So far in the previous posts we have looked at equipment requirements and preparation including gun and cartridge selection. We have also emphasised the need for increased awareness of all aspects of safety in particular the use of safety sticks to protect those occupying adjacent butts. Now let’s look at how we go about shooting grouse.
When shooting Grouse it is highly likely that there will be a requirement to shoot with “double guns”. That means having two guns – hopefully a lovely matched or composed pair or at the very least, similar style guns in the same calibre.
Rehearsing the “reload – change guns” action is critical to safety and movement efficiency in the butt when the action starts.
Both the Gun and their Loader must be totally confident in when and how the shotguns will be transferred between each other.
For a right-handed shooter, after firing both barrels the Gun will bring the shotgun to the vertical (barrels up) and pass it rearward with their right hand. At the same time, they will position their left arm across their body in readiness to receive the re-loaded shotgun.
The Loader will accept the fired shotgun while simultaneously “delivering” the loaded shotgun into the Gun’s left hand. The shotgun is placed into the Gun’s waiting open hand with force – not just waived about. It is the force of the delivery that ensures the Gun will have a solid grip of the shotgun as it is brought up to the shoulder – much the same as a hard hit cricket ball “sticks” in a slip fielder’s hand or a baseball player’s glove.
Double gun coaching is readily available through most shooting schools and many times the coach can be made available to act as your Loader on the moors, if Loaders are not supplied by the Estate or your host. Both are good options as the Estate loaders will usually be quite experienced and they will know the drives that are going to be shot and the setup of the individual butts.
Either way, “dry rehearsals” prior to getting to the butts and then in the butt will only benefit your shooting and the smooth running of the day.
For the novice grouse shooters, it is not usual to be shooting low flying birds head on. In other forms of driven shooting we like to take them at about 45 degrees to the horizon to maximise safety for the advancing beaters.
Coaching advice often given is to pick an obvious spot around 60 yards in front of your butt on a path that you think the birds will approach from.
As the covey reaches that point, begin your gun mount and try to concentrate on one single bird. This may be difficult to do at first as most novices are understandably mesmerised by their first view of the fast flying covey racing towards them.
- Do not point at the centre of the covey and pull the trigger. You will be shooting where they were and not where they are going to be in the nano-second it takes for you to complete your firing sequence and the shot to arrive in the target area.
- Do not hesitate – pick your bird and let your natural shooting instincts take over. Squeeze the trigger as soon as you feel confident of the shot. Follow up with the second barrel.
- Remember to lift your gun to the near vertical as you swing through the line to then engage the covey from the rear of the butt. Keep you head glued to the stock when in the mount position.
Changing from Front to Rear
When the Beaters reach the “danger close” area in front of the butts, a signal will sound informing Guns that they can no longer shoot in front. They can however continue to engage birds from the rear of the butt.
Most Guns like to turn about and face the rear with their heads inclined slightly back towards the front to allow their peripheral vision to pick up the next covey as they sweep through the line.
A quick but fluent gun mount and then shooting without hesitation seems to work well for most.
Drive Wrap Up
For safety purposes, no one is to leave their butt until the final signal to end the drive is given.
Hopefully between them the Gun and Loader have a reasonably good idea of the number of birds they accounted for and their general location. This will greatly assist the picking up team thereby reducing the amount of time taken to clear up before moving off to the next drive. Time is a critical factor during grouse shooting. The days are short and the weather often inclement and sometime down right nasty.
Seize the day that this wonderful sporting experience affords you.
We all know that prior preparation helps prevent poor shooting performance. It also builds a Gun’s confidence no end.
Being armed with the appropriate kit, a good knowledge of how the day will be run, and most importantly, how to work in with your loader, will ensure you have a good day in the field.
The only thing left to do then is concentrate on the grouse – one at a time. Good shooting!