Fantastic day on the grouse moors. Being late in the season the grouse were very jumpy, this made for some challenging shooting. The grouse got up quickly, at distance and flew fast. We mainly walked them up, but also did 3 drives. 20 brace at the end of the day between 7 guns. Cracking day!
Every year we make an annual pilgrimage to the grouse moors in Northern England. A small team of friends walking in a line across the sea of pink heather. It's a beautiful place, that has to be seen to appreciate. Most of the worlds heather moorland occurs in the UK and in August the heather is in flower, blanketing the landscape.
We meet the night before to enjoy a few beers, a meal and banter between friends. You need a good feed, as the day on the moors requires miles of walking, across some pretty testing ground. The heather itself gets tiring when walking over for it hours, combined with long grass, occasional bracken and streams. So the grouse are hard earned.
We don't shoot many. This year the 8 guns shot 37 grouse, but this is more than enough for us and we all get a brace for the table.
We walked most of the grouse up, but we did do 2 mini drives, from the butts. On this day the wind was up, making the grouse fast and challenging to shoot. The grouse often taking on the wind speed as they fly. During the 2 mini drives, the grouse were driven with the wind and towards us. They literally come over you like little missiles. With a 20 mph wind they are probably flying at speeds of 70-80+ mph as they flash over the top of you, 10-50ft high. Too difficult for most of the guns, who find them too challenging and fast to shoot.
When we walk up the grouse, we try to walk slowly in an evenly spaced line across the moors. Every so often a covey of grouse will lift and rocket away from us in a variety of directions. Sometimes a bird or two will lift, other times a covey of 20 or more. You have no idea when, where or how many will rise from the heather. It's this unknown and the anticipation that makes the experience so exciting.
On this particular moor we saw plenty of black grouse, which was wonderful to see. There is a volentary ban on shooting Black Grouse on most moors, due to their declining numbers and so we are very careful to ensure that we don't shoot them and we haven't made a mistake to date.
By the end of the day, you feel worn out from a long days walking and we all have a few birds to take home for the table. It's a rare and special experience to us all. The beautiful pink heather moorlands and the amazing Red Grouse are a truly wonderful and very unique to Britain. I feel very privilaged that I get to experience doing this once a year. And enjoy the opportunty to be able to cook and eat one of our wonderful wild game birds.
I will try to include a grouse cooking blog. My wife makes a beautiful plum sauce for them.
Grouse Shooting Ben Rhinnes Scotland. Stunning weather and views! We shot 8 brace. We stayed in Findhorn that evening which is the most beautiful place. 2 pubs on a sand estuary. The seals were feeding off Salmon in the sea in front of the pub. People were wild camping on the opposite beach, against a pine covered horizon. We swapped 1/2 of the Grouse for beer in the pub that night.
Grouse Shooting over pointers in Scotland. It's doesn't get much wilder or remote than this.
We've shot with Dick Bartlett several times. Dick has got a few moors on and around Ben Rhinnes overlooking the Moray Firth.
To me this is as wild as it gets. Often just you, a close friend and the dog handler. You get amazing views and a true sense of isolation. At times you are at significant altitude.
It involves a significant amount of walking. You never know where the grouse will be be, how many will be flushed or what direction they will fly.
If the wind is up the grouse fly faster than anything you can imagine.
The hills in August are covered in a blanket of pink heather for as far as you can see. It's such a beautiful place and experience!
When the dog points, you need to get to it as fast as you can or the grouse will run. You slowly walk forwards, one of you either side of the pointer. Full of anticipation, never knowing how many grouse will jump up, from the short pink heather. You cannot understand how they can hide from you, when the heather is so short. But you cannot see them.
Sudden they call, the covey lifts and accelerate away at crazy speeds. You lift the gun with instinct, pick out a grouse and have a go. It really is very exciting.
It can be hard work, but well worth the effort.
Beautiful birds and very very fast. These were shot by us walking up a small family owned more in Co Durham, Nr Barnard Castle. I find the Northern England Grouse taste a lot stronger than the Scotish Grouse. I guess this is because they predominently feed off of heather flowers. Where as when I have shot grouse in the Scottish Highlands, there crops are full of Blaeberries, Cloudberries and Juniper etc. This gives them a very unique and sweet taste.
Roy has the most amazing dogs. They cover miles of ground. Its amazing to watch them work! When they find a covey of grouse they point. You have to then get to them fast, or they will go. This often requires semi jogging up the mountain. Sometimes for 400-600 yards. By the time you get there you are panting. You then walk past the dog, one each side of it. Suddenly the grouse take off and I mean take off! They can do 65+ mph and much faster in the wind! Really challenging sport!