A strange combination you might think and you would be right. However if you get a chance to combine these two events it is certainly not to be missed! Our grouse on Dufton Fell are getting increasingly wild and difficult to control so we decided to put some walk and stand day's in to try and catch them out. The grouse have learnt increasingly to fly out over the beaters, so walk and stand day's offer the chance to fool the grouse and combine walked up shooting on your turn to beat with driven shooting on your turn to stand. We priced the days at just £200 per gun and as usual it provided the chance at an affordable price for several guns to have their first experience on a grouse moor.
Dufton Fell is some place to start off grouse shooting being one of the highest driven fells rising to nearly 800m. This coupled with the very haggy terrain results in wild birds that hug the contours perhaps closer to Scottish moors in character than some of the moors in Yorkshire. It is also quite difficult walking over the hags and through the heather and levels of personal fitness soon get exposed when it is your turn to beat!
In the end we managed to assemble 17 guns from a mixture of local friends and guests from further afield including notably 2 guns from Luxembourg who game down from Pitlochry with Neil McGowan who owns and manages the excellent East Haugh Hotel where I often stop on the way north to invariably have deers liver for lunch. Paul Chambers also came up from the fens for his first poke at the grouse. The international cast was completed by the french in the form of Nico the somellier from Sharrow Bay an old friend.
We formed a red team and a black team by drawing cards. Frank Dargue our keeper along with a couple of helpers looked after all the drives and in conjunction with myself and Harry on one flank and Miranda and Colin on the other we endeavoured to flag the birds over the standing guns. I must say our much I enjoyed the day doing this. It is a lot more difficult than most guns imagine but extremely satisfying when you intervene at just the right moment.
The highlight of the day shooting wise was the third drive called"Lang Drive" because of the distances involved in beating it! However on Monday we had the advantage of the first East wind of the season which blew down and across it. This enabled us to keep the birds coming forward and to actually see how many birds we have in the drive. The birds over the standing guns were everything November grouse should be simply stunning. However the numbers of them were worrying as they came over in 100's we will certainly need to keep shooting even though our worm counts are still low.
After finishing this drive we stopped for lunch in a state of euphoria perhaps even slightly dazed by all the grouse we had seen. This feeling of needing to pinch oneself to get a reality check was completed by Nico rummaging in the trailer and into his rucksack and producing bottles of 1983 Clos de Marquis.He then proceeded to serve the wine. Does life get any better than having the best sommelier in the country serving wine of this quality in such fantastic surroundings?
Our bag was around 30 brace roughly half what I was hoping for, so perhaps the grouse won as normal. However our two friends from Luxembourg and Paul shot their first grouse and everybody had a special day to remember.