Q: This season I have decided to shoot more grouse days and I would like some advice on the best way to prepare for those heady days on the moors. Should I shoot lots of clays?
A: It is so nice to hear that you, along with many others, are getting into grouse shooting again. The last five or six grouse shooting seasons have been excellent. This is mainly due to good management and good investment by the shoot owners, meaning the moors have become much more reliable and the stocks of grouse are there to shoot. Because of this, many more people can plan their diaries better and put those grouse days in ink not pencil. I used to think my best and most enjoyable sport in the season was high pheasants, but having done it more over the past five seasons, I can now say that nothing beats shooting grouse.
Staying safe on the grouse moor
It is, however, so important that you do go up to the moors ready and prepared for grouse shooting. First and most important is to tackle safety head on. As we all know, when you shoot grouse, being safe is critical to the enjoyment of the day for you and your fellow shooters. (Ed. As it is with all forms of shooting). When you go to a shooting ground and you start shooting clays at head height and lower, you will soon realise how low the barrels are when in the ready position. So complete control and awareness are essential. Most butts on grouse moors will have safety brackets to stop you swinging through the line, but these are a last resort. It’s up to you to ensure you are completely safe on that moor.
I can’t stress this enough.
Do as much as you can at a clay shooting ground
Once you are sure you are safe, you need to be prepared for the speed, variety, and how the grouse fly at you. And the only way you can get ready for this is to do as much as you can at a clay shooting ground. It is so important the ground you choose has a good grouse butt with the option to use proper grouse butt sticks. This will help you get into the feel of shooting the real thing. Many grounds have the classic driven and crossing grouse targets and it is crucial to get these right and make sure you become confident with the shots. Some shooting schools have a grouse sequence with a similar flow to a real drive; practising on such a set-up is a great way to improve your skills, so do ask if it is available.
Lastly, make sure you ask to train on the back bird. This is when you turn to shoot the bird going away and is the hardest of all grouse shots. But if you perfect it you will double both your enjoyment and the size of your bag.
Thank you to Edward Watson for this expert answer. He is a former instructor at the West London Shooting School and is now a freelance shooting consultant.