NOTES FROM IRELAND:
As is often stressed within these pages, shooting is about so much more than what ends up in the bag; Rupert illustrates the point perfectly on a walked-up grouse trip with some friends
Success on a walked-up grouse trip
It’s the last day of the grouse season and I’ve decided to drag my lazy butt from the comfort of a warm duvet. While travelling back from Scotland last October we happened across some Northern Irish lads in the bar on the ferry. Where else would two groups of Irish shooters meet, I hear you ask? Anyway, to cut a long story short, two of these very same lads are down for a day’s grouse shooting. An hour or so later I go to pick up Darren and Barry from a local service station, a four-hour journey having done little to dampen their enthusiasm.
As those of you that partake in ‘purple madness’ will know, the first climb is always the worst. Your heart starts to race as your breathing increases… and this is supposed to be good for you! I must admit I’m always amused watching people of different abilities here. Some will climb steadily with a confidence born from familiarity; these guys will set a pace that those of lesser ability, or lower fitness levels, will find hard to follow. Instead of taking a break like I do, and as many as I may need, they try and keep pace with the mountain goats among us, resulting in near collapse by the time the first peak is negotiated.
As the lads climb steadily higher I swing to the right slightly, previous experience telling me that this course of action will provide a far easier route. Reaching the nearest brow I immediately spot two birds standing to attention on an old weathered boulder some 50 yards away. Within milliseconds they take to the air, to be quickly followed by five more from the heather nearby.
More in hope than expectation I release a single shot, which merely serves to hasten them on their way. It is very rare that one spies a grouse on the ground in Ireland, unlike their Scottish cousins which can often be spotted running ahead before being flushed. Moments later I miss a snipe that comes rapidly downhill, having been flushed no doubt by the boys above.
We meet up again minutes later and forge relentlessly onwards. The heather in places is waist high and extremely hard to negotiate. Cookie, my wee springer, not being used to such unforgiving terrain, is now lying down trying to catch her breath. She covered every inch of the first peak at breakneck speed – in typical springer fashion – and is now paying for her enthusiasm. In contrast, Seamus’s English setter floats over the surrounding heather as if born to such surrounds.
Just as we enter an area of young heather, a single bird rises, to be quickly despatched by Darren at the first time of asking. Time for a quick brew and a chance to take in the magnificent views all around.
Darren has the bit between his teeth now as he forges ahead at a fair auld pace. We travel less than a couple of hundred yards before his springers flush a bird way out in front. Just as it is about to disappear over a small brow some 60 yards away, Darren pulls it from the air with a terrific shot. We’re going to have to watch this guy or else he’s going to wipe our eye, every time.
Willie connects with a snipe that screeches away from a wee boggy area moments later. As the mist starts to descend small numbers of birds start to lift in front and well out of range. Darren, with his confidence sky high, chances his luck at a really long bird with no success, or so we think. Watching the aforementioned grouse traverse a nearby plantation some 300 yards away it suddenly falls from the sky. After much searching, with everybody soaked to the skin, we give up and decide to call it a day, the only problem being that the vehicles are some four miles away.
‘Just as we enter an area of young heather, a single bird rises, to be quickly despatched by Darren at the first time of asking’
Finally, and I mean finally, we reach our vehicles, some quicker than others. We meander our way down to a nearby village, before dismounting once again at the local hostelry for a few pints of the black stuff. The two Northern boys decide to change clothes in the lounge while we go into the bar. The bar lady, not knowing the lads are derobing, proceeds to walk in on them, much to my amusement.
Darren is on a roll now, deciding to take on yours truly at a game of pool. Two games later and I’m 2-0 down, his smile increasing with every ball. He and his uncle Barry decide it’s time to make tracks home, but I’m having none of it. Half an hour later I’m 3-2 ahead; Darren’s smile is gone, but now Barry is wearing a large grin, and so am I.
Before the lads depart, some of the locals who have never seen a grouse are anxious to cast their eye over one. Barry duly obliges by retrieving one from the jeep. No matter where you are in these changing times it’s always good to interact with the locals, show them that we are enjoying our sport, tell them what we’re trying to achieve and above all have a bit of banter with them. This all helps in spreading the word that shooters are trying, like most, to preserve and indeed enhance what surrounds us.
So, thanks Barry and Darren for coming to experience a day with your neighbours down south. Days such as these are great building days – not only are you enjoying your sport with shooters from outside your usual group, but you’re also gaining information and ideas which are helpful in moving forward.
On a lighter note, I’m very glad I won the pool contest, because if Darren had won, coupled with his shooting prowess, it’s highly unlikely his head would have fitted through the Jeep door!
A good day was had by all, man and dog
The last day of the grouse season and the prospect of shooting with friends was enough to draw Rupert ouside
Darren puts on an impressive display of shooting
A welcome pint at the end of the day