Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland


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Castle Gunmakers, Norham, Northumberland

Walked-up grouse in high heat

Many years ago, when I was a lot fitter than I am now, three shooting pals from the south invited me to join them for a walked-up grouse day on the Glorious Twelfth in the Glenshee area. My friends were great company but years of good living had left its mark and their belt buckles were certainly well away from their backbones!

Just walking up towards the grouse moor was taking its toll on some of them so the keeper and I decided that we would spend an hour or so walking up grouse with them and then leave them in a line whilst the two of us and our dogs tried to fashion a mini drive for them.

The purple heather shimmered in a heat haze as temperatures soared to Mediterranean levels and predictably the grouse were scarce and reluctant to fly with most coveys little more than cheepers. However, as is often the case with walked-up grouse, the day was more about being “on the hill” than making a big bag. After about two hours we left the “Three Musketeers” in the heather and set out on a flanking manoeuvre to try and produce a small drive for them.

I thought a shoot day couldn’t get much hotter (until I shot Bob White quail in South Texas which is another story!) and understandably the grouse didn’t want to move and those that did soon flopped in again, so halfway through the walked-up grouse day we decided to call it off. This was of course long before mobile phones and so we climbed to a high spot so that we could signal the Musketeers that our plan hadn’t worked. To our amusement we saw our line of three guns strip off and head for a deep pool and waterfall that disappeared down the steep banks of the burn.

“They’ll no be in there long” said the keeper to which I replied “No, I suppose it’s bloody cold”

“Just watch” he said

Out of the pool popped three round white blobs waving their arms and engaging in a strange dance.

“I went in that pool when I first came here”, said the keeper, “there’s an evil wee beastie of a black fly that stays there and it bites like hell!”

We rejoined my friends who were now dressed. They gave the pool a wide berth and looked like victims of a medieval plague with large red angry lumps appearing on their faces and elsewhere. The keeper and I couldn’t stop laughing, and showing little sympathy we returned to the lodge with two and a half brace of grouse. This made for a great tale at dinner and we soothed our friends’ ailments with good claret and malt whisky.

Walked-up grouse shooting memories are not always about the highest bird of the day or the size of the bag – both of which are soon forgotten – but of friendship, camaraderie and just being there!

View other articles by ‘Gramps’ here.

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