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