This year’s challenge is about to begin – but what is it that makes this sporting endeavour so special, asks Alexandra Henton
The Field’s 2019 Macnab Challenge, in association with Blaser, is underway. It is a challenge that many attempt and few complete, making entry to the Macnab Club one of the greatest sporting achievements. Alexandra Henton considers why a salmon, stag and brace of grouse in 24 hours is the ultimate sporting test.
To enter the 2019 Macnab Challenge, email email@example.com for an entry form. And look through our Macnab Challenge website for advice from what to pack to where to take it, and tips from those that have gone before.
THE 2019 MACNAB CHALLENGE
Macnab: the one word guaranteed to make any sporting sort mellow with that first-kiss-misty-eyed look. Many attempt the challenge but few complete it. The Macnab Challenge is without doubt one of the toughest, most frustrating, exceptionally exhilarating sporting experiences you can attempt in the British Isles. High pheasants, coveys of wiley partridge and a day crossing High Leicestershire all pale in comparison to the clarion call of a challenge that is not only physically demanding but comes complete with its own history and mythology.
This year’s Field Macnab Challenge is the second in association with Blaser, the shotgun and rifle manufacturer and outfitter, whose sporting heritage and style is neatly encapsulated by the all-round nature of the Macnab. Indeed, Blaser is capable of equipping the sportsman or woman with everything required to achieve a successful Macnab, from its inimitable R8 to the deadly F3, sporting duds, optics, clothing, footwear and accessories (the rod is in the pipeline).
But just what is it about the combination of salmon, stag and grouse that gives the Macnab Challenge something more than the trio of components manage to do on their own? The Classic Macnab has all the hallmarks of the picture perfect: Scottish glens, lochs, rivers and ravines, ancient deer forests and timeless vistas. If the popularity of Landseer’s shortbread-tin stag indicates one thing, it is that the natural elements of Scotland are one of the country’s greatest assets.
Throwing down a gauntlet offers a soupcon more glamour than doing something sedately within your own time. A Macnab only counts if it is taken between dawn and dusk. Twenty-four hours doesn’t do it, and several plaintiff enquiries from those who managed two elements, slept on it and then caught the third have fallen on barren ground. A dose of feather-soft pillow inbetween isn’t the thing for those attempting a true sporting challenge.
There is also a pertinent level of skill demanded from those setting their sights on The Field’s Macnab Hall of Fame. You might never have added a grouse to your game book but an early September partridge or pigeon should have given you a good idea of what’s required. Fieldcraft is not to be overlooked. A regular in the butts one may be but a quiet understanding of the wildlife you are pursuing is essential. Gaudy noisiness has no part on the hill and it’s highly unlikely a wagon stuffed full of elevenses will make an appearance on any Macnab attempt. Indeed, it may well negate it.
But there are also numerous members of the Macnab Club who have taken to the hill with at least one of the trio of salmon, stag and grouse missing from their gamebook. Alongside the requisite skill, these successful Macnabbers must be the recipient of a good dollop of luck and a helpful gillie. If it happens to be a day when a cast peaks Salmo salar’s fancy, then your luck is in. Having one unsuccessful Macnab attempt (as an observer) under the belt, watching salmon leap but never take, it is safe to admit that much depends on the luck of the day. A group of stags in a swirling wind, and they scatter as they scent the overzealous stalker. A poor season for grouse and a brace becomes your one chance, not the bounty that a covey holds.
THE WRITE STUFF
The Macnab Challenge is tied to a story, and that story is tied to an author. Written by John Buchan in 1925, John Macnab comes from an era of stiff-upper-lipped protagonists. They are jolly good sorts with clean-cut, manly virtues clothing a core of post-World War One steeliness. Adventure, dash and daring, Buchan’s books have them all. John Macnab is one of his most light-hearted stories, and the most timeless. Struck with taedium vitae and a sense that there is “nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon”, three protagonists (Sir Edward Leithen, John Palliser-Yeates and Lord Lamancha) decide to slough off their ennui by following the fictional example of Jim Tarras, “the best shikari God ever made”, when on furlough in Scotland from his regular shooting trips in East Africa: to poach a salmon or a stag; to jettison the horrors of the mundane and find some zest in life once more. A universal message, and one still as appealing today as it was when Buchan wrote it.
It is this background that gives the Macnab Challenge its unique and romantic place as a part of sporting legend.
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
The Macnab holds a unique place in our sporting firmament. It is an adventure, a journey, a campaign; it combines physical endeavor with solitude and camaraderie. It also holds a prized place in many sporting imaginations. It is the ultimate Corinthian Challenge and money cannot buy it. Join this year’s Field Mancab Challenge, in association with Blaser.
The Macnab must be completed within one daylight day
• The Classic Macnab A salmon on the fly, a stag and a brace of grouse.
• The Real Macnab A salmon on the fly and a stag, as the trio did in John Buchan’s John Macnab. They must be ‘poached’ in a legal sporting manner from an pre-warned owner who accepts the challenge.
• The Southern Macnab A couple of snipe, a sea-trout and a roe buck.
• The Macmarsh A foreshore goose, a pike and a fallow buck.
• The Macvermin An impressive rat, a pike on the fly and a brace of magpies (to be shot).
• The Macscandi A moose, capercaillie and a trout on the fly.
• The Macargentinian A golden dorado, 100 brace of doves and a wild pig. This is the northern Argentinian Macnab.
• The Macafrican A brace of sandgrouse, an impala and a tigerfish.
• The Maccharlie Riding to foxhounds, harriers and staghounds.
• The Corinthian Macnab Riding to hounds in the morning, shooting a brace of partridges in the afternoon, and then catching a trout on the fly.
• The Macnorfolk A brace of wild greys, a fallow buck and a bass on the fly.