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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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

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