With the glorious 12th fast approaching who are the boys who will dominate the moors this season? We reveal the grouse gurus.
The mantle of the grouse guru rests lightly on these 10 shoulders. But they tumble birds with deadly accuracy. It is sport enough to watch them on the hill grouse shooting this season. An exceptional clutch of our top shots 2015.
TOP SHOTS 2015: GROUSE GURUS
A former grousekeeper – he came up through the ranks under the guidance of Jeremy Wearmouth at Gunnerside – Baikie now manages a significant portfolio of grouse moors. In his late thirties and fiercely fit, “he’s right up there with the best,” according to one admirer, who cites his killing 38 late-October grouse with 45 shots last season using 32g No 6s from a pair of fully choked Churchills. Friends consider he has the natural hunting instincts of a Cherokee, giving rise to his nickname, Three Bears.
Recently deified as “Grouse God” in an American magazine, does Burtt instruct his loader to whisper throughout the drive, Memento mori – “Remember [that you have to] die”, to remind him of his mortal status? No need; despite his accuracy, Burtt remains as modest and kind as ever.
While the trend is for increasingly heavy artillery, Norfolk-based Flux uses pairs of 28-bores and .410s to devastating effect on grouse, a living example of the maxim it’s not the size that matters but where you put it.
Wildly enthusiastic with woodcock, Franco is a game-changer on grouse. Accuracy is no longer enough – accuracy with speed is now the standard after the Spaniard showed them what it means to be a quick-change artist. Brings his Spanish “cargador” who loads from a folding seat in the front of the butt.
A reluctant vote can count far more than gush, which is why we liked, “much to my displeasure, Goodhart still deserves inclusion, for all the tedious reasons of which you are aware.” Goodhart’s consistency on grouse is matched only by the deeply unnatural tidiness of his Range Rover.
The owner of Muggleswick and East Allenheads remains a top grouse performer and pigeon-shot. His success with over-and-unders on late-season birds is such that a rash of grouse fiends are thinking of trading in their side-by-sides. Quietly generous to country causes, he’s devoted to the pursuit of wild quarry whether feathered or finned, spending weeks hunting the notoriously tricky brown trout of Lough Corrib.
Excluding Sundays, there were probably at least two days last season when this grouse guru wasn’t tumbling grouse. He remains as accurate, generous and modest as ever. His ability on long birds is extraordinary and he’ll consistently kill birds at 50yd. Always encouraging lesser mortals, he urges them never to dwell on missed birds.
Duke of Northumberland
Northumberland’s name “is synonymous with consistency and accuracy”, observes another top shot. His Grulla side-by-sides are deceptively souped up with adjustable chokes and an integrated recoil system, enabling him to shoot a steady diet of 32g No 7 Sipes from 12 August onwards.
Always good company and never aggressively competitive, Portz’s raw enthusiasm for wild sport is undiminishing. Demon on grouse, he’s also a pigeon fanatic (a coupling common to many in this section). Be careful if you’re invited to dinner – his freezer’s stuffed with things awaiting resurrection as decoys.
The owner of the Lanarth woodcock shoot is a key player in the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s woodcock study and is, unsurprisingly, one of the best ’cock-shots in the country. But this Cornish farmer is also a proper job when it comes to driven grouse.