Here comes the glorious twelfth... the Grouse season is almost upon us! Grouse can fly at speeds of up to 80mph and require a great deal of skill to shoot. As a result they are one of most highly prized game birds! I'll guide you through some essentials for grouse shooting plus provide specialist recommendations from the Farlows shooting team, for your day on the moor!
The Grouse Shooting Season: 12th August – 10th December
Red grouse are unique to the uplands of Britain, with their natural habitat being heather moorland. Grouse are wild birds and are not artificially reared. Their survival is dependent on careful moorland management by moorland keepers, the skills often being passed down through generations. Management techniques such as heather burning and bracken control have many positive knock-on benefits to non-game species such as the Curlew and Lapwing, as well as shaping our beautiful uplands.
Grouse shooting comprises of two distinct forms – walked up and driven:
This is the less formal version of grouse shooting. Guns usually walk behind dogs (often pointers) with handlers - known as ‘shooting over dogs’- and shoot grouse as they are flushed away from the line. Generally a cheaper form of shooting than driven, costing roughly £70-£80 per brace with small bags. Tipping dog handlers and keepers is a must.
This is the pinnacle of grouse shooting and arguably the finest driven shooting in the world. Guns are stood in butts – depressions in the ground, often walled and camouflaged with heather and peat. Grouse are driven towards the gun line by a large team of flankers and beaters. Grouse fly fast and low, following the contours of the ground, providing extremely challenging and exciting shooting. The bags are larger than that of walked up with prices of £150-£170 per brace. Tipping depends on the day so it is always best to ask your host or fellow guns if unsure.
If you have been lucky enough to be invited grouse shooting, here are a few tips from the team at Farlows:
When it comes to clothing for the moor there are three important aspects that should be considered - comfort, protection and camouflage. Some of the best camouflage in the heather is in fact tweed – and at Farlows we stock a wide range of tweed shooting jackets. Our technical range includes; the Laksen and Schoffel tweeds. Each has waterproof and breathable membranes to protect you in any conditions. Another option for milder conditions would be a lightweight vest with bellow pockets for cartridges. If you wish to mix and match your outfit (often the case) then we would be pleased to advise you in store.
Bear in mind that you will be walking on some rough terrain, often wet or frozen. If the shooting is walked up we would recommend the Le Chameau Arran walking boots, more mobile than wellingtons and which can be combined with gaiters to protect from ticks, water and rough vegetation.
If the shooting is being done from a butt, standing on cold ground can often be uncomfortable, we would recommend either the insulated Le Chameau Vierzonord or Aigle Parcours ISO wellingtons as these boots combine the normal rubber outer with a thick layer of neoprene to keep your feet warm.
Farlows stock a wide range of traditional tweed flat caps – an essential item of clothing on the moor. Both Laksen and Schoffel have flat caps to match their shooting ranges.
A traditional early season Grouse load would be 28g 7’s ranging to heavier 30g 6’s later in the season when the birds are faster and fitter. For this we would recommend Eley VIP Game fibre wad cartridges.
Other Essential Equipment
- Ear Protection – A must have with any form of shooting. Farlows stock a range of over-ear headphones, and in-ear plugs.
- Shooting glasses – essential safety kit on a grouse moor
- Thumbstick or walking stick – to aid walking and to mark position of flanking line
- Mosquito repellent or net
Procedure and safety during the drive
- CHECK the position of the adjacent butts.
- ALWAYS use butt sticks to mark your arc of fire.
- ENSURE that your neighbouring butts are not within your arc of fire – adjust safety frames accordingly.
- CHECK the butt floor to ensure you have an even footing.
- ALWAYS acknowledge the position of the flankers with a wave and mark their progress during the drive.
- COMMUNICATE with your neighbouring guns if visibility is poor when the beaters/or flankers are approaching. WARN your neighbours if they are unaware.
- NEVER swing through the line, and always be aware that other butts in the line may be at a higher/lower elevation.
- ENSURE safety catches are on when guns are passed between loaders and guns.
- ALWAYS make sure that your gun is pointing away from other butts.
- NEVER fire in front when the beaters are within 150-200 meters of the guns. Generally there will be horn, after which guns may only shoot behind, away from the beaters. Horn should be acknowledged with a wave.
- NEVER leave the butt during a drive.
- MARK your birds carefully and remain in the vicinity of your butt after the drive is over until all your birds have been picked.
Delicious Grouse Recipe
Grouse is a delicious meat with that classic game flavour. There is nothing better than to respect the game you have shot with a well thought out recipe. Steve Parle’s recipe for roast grouse is simple and easy, however will not fail to impress the taste buds.
View the Telegraph grouse recipe »
Other good game recipes may be found on the BBC Good Food website.
We hope you have a good season!