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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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

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