The Macnab Challenge – A Special Pursuit
With the start of the shooting season just around the corner, important Macnab planning might be underway. A challenge which runs between mid-August and mid-November and in todays “12 days of shooting” post, we will be exploring what the Macnab is and tracing its history. The challenge itself, sound simple; to stalk a stag, bag a brace of grouse and catch a salmon in one day…any fieldsports lover will know that “simple” is not quite the case!
The Macnab challenge originates from the 1925 novel John Macnab, written by John Buchan. It follows three friends who are jaded with their current hunting escapades, so turn to poaching.
The men, Sir Edward Leithen, MP John Palliser-Yeates and Charles, Earl of Lamancha, yet under the mantle of John Macnab, issue a warning to three Highland estates: that within 48 hours they will remove a salmon, stag and a brace of grouse, undetected, and present it at the door of the house. On this, they stake their reputations. The challenge in the novel continues to inspire people today, and The Field’s Macnab Challenge has become a bucket list item among sporting fans
Today the requirements of poaching and remaining undetected are not part of the challenge. Instead, the rules dictate that the grouse, stag and salmon which have been ‘poached’ are done on an estate where you have been given permission for the challenge to happen. Due to the local habitats of the three animals, the only place to carry out the classic challenge in the UK is in Scotland.
Most start with what is probably the hardest and most unpredictable element: the salmon. There are debates as to whether you should next pursue grouse or stag, and many would come down in favour of the stag. A good stalker will get you in range of your beast with little disturbance to the surrounding ground, but inevitably your quest for grouse, whether walked-up or over dogs, will send the stags in all directions. Some estates, it is true, have enough ground for this not to matter, and would opt to try for the grouse before the stag.
The Macnab challenge encourages people to take part in game shooting, fly fishing and deer stalking, and supported by a number of official organisations and organised by The Field. The Macnab has also evolved into different challenges, which all still must be completed in one daylight day. These challenges include the Classic Macnab; a salmon on the fly, a stag and brace of grouse and the Real Macnab; a salmon on the fly and a stag, as in the book but must ‘poached’ in a legal and sporting manner.
Other Macnab challenges which can be done in different places around the world are listed below, still within a 24-hour window:
The Macmarsh; a foreshore goose, pike and fallow buck.
The Macscandi; a moose, capercaillie and trout on the fly.
The Southern Macnab; a couple of snipe, sea trout and a roe buck.
The Macvermin; an impressive rat, a pike on the fly and a brace of magpies.
The Macargentinian; a golden dorado, 100 brace of doves and a wild pig.
The Maccharlie; riding to foxhounds, the harriers and staghounds.
The Macafrican; a brace of sandgrouse, an impala and tiger fish.
The Corinthian Macnab; riding to hounds, shooting a brace of partridges and a trout on the fly.
Part of your vital preparation for the Macnab will be making sure your fieldsports apparel is up to the job, whilst still looking the part. Benedict & Hotts’s breeks, linen shirt and shooting vest would be the perfect look for the important day ahead!
To enter The Field’s Macnab challenge, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an entry form.
Photos courtesy of:
George Gunn Photography – https://www.georgegunn.com
The Field Magazine – https://www.thefield.co.uk