tips

Tips & Advice

Grouse Shooting – Etiquette and Safety

Equipment

• Normal game shooting dress

• Dark shirt, no bright colours

• Wellington boots or hiking boots with gaiters

• Grouse marker (optional)

• Thumbstick or walking stick – to aid walking and to mark position of flanking line

• Grouse sticks (provided by the estate usually)

• Correctly fitting gun and slip

• Shooting glasses – essential safety kit on a grouse moor

• Waterproofs

• Mosquito repellent or net

Cartridges

• Red grouse 29.5 gram 6.5 shot

• Hellfire 30 gram 6 shot

Payments

• 50 brace day – Keeper tip £40 plus if you personally have had a good day

• Loader – payment (not a tip) £70 plus

Butts

Butts can be constructed from stone, timber, peat or they can just be timber fences or stands. Most have a peat capping for placing your sticks in (sometimes a degree of improvisation is required). Timber butts often have brackets to accept the grouse sticks. You must still check that they are set safely in this case.Butts can be set at chest level deep or be totally above ground or somewhere in between

Safety

Setting sticks – your responsibility, not loaders or instructors.

Sticks only work when you are shooting from the position you were in when you set the sticks – stay at the front of the butt when shooting behind. Acknowledge neighbouring guns on arrival at the butt – the drive is live when all guns are in their butts – check that the pickers up are in position before you start shooting out of the back.

At the sounding of the first horn, stop shooting in front, you can only shoot out of the back of the butts behind the line – acknowledge that you have heard the horn to your neighbours by waving your gun in the air. Stop shooting before the horn is sounded if you can see the beating line and think that they may be within range. At the sounding of the second horn the drive is over.

If you are in butts 1, 2, 8 or 9, acknowledge to the flanking line that you know where they are and set your sticks accordingly. You must be aware at all times where the flanking line is, they will almost certainly move during the drive, possibly in front of the 2 end butts. Positioning a thumbstick inside your grouse sticks is a quick way of marking their position. If it is safe, you may shoot behind the flanking line, if in any doubt, do not shoot.

Mark your birds – use a grouse marker or another method using cartridge cases indicating angle and distance from the butt. This will help the pickers up enormously – grouse are hard to pick in the heather. Assist them if you can.

Grouse

Grouse will fly as singletons or as packs. Generally they will keep low following the contours of the ground. It is perfectly acceptable to shoot a bird a foot above the heather. Depending upon the topography of the grouse butt line, you will often be shooting birds against a background of heather or even below your feet, especially out of the back. On some drives, grouse will be driven high over the butts – partridge type shots but quicker. Occasionally birds will fly the wrong way through the line if disturbed by pickers up. Be especially aware of safety when shooting these birds as your sticks will not be set up correctly for them.

Do not shoot black game (grey hen). They are protected and the estate will normally levy a fine. Tend to have a slower wingbeat.

Shooting Technique

Keep still – grouse in November have learnt where the butts are. Any movement and they will turn away very quickly.

Shoot early. You should be engaging the bird at about 60 yards from a low barrel position.40% of grouse are shot out of the back of the butt. Good footwork is essential to get on these birds quickly. Keep to the front of the butt. Do not take your eyes off the bird but watch it through the line and then attack the grouse and shoot instinctively as the gun locks into your shoulder.

Gun mount – smooth and accurate, leading with the front hand ensure the gun hits your cheek first and bend from the hips to ensure the gun locks into the shoulder pocket correctly.

Pick a bird from the pack and commit to it. Watch it fall before moving on to the next bird. Ideally with a pack, shoot two out in front and another two out of the back!