The 2014/2015 game shooting season has definitely been one to remember for Exclusively Scottish and for many reasons. A relatively good winter in Scotland throughout 13/14 and consistently good weather throughout the year meant that all game and wildlife promised to be in great condition – and they were. Grouse keepers didn’t get too carried away with predictions before the 12th but it turned out to be a cracking season. Many estates broke records, and although that’s not what the sport should be about, it’s an indicator of successful management and continued sustainability.
I was lucky enough to be out on a shoot on the Glorious Twelfth – but unfortunately not with gun in hand! I had been asked to look after a good friend of the estate owner who was over from New Zealand. It turned out that following a stroke some years ago, John only had the use of one arm and I helped load for him.
Exclusively Scottish arranged several walked up and driven grouse days in August and September before moving into some mixed species days in October.
The mixed species days have proved extremely popular. The combination of fieldcraft, wild game and the opportunity to bag a grouse on a budget is unbeatable sport and a great challenge.
One shoot day saw twin brothers up from Essex. We loaned them a pair of guns and they shot their first ever brace of grouse on the Twin Laws on the Lammermuirs. 2 of everything!
It was quite an international game shooting season with clients from Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia and the USA as well as many from all over the UK. As well as walked up days we also organised some great driven shoots with fantastic high birds.
All in all it was a fantastic game shooting season with all estates providing quality sport and excellent hospitality. A big thanks to all involved. On the back of such a great season bookings are coming in fast for this season so get organised early!
Game fair season
This year is really flying by quickly and no sooner was the game fair season over than the Scottish game shooting season began. Not long after exhibiting at the West Country Game Fair, we headed off to attend our first Badminton Horse Trials for a joint Exclusively Scottish/Castle Gunmakers stand. Although not a shooting show, Badminton is a Mecca for country and town folk alike and we took a wide variety of products – from guns to socks and throws. The weather was indifferent which saw attendance down and unfortunately sales as well! However we had a great time, aided by volunteer salesman Darren Hawkins.
After Badminton our next stop was the CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace, where we once again shared space on the Lairds Sporting Directory stand. The weather was good and we had a successful show selling guns and Scottish products as well as talking to lots of people wanting to come shooting in the Scottish Borders – some booked, some didn’t! Thanks to eveyone who came on the stand for a chat.
The Scottish game shooting season
With our game fair season over it was straight into the game shooting season in the Scottish Borders and The Glorious Twelfth came round pretty quickly. A local estate were having a small driven grouse day and the owner asked me if I would help load for a good friend of his. And so it was that I met John and his wife Janice who were over from New Zealand. After being a keen shooter all his life, John had a brain haemorrage 16 years ago which left him partially paralysed on his right side. Encouraged by his friends to carry on shooting, he has taught himself to shoot using his left arm only and continues to be a passionate game shooter. Once the grouse started coming, he soon got into them and finished with a couple of brace – more than many can do using both hands! It was a great pleasure to be with John and Janice on the grouse moor in the Borders and I look forward to seeing them in the future.
The following week saw our first client of the year – Sean Hastings from the USA. Sean was attending a conference in Glasgow and his father told him not to miss the opportunity to experience some walked up grouse shooting in the Scottish Borders. We fixed Sean up with a couple of other shooters new to walked up grouse and he headed out onto the moor with a nice little Spanish 20 bore side by side supplied by Castle Gunmakers. The first bird got up and he fired a single shot but missed….a second bird got up and he fired a single shot but missed! The keeper yelled ‘use both barrels!’. Then a brace got up and he fired both barrels and got a ‘right and left’ – the keeper kept quiet! Sean finished up with two and a half brace, a morning well spent.
And so with the Scottish game shooting season in full swing, clients are coming to the Scottish Borders thick and fast. Next were a couple from Tasmania and a couple from Switzerland – I’ll tell you about them next time!
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!