My worst shoot day

We should all strive for ba­sic com­pe­tence, says Tim Bon­ner, which brings to mind a walked-up grouse day — for all the wrong rea­sons

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CLASSIFIED -

As far as I am con­cerned, a proper day’s shoot­ing comes with uncer­tainty. The wilder the quarry or the more dif­fi­cult it is to shoot, the less rel­e­vant are bag tar­gets, so I am not some­one who rates a day solely by the num­ber of slain at the end.

It is, how­ever, nice to make the best bag that con­di­tions al­low and ba­sic com­pe­tence is some­thing for which we should all strive in the shoot­ing field. For that rea­son a day’s walkedup grouse in the north taken at short no­tice for me, my son Tom, and my good friend, Jimmy, re­ally stands out.

No grouse

It started rel­a­tively well, not that there were any grouse, but there was an aged but still ac­tive English pointer. It quar­tered through the rank heather in the ap­proved man­ner with its equally aged han­dler. The boy, who was only about 13 at the time, strug­gled man­fully on though the heather was thigh high in places. Even­tu­ally the old dog did come to point and a covey of eight grouse broke to me. I killed one and un­ac­count­ably missed with the sec­ond bar­rel, but at least there was a bird in the bag.

Then the prob­lems started, for the owner of the pointer an­nounced that his dog had had a nice run, and that he had other places to be. This left us with a young dog of mys­te­ri­ous pedi­gree, han­dled, in the broad­est pos­si­ble sense, by the young keeper. The dog proved to be able to run and had a half-de­cent nose; its fail­ing was, how­ever, a rather crit­i­cal one.

Any­one who has ever shot over a pointer that does not point knows the ul­ti­mate def­i­ni­tion of frus­tra­tion. Birds were found and flushed but rarely within a quar­ter of a mile of any­one with a gun, un­til thank­fully the dog ran it­self to a stand­still and col­lapsed in a heap.

At this stage the keeper loosed an over­weight Labrador that soon showed a sim­i­lar work­ing style by pick­ing up the line of an old cock grouse and tak­ing off, de­spite much shout­ing and whistling, to flush it 200 yards in front of the line.

This lat­est catastrophe brought things to a head and I sug­gested — though some wit­nesses consider it was more of an or­der — that the keeper

“Shoot­ing over a pointer that does not point is the def­i­ni­tion of frus­tra­tion”

put his dogs on leads and walk qui­etly be­tween us as the boy worked his lit­tle cocker and I ran my young but man­age­able Lab. We were a short line in a big piece of coun­try, but at least what we did find could be shot at.

In a few miles and pick­ing the best-look­ing habi­tat we shot a grouse each, avert­ing com­plete dis­as­ter and pro­vid­ing enough for a din­ner. The keeper car­ried the bag very com­pe­tently. SHOOT­ING TIMES & COUN­TRY MAG­A­ZINE • 97

A short line in a big piece of coun­try — helped or hin­dered by a va­ri­ety of dogs

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