ROUGH ROVERS: It’s Woodcock Weekend in Anglesey
The annual Woodcock Weekend is a highlight in the Rough Rovers calendar. Phil Moorsom explains the appeal and the ethos behind this type of shooting
It is only when December arrives that we grasp how quickly the season has gone and face the terrifying fact that, in spite of good intentions, we have not booked nearly enough shooting and time is running out to do something about it. This year, our calendar filled up very quickly and so we organised additional days post-Christmas for those who, for whatever reason, had not been able to plan their season appropriately. Commitments to work, family and life in general can easily divert us away from taking a day in the field, which is why I think it’s imperative to book one or two special days well in advance that are etched in stone into one’s diary.
For me, the highpoint of the season is our annual Woodcock Weekend. It is rather an exaggerated title for the weekend as, to be frank, it is more about conservation given the number of woodcock we have actually shot over the last five years. I am not keen on shooting this beautiful and (unfortunately) delicious game bird in any numbers. There are those I know who travel up to the west coast of Scotland for threeor four-day trips and shoot an excessive number of these wild birds, the majority of which have endured a gruelling migration across the North Sea. Over the two days that we shoot we limit ourselves to two or three woodcock per Gun and make sure the places we shoot offer varied shooting and the opportunity to see (and usually miss) a range of quarry.
To be honest, as with most days out shooting, it is more about the company than anything else. Our back-to-back days offer the chance to spend a couple of days with good friends reminiscing about previous trips and talking unashamedly about shooting over a glass of local ale or wine. Needless to say, we all have a great time and come away with great memories and some varied game for the pot.
This year, I chose Anglesey as the destination and placed our team in the hands of the capable and appropriately named Woodcock Bob, our guide for the duration of the trip. Both charismatic and knowledgeable, Bob was a Scotsman who had made his home in Betws-y-Coed securing shooting rights over large swathes of land both on the island and mainland. As this jolly is a regular feature of our season you would think we would learn from our mistakes. However, this year was to be no different and a case of first-night-itis was immediately diagnosed as soon as the team reached our hotel.
The relief after a long journey, the pleasure of seeing old friends plus the two days’ shooting ahead of us was a combination that assured the team were not having an early night, even though Bob had organised an early morning goose flight.
Luckily, the bar at the hotel ran out of beer and the majority of us had resisted the urge to visit the top shelf. We met our guide at 6am, made our introductions and after a short journey we set ourselves out and waited for the dawn and our quarry to arrive. It was a stunning, cold, clear and crisp morning and although we could hear the geese a few miles away on the estuary only a few of the team had some shooting. We came away with a brace of teal and a goose and then headed back to the hotel for a hearty breakfast.
After a frank chat with Woodcock Bob, we decided that we would head for the mainland given the low numbers of woodcock counted on the island. After a breathtakingly beautiful drive, we reached our destination just east of Betws-yCoed. We set off walking up some heather and bracken on the edge of the moorland where we saw plenty of snipe, a few teal tucked into splashes and a couple of last year’s pheasants that had drifted in from somewhere far away.
After a very successful morning, we stopped for lunch and we agreed the afternoon’s plan to walk-up a long section of marshland at the bottom of the valley. The conditions underfoot were challenging to say the least, and while we saw a good show of both woodcock and snipe, some of the team were struggling to get a shot off. As the marshland widened, we split the team and two of the Guns (both of whom had visited the top shelf the previous night) were posted out to the left with clear instructions to stop when they reached the bulrushes and come across to link up with the rest of the team.
When the rest of us reached the meeting point there was no sign of the other two Guns. Thinking they could only be in front of us we walked on and as we swung round a bend in the marsh we were greeted by the sight of two very wet, cross half-naked men.
Having not listened to a word of their instructions, they had ploughed on into the bulrushes and one Gun plunged into a sinkhole up to his chest. Gun, phone, car keys, cartridges and clothes were all soaked. The other Gun had stripped to his waist and carried all his equipment above his head to navigate his way out of the swamp. Needless to say, they received absolutely no sympathy and had to endure the final two miles of marsh in sodden gear.
At the end of the day, we had reached a very satisfying bag of 33 various species and had enjoyed another memorable and highly amusing day in the field.
Thankfully, Wendy, back at the hotel, had sent her husband off to get another barrel of beer for the bar and after a delicious meal out in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll we settled in for an early night in eager anticipation for what ‘Woodcock Bob’ had in store for us the next day.
‘Over the two days that we shoot we limit ourselves to two or three woodcock per Gun and make sure we offer the opportunity to see a range of quarry’
The first morning was a stunning, crisp, clear day Rough Rovers is a roving syndicate that was created to seek out and deliver some of the best shooting in the country, at a sensible price. To contact the organisers, visit www.roughrovers.co.uk or call...
The Rovers saw plenty of snipe in the areas of bracken and heather
The woodcock is a beautiful (and tasty) bird