Sunday, 22 August 2010

Walking a Fine Line

You'd hardly credit it. It's grouse season- our most important time of the year, financially speaking- and you've heard not a dicky-bird from me. And to make matters worse, I've no pics for you either.

The truth is that a day of driving grouse is pretty full-on.

My day starts by making sure I have all the gear I'll be needing- clean suit with clean shirt and tie, waterproofs, lunch, flag, stick, fully charged radio and spare batteries, horn, dogs, whistle, lead, fuel in the 'rover. And I also have to make sure my dogs have a chance to do their business before they go into the back. (You only forget this once.)

Then we all meet at the bothies and take the beaters (making sure nobody is left behind) to the lodge.

At the lodge a decision is made as to which part of the estate we are going to. Then all the keepers head off with all the beaters (making sure nobody is left behind) to that area. Once there, we walk out then line out for the first drive. This can involve a 2 mile walk.

Once the guns are in place we get the shout to start the drive. We'll march the beating line back to the butts- another 2 miles. As we go, we have to ensure the line is kept orientated correctly (according to wind direction and topography), that beaters keep their spacing and keep in line. We also have to watch our dogs to make sure they're behaving and warn flankers (they 'funnel' the grouse over the butts) of approaching grouse on the radio. And we have to make sure nobody is left behind.

Once we get to the butts, those of us with dogs spend as much time as we dare helping with picking the shot birds. Then we march off with the beaters to line out for the next drive- another 2 miles- making sure that nobody is left behind.

And so it goes on, with a brief break for lunch somewhere in the middle of the day. Most of our shooting days involves 4 or 5 drives but sometimes there are 6. And at the end of the day, once the beaters (well, the ones we didn't leave behind) are returned to the bothies, we keepers sort out all the grouse into 'young' and 'old' and hang them in the chiller.

It's a day that's as mentally demanding as it is physically. (Except it's not.)

And that's why I haven't posted a blog until now. How's that for an excuse?

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