Posts Tagged Scotland

Walking The Scottish Moors

the pink heather can be a foot high and springy when you walk on it

the pink heather can be a foot high and springy when you walk on it

It’s really hard to walk on the moors, and I want to show you why. I was actually nervous that I would be able to do it safely and ably. Last time I was in Scotland hunting, the gamekeeper told me about a party of five gents who were falling so often that he stopped the hunt within 30 minutes and insisted it was too dangerous for them to be falling down with loaded guns.

easiest fields to cross

easiest fields to cross

tall grasses concealing rough ground

tall grasses concealing rough ground

My anxiety was provoked by my experience in 2011, the first time I’d done it. As you can imagine from one of these photos, walking on grassy pastures is easy. But mostly you are in tall grasses or on top of heather, which is really a springy bush, much like a Christmas tree on its side. Underneath and out of sight are large rocks that can twist your ankle or streams that you can’t see or hear. I stepped in one of those the first hour almost up to my knee…soaked my boot and sock. Messy. Uncomfortable. Cold. Also you are walking sideways on hills, so you are on uneven terrain, with one foot higher or lower than the other.

When a bird flushes, you only have fractions of a second to stabilize your feet, shift your weight to the front foot, find the bird, raise your gun as you release the safety, aim, swing and shoot. Hard…unless you practice a lot, which guys like me don’t have time to do.

As I wrote yesterday, I was wondering why I do this, when it is so difficult. But that is what a challenge is all about, right? And the game tastes so good. And the dogs are so exciting to watch search for, and find, the pheasants.

Once again I made it safely through the days. I didn’t injure myself or anyone else. I was just unbelievably tired from such a push. Nevertheless, I suspect I will be back another year. The countryside and adventure is just too spectacular…

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Shooting In Scotland

tired hunter with Becky and Max

tired hunter with Becky and Max

Spent a couple of weeks in Scotland, including two days hunting for birds. I was way out of practice, so I went to a skeet range three times and a sporting clays course once before I left. I built up to 16 clay pigeons out of 25 on the skeet range. My best ever may be just 21, but 18-19 was not uncommon. The clays course was interesting, because sometimes I was hitting every “bird,” and other times I missed all 10 tries at the same station. I only ran up parts of a big hill at a home twice for physical conditioning. Then I arrived on the Scottish ground.

The description below is based on an email I sent to a few friends:

Was out on the moors for over three hours struggling to keep my balance, not fall into rivulets hidden by the tall grass and be alert for birds that the dogs would flush unexpectedly. I know you wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I subject myself to such physical hardship?

Truth is, I was thinking that myself after just one hour, thirsty and hot and forgot to bring water, and legs aching terribly. It is exhausting. Always determined not to shoot the guide in the head or kill his dogs accidentally. And I was so out of practice–too much tennis and almost no shooting in three years–that it took five shots to hit a bird. The shotgun holds just two shells, but often I miss with both barrels, so one in five was my average. More respectable is one out of three. I missed so many “easy” shots. Very disappointing and frustrating, even though I did hit some birds. Shot my first-ever duck and ate it. Delicious. Pheasant dinner another night.

dinners

dinners

In the end I am thrilled to do it, have done it, to walk the moors, feel the open spaces, hear and see the cock pheasants flying away safely, watch the dogs. Scotland is one of the few places you can do this, I believe. The northeast United States is all stocked with birds raised in pens and placed on the ground the night before the hunt. The Midwest and Dakotas have flat land and far fewer birds: two or three a day may be all you can find, I’ve been told. Where I was in Scotland, there are thousands that are put out for six months before the season…and some live on for a year or two in the wild, learning how to evade predators, be wary and quick. Very challenging. I do love it.

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