A second article on preparatory steps for an introduction to grouse shooting.
Warning: Driven grouse shooting is extremely difficult and potentially quite dangerous if safety protocols and common sense are not applied to the letter.
A variety of butts and safety sticks used on grouse moors.
Overcoming the nerves
If that is the case, then why is it the dream of most game bird hunters to try their hand at driven grouse shooting in Britain.
Nervous Guns will be conscious of what has been reinforced to them in the morning safety and conduct briefs. They will be fully aware of the close proximity of the Beaters, Pickers Up, Blockers and other shoot support staff as for the first time in driven shooting they engage driven birds with a horizontally held firearm. This army of helpers may be out of sight to the Gun but they will not be too far in front of the line of butts by the time the grouse lift to escape the forces driving them forward.
Then of course there are the adjacent butts in the shooting line. Great care must be taken by the Gun (and his Loader cum Safety Assistant) that the Gun does not “swing through” the shooting line with a horizontally held firearm when they are turning around to engage the fast-fleeting grouse behind the butts.
Setting Up & Safety Sticks
Upon entering the butt the Gun and Loader should take time to assess the ground to their front and rear to determine from where they think the birds may come, at what range they will see them first and then at what range they will try to take the first shot, leaving sufficient time for a second shot (and indeed hopefully a change of guns) before the covey is through the line.
After establishing their “mental range cards” the Gun and Loader should then survey their flanks to confirm the location and elevation (are they higher or lower than you) of the adjacent butts.
To ensure that neighboursing butts are not peppered with shot in the heat of the action, “safety sticks” also known colloquially on the moors as “spectacles” are placed on the front corners and sides of each butt.
Some moors use only a single stake at the front corners. It is preferable to use the type that has a front and rear stake connected with a cross-bar at just under shoulder height. This type of structure prevents the shotgun from ever being traversed through an arc that would include the left and right neighbouring butts
The correct positioning of the safety sticks is crucial and should be done with care and consideration of the Gun’s grouse shooting experience and their shooting style.
A Gun should firstly select their preferred shooting spot inside the butt and only then position the safety sticks. Once placed the safety sticks should “frame” the adjoining butts like a window pane.
Rehearsing the turn around prior to the first covey arriving is sage advice for all Guns – not just novices.
In the final article, we shall look at the shooting techniques including “double gunning” employed in driven grouse shooting.