WALKED-UP: A day spent with the Rough Rovers proves why rough shooting can be so accessible
A good day’s walked-up shooting can be hard to beat. Rebecca Green joins the Rough Rovers to discover what makes this syndicate so successful
It goes without saying that most game shooters want to enjoy their sport, but the definition of what constitutes a good day can vary greatly. At one end of the spectrum you have those who want a lavish day with hundreds of birds, lunch in a castle and ‘all the trimmings’; at the other, you get the man and his dog who simply wish to amble along a hedgerow, shooting ‘for the pot’. Somewhere between the two you get the Rough Rovers – a syndicate offering exciting but sensibly priced walked-up and ‘mini driven’ shooting. I joined a small team of Guns in Warwickshire to find out more about this very accessible form of game shooting.
It is mid October. The venue for the day is the Compton Scorpion shoot on the Warwickshire/Gloucestershire border. The traditional rolling ground of the 2,000-acre estate offers some exciting partridge shooting, while its steep, scrubby banks present some high-quality pheasants. It’s an impressive venue, and not what I would have expected for a walked-up day with an expected bag of around 40 birds. As the team gathers in the yard for sausage baps and coffee, Rough Rovers’ founder Phil Moorsom explains the ethos of the syndicate and how it all started.
“About four years ago I went on a walked-up day over pointers, near Marlborough. I absolutely loved it and was keen to do something similar back home, but had real trouble finding anything like it, so I decided to
have a go myself. I set up the syndicate with just a few other like-minded people, with the aim of finding some of the best, well-priced walked-up shooting in the area, and things have just grown from there.”
Phil was fortunate to have a few good contacts to begin with and over the years the syndicate has earned itself a good reputation, allowing Phil to build up trust with shoot owners and keepers all over the South West, the Midlands and Wales and thus gain access to the sorts of high-quality estates a lot of shooters would only ever dream of.
“It takes time to build up trust like that,” says Phil, “and it wouldn’t work if the syndicate members didn’t completely buy into the concept of working as a team, so we all help to ensure new or inexperienced members are safe, aren’t greedy and generally enter into the spirit of things. I make sure that everybody knows the form and has the right expectations. Overall, our focus is very much on the enjoyment of the day for the whole team, including those beating and picking-up, and people that come along seem to enjoy our days.”
Today the team of six Guns, who have been involved pretty much from the start, are on a ‘mini driven’/walked-up day. The first mini drive of the day sees four Guns standing while a small team of beaters, laid on by the estate, pushes through a wood on the boundary of the estate. Part of the appeal of these days is that they give those who want to work their dogs a chance to do so in a genuinely stress-free environment. Members are welcome to work their dogs and beat, rather than shoot, and dog training days, where Guns can shoot over their own dogs with some expert instruction, are also available. So, on this drive the two other Guns, Mark (Robbo) and another Mark work their dogs up a hedgerow. This gives Robbo his first bird of the season – taken with his first shot – which is retrieved by his Lab, Major. You can’t ask for more than that!
There follows another mini drive, then a walk-up around a lake and through a wood – again, all on the boundaries of the estate. It is a pleasure to watch the dogs working so well and I’m certain the relaxed atmosphere benefits them, too – there is a distinct lack of the usual shouting and furious whistle-blowing that accompanies so many shoot days.
Elevenses, provided by the estate and the syndicate, is far more elaborate than I had expected. Yes, it’s taken outside, but that
Robbo and Major taking up a hedgerow Walked-up days often offer a mixture of terrains
The day is as much about the dogs as the Guns
Walked-up days benefit the estate too, says headkeeper Dan (second from left)