Shooting Gazette - - The great de­bate - By Giles Catch­pole

It is prob­a­bly fair to say, is it not, that if driven grouse shoot­ing is the pin­na­cle of our sport then beat­ing on a grouse moor must equally be seen as a peak ex­pe­ri­ence; with quite a strong em­pha­sis on the peak. It may be de­scribed as a stroll through the heather in the broad, sun­lit up­lands of this scep­tred isle but the re­al­ity is a lung­bust­ing, thigh stretch­ing, multi-mile yomp through waist deep bush and claggy pet hags. And it might rain at any time. Hard.

It is also the case though that load­ing on a driven grouse shoot is also a top drawer un­der­tak­ing. And this too might be harder than you thought.

I don’t imag­ine there are too many grouse shoot­ers using dou­ble guns who are com­plete novices, but there has to be a first time for all of us. And sin­gle guns or dou­bles it is the loader’s job not solely to keep his client armed but to en­sure he or she does not get over-ex­cited and swing dan­ger­ously.

In the case of the in­ex­pe­ri­enced shooter, it is also the loader’s role to get them, as far as pos­si­ble, in among the birds so they will have some­thing to show for the sim­ply eye-wa­ter­ing amounts of money they have parted with for the ex­pe­ri­ence.

How­ever, when the driven grouse novice be­gins to get his eye-in and starts to top­ple birds rou­tinely into the heather in front – with your help and guid­ance and en­cour­age­ment – that is a bond that will never be bro­ken.

And if you can keep a top grouse killer armed and ready through­out a busy day on a well-stocked moor in late Oc­to­ber so that he never sees a bird go by un-ad­dressed and never reaches for a gun that isn’t there, be­lieve you me, you’ll have a friend for life.

Ev­ery­thing about shoot­ing grouse is rare and spe­cial but the friend­ships that may be forged be­hind a mod­est wall of peat and stone are sec­ond to none, I reckon.

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