Getting to grips with grouse
Improve your success rate, with Simon Ward's top 10 tips.
I would always recommend a few pre-season training sessions at a shooting school, ideally with an instructor who has spent time on the moor and can relay information from experience.
Train on low incoming/crossing birds in front of the butt. It is also very important to ask for some quartering, low going away birds to resemble shooting out the back of the butt.
As daft as it sounds, the bolting rabbit stands are also excellent for grouse training as you get used to taking safe low shots against a dark background.
2. Double gunning
If you are fortunate enough to be shooting on a double gun day on the moor, a bit of pre-season training with a loader at the shooting school will help get your rhythm and timing going for the main event.
Once in the butt, use your fieldcraft skills and work out wind direction and locate obstacles regarding safety. You should be in no doubt as to your safe angles of fire.
Anticipate which angles your grouse may arrive from. Visually read the lie of the land, and if you are positioned at the end of the line, check where the flanker is positioned. He will most likely wave his flag in your direction to let you know he’s there!
I would recommend using the following:
• Guns and suitable ammunition for your intended quarry (12, 16, 20 or 28 bore and 28–30gram no. 6 or no. 7 shot)
• Choke: ¼ and ½ or ½ and ½
• Shot-proof safety glasses (and a spare pair) – I use Oakley Persimmon, orange-tinted
• Hearing protection
• Lightweight waterproofs
• Walking boots
• Hat/cap plus a spare
• Butt marker
• Clicker for counting
• Shooting gloves
5. Judging range
If both time and the horizon permits, pace out 50 yards in front of your butt, so if and when your grouse appear, you’ll know when you should start opening up on them.
Within reason, shooting earlier rather than later will give you a much greater success rate. And if shooting with a pair of guns and loader, by being bold and taking your chances early enough, you will get the second gun back in your hands in good time. This in turn reduces the stress factor and improves your chances.
Remember, incoming grouse will be much more vulnerable to your pattern of shot if you take your shots early. The later you leave them, the more your lovely open pattern starts to shrink – very quickly reducing your chances of success or rendering the grouse unfit for the table.
6. Shooting behind the line
Many grouse Shots tend to be fairly effective in front if they have good timing and their gun pointing is true. But shooting consistently once the grouse have passed through the line of butts can be a very different story.
So the key to success begins with your barrels pointing skyward, then moving your feet round into position as swiftly as possible, whilst maintaining balance.
Get your gun-hold position ready, barrels just under the anticipated line of the bird’s flight path, and the butt under your armpit.
As the grouse arrives in line with your point (using your lead arm), mount to where it’s heading and pull the trigger as you complete the mount of your gun. Keep your eyes glued on your chosen grouse.
Where most people fail is as they turn to shoot behind and make the mistake of taking their eyes off the bird, waiting with their barrels still pointing in the sky as the grouse tear through the line. By doing this you lose valuable yards of time and by the time you mount and shoot, the grouse are nearly out of range.
7. Gun mount
Practising your gun mount and gun pointing before you go shooting is a must.
If you take the time to do this with a pair of snap caps and practice a routine sequence of visualised shots both in front of your imaginary butt and also behind the butt, you will create the all-important muscle memory for taking shots at these angles.
8. Grouse at home
In the comfort of your own home, you can practise not only gun mount training but also allowing your lead arm to do the pointing, and pulling the trigger when you have completed the mount into your cheek and shoulder.
9. Moving gun
Keep your cheek glued to the stock throughout the shot, until you see the bird start to fall.
10. Safety comes first – always
Driven grouse shooting is arguably the most dangerous of shooting sports. In no other form of driven game shooting are shots taken at such low trajectories. Therefore, swinging a gun through the line can have calamitous consequences. Most moors provide butt sticks – make sure you get them in place before the drive starts so that you cannot shoot in an unsafe direction.