Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Highs and Lows of Running a Grouse Moor

With this seasons weather continuing its inclement course having an interest in one of the highest driven grouse fells in the UK can be a very mixed pleasure. Having counted our grouse in late July and discovered record numbers for our fell, anticipation and excitement have known no bounds. Sadly this was tempered when Frank our keeper informed us of some damage to our 4 mile long track up the fell caused by the heavy rains in early August. Probably a result of the day when 62mls of rain were recorded at Warcop. However a trip to assess the damage and see if we could get through for a day over pointers on the first saturday of the season revealed that it was far from a large disaster and a couple of days with a digger have sorted it out.

The day over pointers was great fun though frustrating in the morning when the cold weather and strong winds made the grouse very skittish and reluctant to stay on point. We were very privileged to be shooting over Colin Organs pointers and setters and it was fascinating to watch the skills of the dogs and their handler in these adverse conditions. Thankfully the sun did come out in the late morning and the sport improved. Lunch was taken al fresco outside the hut around a large table at 2,400 ft and I think was something of a surprise to a group of walkers who stumbled upon us. The afternoon was superb and though we did an area of the fell which had the least grouse on according to our counts there were still plenty of grouse. The day finished with 17 brace of grouse and we were able to enjoy the first young grouse of the season for dinner that night.

Our first driven day on the last saturday in August took place in perfect clear conditions with a useful wind from the south. Unfortunately I could not shoot but I invited four guests all old friends to represent me. I did manage to entertain them the night before when we had almost by chance the most stunning meal. Adrian had brought with him from Aberfeldy some young red deer liver that we served lightly cooked as a warm salad with a magnum of Jean Grivots 2000 Vosne Romanee. Several guests had never had deer liver before and what an introduction! This was followed by a large saddle of lamb from Ewbanks carved from the trolley which we shared with another large shooting party to get the 20 people you need to put one on. The lamb was so sweet and tender with a just wonderful flavour that fully maintained the reputation of our local lamb. We washed this down with magnums of 2000 Haut Pontet, St Emillion, Grands Crus to complete a most memorable meal. My guests enjoyed an equally good day on the moor. However when I caught up with them in the evening there were sheepish grins and much talk of strong winds and October like grouse and how difficult grouse are on the high fell! Some gentle probing revealed a bag of some 33 brace at what they thought was a cartridge ratio of about 4 to 1.I must confess I was a bit crestfallen as I was hoping for a bag double this. A chat with Frank in the morning over coffee got to the nitty gritty. The guns had had just short of 400 shots a ratio of 6 to 1 and he had seen plenty of grouse. Our long third drive had been into the wind and this early on in the season they had not been able to get the birds to the guns. I finished the conversation much happier that we had got sufficient grouse for the shooting season that we have got planned

Grouse Shooting in Cumbria

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