it might be a good venue to take a stand, as it was in a great position to attract visitors. I had been told that the fair was a lot smaller than in previous years and that not many gun dealers attended – so potentially more business for us!

Shotgun sales display
We arrived to set up on the Saturday and our stand was in between John Field (clothing) and a reloading company – so not bad. Cathy and I did most of the setting up while we waited for Edward (no surprise). Edward was adamant that he ‘dress’ the gun racks but soon disappeared to give a lesson! The stand was looking pretty good by about 8.00 pm and so we got out the red wine and lit the BBQ.

Sunday morning was bright and sunny and people started pouring on to the stand straight away – it turned out we were the only gun dealer there – at a game fair! Cathy was kept busy with the Exclusively Scottish products, selling shooting socks, throws and scarves and we also had a lot of interest in the bespoke game shooting and fishing packages. Edward did a great job as usual selling guns although some people did appear like they were looking for his ‘off’ button! John Ormiston and his crew looked busy on the John Field stand and by midday the sun was blazing and the crowds were huge. The stand was busy right up to the end of the day with Edward selling a shotgun in the last half hour.

Second Hand Shotgun Sales     Harris Tweed Gunslips

Monday was a bit quieter to start with but soon warmed up and by lunchtime the show was packed and we had overtaken Sunday’s sales. Thanks to John Ormiston who brought a friend on to the stand to buy Edward’s lovely .410 hammer gun. Lots of friends came on to the stand both new and old and it was good to meet Adrian Pink who has been a great supporter on Facebook. Lots more interest in the game shooting packages, especially the mixed walked up days. By 6.00 pm we were shattered and started to pack down, deciding to stay one more night and drive back in the morning – a drive that took 8 hours!

Shooting socks     Ian, Cathy and Edward

All in all the show was a great success and we hope to go again next year. Thanks to everyone who came on the stand even if they didnt buy anything!

Next stop is the CLA where we will be sharing a stand on Gunmakers Row with Lairds Sporting Directory – see you there!

West Country Game Fair at Shepton Mallet

Exclusively Scottish launch in association with Castle Gunmakers Ltd and Shooting School UK at the West Country Game Fair at Shepton Mallet.

Stand
Although very early in the year, we thought we’d take a stand at the fair as a launch for the company and a chance to catch up with old friends. The seven hour drive down with a bad back didn’t do me any favours but at least Edward had the red wine open!

Due to the high cost of doing the fair, we decided to make the stand a co operative between Exclusively Scottish, Castle Gunmakers and Shooting School UK. We have all worked closely together for years and between us can cover every aspect of the shooting trade. Edward and I set the stand up on the Friday and my wife and business partner Cathy flew down from Edinburgh on Friday night. More red wine consumed courtesy of Edward our generous host!

Up early and ready by 8.30 on Saturday, I think we had the best looking stand! The fair was busy from the start with Castle Gunmakers selling a Beretta in the first half hour. Edward was busy taking enquiries for shooting lessons and Cathy had lots of interest in our new Scottish lifestyle and sporting products. Footfall was pretty good all day but I have to say trade was slow and there was much more window shopping than actual spending.

socks
By a huge coincidence, Castle Gunmakers had brought along a lovely Damascus Hammer Gun made by T Cook of Shepton Mallet! This gun drew a lot of interest and the local press did an article which appeared last week.

Sunday was quieter but saw a few more sales and lots of enquiries for Game Shooting days in Scotland. The show itself was reasonably well organised but the PA system was terrible and as usual there were too many food and trinket stands detracting from the “Game Fair” ideal.

Exclusively

Since coming back home we have had some follow up enquiries and so a general success. Thanks to Cathy, Edward, all customers, friends, and the trade. The next show will be Highclere or CLA; check the blog for updates.

UPDATE!

We have this week sold 2 Guns to customers who visited us on the stand – The Cook and the Powell – Many Thanks!

Exclusively Scottish goes live!

After much hard work and careful preparation we are delighted to launch ExclusivelyScottish.com! Exclusively Scottish is a unique blend of Scotland’s finest pheasant shooting, game shooting and deer stalking traditions, beautifully crafted textile accessories and clothing that complement a sporting way of life.

Exclusively Scottish Sporting Agency
Scotland is famous the world over as an outstanding destination that can provide world class sporting opportunities combined with stunning scenery and a rich, diverse heritage. Here at Exclusively Scottish we work with a small, select group of estates and specialist suppliers to provide you with the highest quality hunting, shooting and fishing.
Visit the Exclusively Scottish Sporting Agency to book a shooting experience now.

Exclusively Scottish Online Shop
Exclusively Scottish are proud that all our outdoor lifestyle products have a significant Scottish input, be it in the source of materials, the place of manufacture or both. Due to their exclusivity, many of the products in the Exclusively Scottish shop are only available “made to to order”and offer genuine exclusivity and long lasting quality.
Visit the Exclusively Scottish Online Shop to browse our exclusive Scottish lifestyle products.

Exclusively Scottish Fieldsports Blog
At Exclusively Scottish we regularly arrange top quality game shooting days, unique hunting experiences and unforgettable  weekends at the races. We also source luxury Scottish products that complement the outdoor lifestyle; be it luxury shooting socks, authentic Harris Tweed cartridge bags or classic country throws and rugs.
Visit the Exclusively Scottish Fieldsports Blog to keep up to date with all our activities, news and events.

You can also get involved on Twitter and Facebook.