Driven grouse - all you need to know

Uploaded by fieldsportschannel on 26.09.2012

There is winged game and then there is winged game. And then there is driven grouse - it
is expensive - it is exclusive but with good reason. Thousands of man hours go into creating
a habitat that will allow these ground nesting Stinger missiles to flourish. And someone
has to pay for it.
Today we join a family-and-friend-day shoot in Yorkshire. We are on Bransdale moor and
are guests of the Wilkinson family. Their estate and their shoot is managed by William
Powell Sporting.
Because we are involved 365 days a year at Bransdale and on our other moors we therefore
have such a tremendous involvement we make sure that every single day does live up to
its expectations.
Mark Osborne from William Powell is the man who will be guiding us through the day - explaining
the dos and the don'ts, butt ettiquette - no tittering in the back row - and why grouse
is flying royalty.
They are really the most extraordinary birds. You get grouse mid September probably as soon
as they see you lift your gun and they flare away up so that where you have shot is not
where the grouse are. Really amazing, an amazing bird. Marvellous.
Before a hard day's shooting there is a hearty breakfast to be had at the recently refurbished
Stoney Woods Manor. This amazing building has been fitted out in preparation for shooting
parties to come and have a ball... on the moor and off it.
There are nine bedrooms with day rooms and dining rooms all with spectacular views across
the great British countryside.
The moor itself is a 25 minute drive away - delving deeper into an uninterrupted moorland
landscape. It truly is a privilege to be here.
There are nine guns today and five drives where the birds come at you at eye level,
so there's safety. There are people everywhere. For this first one we're letting Mark get
his eye in before we start badgering him about how one does things.
Mark shoots four birds - the end of the line does not often deliver the best shooting but
he has done well. Dogs and beaters make sure that all the grouse on the ground are accounted
The second drive is a bit more exposed and we should be able to see the birds coming
at us from a distance. Mark is now in butt three.
Mark has a chance to talk us through the set up... the action can be fast and furious.
Safety is the number one concern.
The first thing I do is to look around me to see the topography, the line of the butts
on either side and the good shooting angle in front of me and then behind. The gun comes
out of the sling we put the gun in front of the butt with 2 cartridges in the gun so that
we are ready, because we are live at any time everybody is in their butts so we can shoot
whenever it is safe and the grouse are coming. We then get our butt sticks and our butt sticks
are positioned by the gun rather than by the loader and these are a frame that make sure
that we cannot shoot into the butts either side. So I look to see where a safe place
to shoot and it is to stop there so the butt stick has a window there which prevents us
from shooting through into the butt on that side. Then we take the other butt stick out
to do the same on the other side. We have got some flankers right up on the ridge there.
They are probably out of shoot, but just to be careful we will put a walking stick in
front so there is no chance of us peppering a fl
anker either. The flankers are flagmen running outside from the end butts, butt number one
and butt number eight on either end and they are to keep the grouse coming in as the drive
comes in.
Once the beaters get to a white marker in front of the guns a horn blows telling the
guns they can now only shoot birds behind - to the rear of the butt. The beaters can
then come right up to the guns.
A second horn means the end of the drive and the birds can be picked. The guns should also
use this disc to mark where the birds have fallen.
Time for a quick break... and an opportunity for us to speak to the man who is shouldering
a lot of the pressure today - the head game keeper. For him this shoot is the culmination
of not months but years of work.
This is the first big moor I have been a head keeper on. I have been the head keeper on
a small moor in Scotland. So coming here this is the first moor I can really put my mark
on and want to smash all records on Bransdale. The record is 4,200 brace for the season and
we would want to get it to 6. I would be very disappointed if we didn't get it to 6. And
also the day record although because it is a let moor getting a team that is willing
to pay for 500 brace of grouse could be quite difficult. So that maybe is not as realistic
a goal, but certainly the season record is the one we want to go for.
Do you love your job?
Yes, you have to. You wouldn't do it if you didn't.
Once fed and watered, there is more sport to be had. For this third drive, we join one
of the best game shots in the world. Simon Ward. Simon used to compete very successfully
on the clay circuit but now concentrates on teaching sporting guns how to deal with a
bird flying at just above ground level at 65mph.
So as we have him cornered, it would be rude not to ask him for a few pearls of wisdom.
First of all it would be safety and the second major tip would be learn to mount the gun
accurately on to a moving object. In this situation you have got grouse coming in at
eye level and if you tend to stand too upright and mount the gun with your head up in that
position like so you are looking at the grouse but the barrel will be beneath your eye. So
the idea is that with anything at your eye level or below you bring your head forwards
so your balance comes over your front foot and as you mount the gun on to the bird the
gun comes up to the cheek naturally and when it comes to crunch your lead eye, my left eye, is in effect the
back sight. If I stand too upright with my head up my eye will be in this position and
as a consequence I will be looking at the grouse up here and the barrel will be beneath
my eye so I will shoot low. So if you start with your head a little bit further forwards,
nose over your toes and then bring the gun up naturally to the eye, now the gun will
shoot where I look.
We don't get much shooting but what does fly past doesn't need a second barrel.
Lunch means a three-course meal in this wonderful carriage. Life is good and so is the food.
And so is the shooting - for the penultimate drive again we join Simon. This is the drive
we've been waiting for
With the weather cooling, the birds are flying really fast. Nothing gets past Simon.
I am sure you can see from the film it was all fairly exciting stuff and the grouse were
whizzing around left, right and centre and a few nice coveys coming through. We had to
pick the right bird and set ourself up for a left and right and one or two tricky ones
out the back. You have seen it in the flesh there. That is driven grouse shooting in all
its glory.
For the last drive, we are really pushing the boat out. There is a chance of using a
fourth barrel - sort of - Mark is shooting a pair of William Powell Zenith side-by-sides.
Why is it important to have good guns when you are grouseshooting?
To me it is lovely to shoot with a traditional gun, the side by side. The design of these
guns is based on Holland and Holland action and it hasn't changed for about 100 years.
So that actual design of that action is nearly 100 years old and Holland and Hollands are
still made today exactly like that and there is something really inherently wonderful about
shooting with that traditional gun in this very traditional environment.
If there were a place where these deserve an outing it is here and Mark believes that
a side by side is actually better suited to grouse.
When you are shooting high pheasants or partridges, having that tremendous balance of that over
and under which goes on a single plain and doesn't flick about is a great advantage.
When you are shooting a bird which is jinking right to left and backwards and forward like
a grouse will do, having a gun that you can put into your shoulder and move it very quickly,
a side by side is that gun and is probably an advantage.
With the odd covey coming through, the loader and guns are busy - and Mark is once again
having some sport. It has been a fabulous day and we have bagged 102 brace.
Grouse shooting is deep-seated in the fabric of this country. It is high octane sport,
that brings so many added benefits from conservation to cash for rural communities, and there is
a super social side whether you are gun or a beater.
If you want to book some grouse shooting or would just like to find out more about the
estates managed by William Powell, go to and if you want to turn up with a pair of
smart William Powell shotguns in the back of your car - prices start at £7,500 for
a pair of side by sides or £4,500 for a pair of over-and-unders. For more information go