Earlier this week we had the pleasure of hosting one of our favourite UAE based clients for a brilliant wingshooting day in Perthshire. Despite being early December, the forecast was for a beautiful sunny day with not a cloud in the sky which mean that invariably, (this is Scotland after all), it was hovering around freezing when we met at the client’s hotel on Princes Street in the centre of Edinburgh.
We set off at around 08:10 and made our way across the forth road bridge and up the A9 towards highland Perthshire where the wingshooting would take place. Only 1 hour 20 minutes after leaving Edinburgh city centre, we were in the depths of Highland Perthshire charging down muddy tracks in our Landrover in hot pursuit of the gamekeeper who was leading us to the first patch of ground we would be shooting over.
The first area we shot was an open field with a 200-metre square area of game crop on the left hand side. With crop up and above our knees I took the left flank with the client in the middle and the gamekeeper on the right. By this point the sun was up and the sky was a brilliant blue however, being winter, the sun was still rather low in the sky making shooting quite tricky with the sun directly in front of us silhouetting the mountains a few miles away to the north.
As we began walking all went quiet for a minute or so as we slowly pushed forward until suddenly, with a great flapping of wings, a large cock pheasant broke just 2 or 3 metres in front of me. The client swung quickly right to left but, seeing me in his peripheral vision, chose not to take the shot on safety grounds. We pushed onward through the crop hoping for more chances. About ¾ of the way up the field a hen pheasant exploded into the air from cover flying directly away from the client who let off 2 barrels from his 12 bore in quick succession. It may have been the sun shining right in his face or just by virtue of not having shot for about a year, but the shot went wide and the lucky pheasant got away. That was the end of the opportunities on that patch of ground, but we were soon back in the Landrover making our way to the next area.
With the sun higher in the sky now our chances were looking much better. Ahead of us lay a ½ mile stretch of river with tree, scrub and bush covered banks, perfect pheasant territory. The first pheasant to break was the first success of the day, a great shot with our client swinging quickly right to left dropping the bird on the first barrel. Shooting came much thinker and faster now and by the end of the river there were 3 birds in the keeper’s sack, 2 hens and 1 cock pheasant.
The joy of wingshooting is that it gets you into countryside where most other visitors to Scotland aren’t able to go and so consequently we had been walking and shooting for about an hour and a half (4 more pheasant in the bag) without seeing another soul before we encountered a group of hikers. In the interest of safety and mutual respect we diverted our path back to the Landrover to head (via some serious off-road driving) to a different area of the estate.
Disembarking from the car we knew we were in for some hot wingshooting when the gamekeeper decided to leave Toby (the younger of his 2 spaniels) in the car and only take out Bella, an experienced 6-year-old springer spaniel as she was “the sensible one”.
Our prediction was right as the field we started out across was 800 metre square of pure game crop. Birds were erupting from the ground all over the field. The client was reloading and shooting as fast as he could, a lot of lead went in to the air and a good few birds came down. If the keeper and I had also had guns the bag would have stood at 20 – 30 or so birds but the client was the only one shooting so the total stood at a more reasonable 11, not bad for 1 field!
After a quick stop for lunch in the bothy we went out for the last section of the wingshooting aspect of the day, ducks. The keeper placed us on the southside of a large pond and told us to wait for him to drive the birds to us. He took both Bella and Toby to the north side of the pond and began to work his way back. 2 minutes passed with not a stir of movement except the keeper and his 2 dogs working the far bank of the pond trying to push the ducks toward the waiting gun. 5 minutes and we were getting concerned that nothing might break from cover. 10 minutes later and we were about to give up when, suddenly, in a burst of noise and a rush of wings, a huge number of birds took to the air and headed directly for us. Instantly we knew these were not ducks.
Flying in a sweeping left to right arc and at very high speed, a covey of at least 100 partridges flew across the pond toward our position. The client shot his first two shots but missed the lead bird behind by about 3 metres not having given enough lead to compensate for the unexpected speed of the partridges. He fumbled in his pockets for more cartridges and got two more shots into the sky just in time connecting with 2 birds right at the back of the group, he reached down to re-load but it was too late, the partridges were away behind us and well out of range. It was all over in the space of 20 frantic seconds. The day’s wingshooting ended with a very good bag of 20 birds (18 pheasant and 2 partridge) ………… or so our client thought.
This particular client had been asking us to arrange some goose shooting for him for the last 3 years but, having been with us previously in October and September, it hadn’t been feasible as reliable goose shooting is really only available in January (and very occasionally in December with the help of an obliging gamekeeper). This time however the gamekeeper had agreed to give it a go so we kept it a secret and planned it for the end of the day.
