A true country gent, who takes great delight in arranging someones first day on the moor, in the field or on water. Benedict & Hott, as a part of the 12 days of shooting August campaign, talks to Richard Vainer, an Purdey award winning countryside conservationist, in terms of all things grouse.
Tell us about you first experience with grouse….
I was lucky enough to go grouse shooting in my early 30’s…and It wasn’t quite what I expected! I’d been included in a group of syndicate pals, to try out a moor in Yorkshire… (no names mentioned!) I wasn’t that sure on what to expect, and had the party line of “I just want to try it once” … well, reality was slightly different, it was pouring with rain, then the fog came in and I think the day got cancelled at lunchtime. I wondered what all the fuss was about.
Fast forward 10 years, when I had much more experience with pheasant and partridge shooting, I was keen once again to give it ago and since then I have never missed a season. For me personally, it’s the anticipation, the excitement, the wildness of a grouse day that I love.
You’ve been on lots of shoot days, what makes a good one?
Company, without a doubt. Would you prefer to go on the best days shooting, on the best estate, but with terrible company, no. But equally, all mates and terrible shooting isn’t brilliant either.
A great pal of mine, once said to me “If you knew when the red letters days were, would you even know they were red letters days?” It’s a jigsaw puzzle, and the day is made up of many components, but the main one for me is company.
Best or most exciting wildlife sighting?
The abundance of wildlife on a moor, is always a fantastic sight. However, for me it would have to be a pack of grouse, going with the wind. A truly magnificent sight and very telling of some fantastic moorland management.
Why are grouse so special?
It goes without saying the birds are unbelievably. The speed, the movement, they are like no other.
However, it is the grouse habitat, the management, the moorland that makes the grouse season so unbelievably special. To make a grouse season work and to help grouse survive, there are many components that need to work in harmony with each other, the second one aspect of the ecosystem gets disrupted, the whole system is out of kilter.
The weather, the habitat, heather health, positive spring counts, inclement weather, so many things that could affect this season and effectively collapse it.
On the flip side, because we are talking of a natural ecosystem, it is easy to collapse, but also easy to build once again. It’s a system who do not see with any other game bird.
Where would be your dream place to shoot?
For me it’s the company, BUT…. if I have to choose a place, I would have to say the Scottish Highlands, it is the most stunning scenery and not too far from home! Second place would have to be Derbyshire, I have spent many happy shooting days there.
Moorland management – why is it so important?
The UK is home to 75 percent of the world’s heather moorland, which as a habitat is rarer than rainforest. The majority of the grouse moor landscape in the UK is managed for grouse shooting and funded primarily by private investment – this is the most cost-effective model of upland management to the tax payer, not to mention the carbon offset by peat bogs. It’s a really interesting ecosystem, that wouldn’t survive without such intense management.
Heather burning, cutting and monitored grazing all play a part, while managing pests, predators and invasive species, controlling disease and ticks, and restoring historically damaged peatland all help towards improving the grouse moor landscape.
What is the one item of clothing that you wouldn’t leave the house without…
Eyewear for protection for sure, and also to stop me squinting. I have to have at least two more items, which would be my guns and my dog for company.
What is the 1st lesson that you learn on a moor…
The basic difference between grouse shooting and pheasant/partridge, is that often you are not shooting into sky and that takes some getting used to. Guns also need to remember that safety is paramount and to not swing through
Another consideration, rather than rule as such is that it is important to remember that you are invited to that moor, due to the brilliant management that has taken place and the keeper believes there is a harvest of grouse that can take place due to numbers being good and consistent.
Top tips for shooting grouse?
In my experience, some of the best shots that I have seen taken, have been from guns that take the shot early on. These are quick moving birds and you can’t be too precise, it goes without saying, you always have to be 100%s ure your shot is safe, but it’s a habit of getting into the shooting before you might in other forms of game shooting.
Grouse or salmon?
Some of each please! I am lucky enough to have a great pal who invites me grouse shooting and without wanting go show off too much, we shoot in the morning and fishing in the afternoon. Every countryman’s dream!