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
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.
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