We’d said our goodbyes to the keeper, loaded up into the car and were heading down the estate’s front drive towards the main road (already reminiscing over a great days wingshooting ) when, without warning, I took a sharp right off the main road and headed down a deeply rutted mud track directly toward the river Tay which was glinting red in the already setting Scottish winter sun. It was at this point that I told the client we’d manged to get a goose shoot organised and the excitement on his face was evident.
We headed down towards the river where we met the head keeper and his trusty black Labrador Charlie. After a quick change of clothes (cammo is needed for goose shooting as opposed to the tweed used for normal wingshooting) we headed toward the section of the river where the geese had been roosting over the last few weeks. Nestled into some hollow bushes, 10 metres from the mighty River Tay, gun ready, everyone (including Charlie the Labrador) sat stone still and silent, awaiting sunset and the arrival of the geese.
The head keeper been calling the geese patiently and persistently since we’d arrived and, eventually, they responded. Slowly at first, in 1’s and 2’s they began to fly over our hide. As there was not a single breath of wind the geese circled and circled for what seemed like hours (but was perhaps only 20 minutes in reality) building the tension exponentially as the time passed and the light dimmed.
The light was almost gone when the geese finally decided to land for the evening. There were perhaps 200 geese over head in various flocks when the keeper motioned to get the gun up and ready to shoot. Moving with painful slowness to avoid being observed by the hundreds of geese watching from over head the client put 2 cartridges in the barrel and raised his gun to the sky. Right on cue the geese swept in, large black outlines in the fading light, so many it was hard to choose a target. Our client manged to select a target and dropped the first goose with a perfect head shot. Barrel 2 took another goose which locked its wings and glided down into the middle of the River. The keeper let slip Charlie’s lead and the heavily muscled Labrador shot off like a sleek black bullet into the now pitch black night. With a mighty splash we heard Charlie hit the River Tay at full pace. Not to be distracted by the dog our client reloaded and selected another target, a miss this time but entirely understandable as it was now almost full night. And with that the 1st flock of geese pulled up as one and headed back into the sky to find safer roosting ground.
After a full day of wingshooting which involved a lot of walking everyone was getting tired, everyone except Charlie the Labrador of course! Just as the Perthshire night had grown quite with the departure of the main flock of geese Charlie burst back into our hide with a huge goose in his jaws, tail wagging furiously and eyes wide with excitement. Charlie was of course soaking wet having swum far out into the river to retrieve the 2nd of the client’s 2 geese. Charlie dropped the goose at the keeper’s feet, received his reward of a biscuit, and immediately shot off to retrieve the other goose. Less than a minute later he came back proudly carrying the other goose.
2nd goose safely deposited at the feet of his master Charlie gave a huge shake (soaking us all in Labrador scented river water) and received his 2nd treat which he promptly spat out. It turned out that, far from not being hungry (he is a Labrador after all), in his excitement he had simply forgotten about his 1st biscuit had managed to keep in his mouth undamaged while retrieving the 2nd goose, an impressive skill. Treat 1 and 2 survived for only a split second longer as Charlie set to devouring them with gusto. Treats dealt with Charlie turned to face the river just as the final flock of geese decided to make their decent. Shot 1 sent a cloud of Tungsten (unlike normal wingshooting lead is shot is not used for goose shooting) into the night that took 2 geese cleanly killing them stone dead while still on the wing, shot 2 was a near miss left to right on a crossing bird. A quick re load and 2 more shots went up but this time missing behind by a good deal as the geese were wise to us by now and were rapidly winging off in the opposite direction. Breathless with excitement and more than a little chilly (the temperature having dropped to about -2 Celsius) we decide to quit while we were ahead and finish on a high note.
We headed back to the car, said goodbye and thank you to the keeper (and to Charlie the Labrador), pointed the Landrover’s bonnet south and headed back to Edinburgh. Less than an hour and half later, having deposited a very happy client back at his hotel, I was sat on my balcony with a cold beer plucking the goose that the gamekeeper had given me as a memento of the day (that’s Christmas dinner sorted!), a fantastic end to a great days’ wingshooting.
We are currently taking bookings for the remainder of this season (until 31st January 2019) and for the 2019 season so if you’d like have an unforgettable experience of wing shooting in Scotland then contact us today for more details. Visit out “Design Your Holiday” page or email firstname.lastname@example.org