Glorious grouse

Richard Faulds talks through his techniques

There are few things more likely to make me smile than a chance to get out on the moor for a day on the grouse. In my opinion, little comes close to the exhilaration and adrenaline rush that taking on these birds can bring, though it can be quite easy for the newcomer to find the idea quite daunting.

The sheer speed of a covey of grouse following the contours of the moor with the wind at their back is something totally unique in game shooting, and consequently they have to be approached differently to any other bird.If you are shooting driven grouse then safety is massively important. Remember, you are shooting at targets travelling through the line at head height. Consequently, a set of sticks must be put up at the side of each butt to prevent the over-enthusiastic from swinging towards disaster in the heat of the moment. Out in front or going away behind are the two places to shoot grouse.

There is a little more freedom if you are at the end of the line, though that extra flexibility does come with a price; the responsibility of being very aware of the position of the line, flankers and others who won't take kindly to a dose of 6-shotheading their way...

You will always have loaders or someone else in the butt with you, so you both need to be aware of each other when you are turning to shoot behind. An experienced loader should be able to read the situation quickly, but always safely! If you have never double-gunned it's important to go to a shooting instructor prior to your first day to learn the ropes, as technique and safety are paramount in a grouse butt.

Those who shoot game shouldn't get used to shooting at birds so low to the ground, but it is perfectly acceptable right up to when the first horn is blown. After that point, only shooting behind the line is allowed, up to the second horn which ends the drive.

‘Thinking time' is at a premium, quite simply because you won't have much of it. Action is the name of the game, along with a healthy dose of instinct. If swing through is your only game then don't expect to be top dog on the grouse moor.

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That lack of thinking time is especially true when it comes to shot selection. The sheer velocity of these birds means that you need to have selected your bird ideally long before they get in range, i.e. out at 80 or 90 yards.

Once you have picked one, stay with it; don't get distracted and chop and change, or the end result will undoubtedly be a miss - if 18

Few things make me smile more than a chance to get out on the moor for a day on the grouse WITH Richard Faulds technique: grouse you even manage to get a shot off. Forget swing through, maintained lead or pull away; the technique on incoming grouse is simple but can be hard to get used to, especially if you have shot one method at everything your entire shooting career. Select your bird, put the muzzles on it, bring the gun into the shoulder, focussing on the body of the bird, and pull the trigger almost in one movement. Don't try to measure it out; let the gun mount do the work and you should see your quarry disappear into the heather - but remember to stay on it in case you need the second barrel.

A left-and-right at driven grouse is quite an achievement and is only likely to happen if you are confident enough to start the process of that first shot with the choke barrel early on. Hesitate too long and by the time your first shot has gone the rest of the birds will be a distant memory.

Nine times out of ten you will be surprised at just how close to the butt your victim connects with terra firma, considering you first addressed it out at 80 yards or more; such is the speed of this incredible quarry. Taking one out in front and one behind seems like an easier prospect but footwork is often the undoing of those inexperienced ‘grousers' who fail to prepare for the rapid turn.

As with all shooting, your weight should be firmly on the front foot, though if you are turning to take a shot behind there are plenty of other things to remember. For instance, focus hard on your intended quarry; lose track of it and the end result will be a wild shot that achieves little. Muzzle awareness is key if you are turning through the line; lift your barrels up clear of the sticks then bring them down into the shoulder, still staring hard at the bird, and fire. If you haven't moved your feet to allow your weight to have shifted back onto the front foot, though, then chances are all your efforts will have been in vain.

If the grouse are crossing in front of you, follow the same technique and let your movement build in the lead for you. You will be swinging at a good rate of knots to get on them, so select your target, put the gun out in front of the bird and pull the trigger, and if the shot is good move on to the next.

Walked up grouse requires the same level of instinctual shooting and, if anything comes back over the line, plenty of self discipline when selecting shots. Keep your eyes out in front of you. Regular checks on your position in the line are a good idea, but do so quickly. Early season birds can sit tight, so be aware of where the dogs are working, but keep your point of focus well out in front beyond 30 yards where almost all your shots will be taken...

Regarding cartridges, I use 30 or 32g Express Supreme Game of shot size number six as it gives a good combination of penetration and pattern on these fast-moving targets. Also, don't forget it's fibre wad only on the moors. Whether you shoot driven or walked up, shooting grouse is always something very special, and anyone who has the opportunity to pit their wits against this king of game birds should consider themselves privileged. There is no better way to enjoy the sport of shooting, and whoever first called 12 August ‘glorious'certainly knew what they were talking about!