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Game Shooting - Grouse over Pointers - By Laurence Elliott


(A day of walked up Grouse Shooting on the Isle of Lewis Sept 2011)

I started shooting a couple of years ago, mostly on driven shoots in Norfolk. This has allowed me to meet and enjoy the company of (mostly) far better shots than I and I have already made some firm and great friendships.The day I rate as my most enjoyable so far was a day's shooting over Hungarian Vizsla's on the Garynahine Estate, west of Stomonay on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland in mid September 2011.
This day was the highlight of a mixed sporting week on the Estate, we also spent an evening wildfowling on the estuary near Stomonay airport but that's another (muddy) story.

(A day of walked up Grouse Shooting on the Isle of Lewis Sept 2011)

I started shooting a couple of years ago, mostly on driven shoots in Norfolk. This has allowed me to meet and enjoy the company of (mostly) far better shots than I and I have already made some firm and great friendships.
The day I rate as my most enjoyable so far was a day's shooting over Hungarian Vizsla's on the Garynahine Estate, west of Stomonay on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland in mid September 2011.
This day was the highlight of a mixed sporting week on the Estate, we also spent an evening wildfowling on the estuary near Stomonay airport but that's another (muddy) story.
There was a group of 6 making up our party, Charles, Pete and I flying up from London via Glasgow, the other 3 guns would drive up from Edinburgh.
It was the first time I had taken my gun on an airplane and it proved to be a lengthy and somewhat costly exercise. All went well until our arrival at Stomonay airport where my gun (a Ceasar Guerin 12g o/u) failed to materialise - it was still in Glasgow having missed the connecting flight.
I was a little bemused by the airlines suggestion that one of their staff would pick up my gun on it's arrival and drop it off at Garynahine Lodge on his way home!
The party soon settled into some excellent if not challenging salmon fishing, in anticipation of the main event of a day's walked up shooting.
The headkeeper at Garynahine, Donnie, had made the arrangements with Russell Hird, of R J Hird Sporting Agency and what an experience it turned out to be. My first taste of shooting over pointers was a day I'll never forget.
Although the day was mostly blustery, wet and cold, the guns were very keen and full of anticipation.
The pleasure of seeing the Vizsla's quarter the ground and of walking considerable distances in isolated and splendid Highland scenery, not to mention the 8 brace of grouse between us, all added up to a superb day.
Russell was working 3 Hungarian Vizsla's, beautiful lean dogs, a golden amber in colour with intelligent liquid amber eyes.
We set off early across the moor travelling as light as possible with only a handful of cartridges in our pockets. Two of the dogs worked at any one time. The third was a young dog, mainly there to build her experience, a bit like me really.
It wasn't long before the dogs caught a scent and were "on point", standing perfectly still, rigid and alert in the classic pointer pose. Russell called for two guns to walk forward with him, spreading out in a semi circle but taking care not to get ahead of the dogs. The other guns were to hold back watching events unfold with the younger dog, there turn would come later.
I moved forward with Pete not knowing what to expect or how many Grouse or Snipe were ahead, maybe a covey or a solitary bird. Our guns at the ready, Russell sent the dogs forward and one grouse flushed breaking fast and low, rapidly accelerating. It broke in Pete's direction, he was on the right hand side of the semi circle. Pete fired but missed, I also shot a fraction later. I realised I had hit the bird, then it was down. A second grouse flushed, I swung the gun and fired but missed.

Dog on point as a grouse breaks cover

"Dog on point as a grouse breaks cover"

It was on reflection, a shot I should not have taken as the bird was low and not too far away from Peter. I apologised profusely and promised to do better next time.
The shot bird was retrieved and went into Russell's game bag. Russell was, I noted, impeccably and suitably dressed. His light brown keeper's jacket seemed perfect camouflage for the "flow" over which we walked.
Next up were Nigel and Eric, I had to admire on many occasions the way in which the dogs could pick up a scent on the wind in such a vast area and the control which Russell displayed over his dogs.             
Here and there a single snipe - which went off like a rocket and which Eric shot expertly - on one occasion a covey of 8 to 10 grouse, I wished I had been forward that time!
Our bag mounted steadily as the morning passed. We were moving out from the lodge in a wide arc, the plan was to sweep back to the lodge for lunch and then range over the top part of the Estate in the afternoon.
The walking was hard going , underfoot was often boggy; a mixture of  peat bog, grass, rock and heather.

The walking was hard goin

"The walking was hard goin"

When the dogs went on point, two guns had to move forward as quickly as possible to be ready for the flush, which could come sooner than expected.
I accounted for 1 1/2 brace that morning. It was a really exciting morning for all the guns, each being concerned to ensure their fellow guns enjoyed their day.
We all had to keep up over very testing ground, unsure of what the dogs may flush. It seemed to me however, that the dog's excitement, posture and demeanour was more intense when faced with a covey of grouse rather than a solitary snipe. I guess the scent being so much stronger was raising their excitement levels.

Charles, although as usual shooting very well with his Francis side by side, had stumbled and fallen that morning and had aggravated an old shoulder injury. As the rain moved in at lunch time he and Peter decided that their sport had been so good that morning that a warm peat fire and a whisky was a good option, so they left the field to the rest of us for the afternoon.
Although the rain worsened, the day just got better and better. The dogs were on point roughly every 20 minutes, sometimes less. We were all commenting on how exciting it was to watch the dogs working just as much as the actual sport they were providing for us.
We enjoyed some first class sport in a fabulous wild setting at a very reasonable cost, and enjoyed our 8 brace of grouse for dinner later that week.
It was a day I count as my most memorable so far. The chance to hunt a truly wild bird in such spectacular scenery, provided by such talented and hard working dogs equals the thrill of catching a fresh run wild salmon in a Highland river and is an experience I am keen to repeat, hopefully without the airline mislaying my gun next time!


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