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SHOOTING SCOTLANDmagazine Scotland’s national country sports & rural living magazine


Articles A year with much to grouse about? Northern Shooting Show 2019 Are you easily offended? Great British Shooting Show 2019

Finding the right shotgun What price our freedom? It’s a dog’s life! Securing the future of shooting Hill loch fishing in Scotland

Scottish Country Life With Linda Mellor

Topic Maximising venison markets

Cooking with Game Venison with festive trimmings

Classic Guns Thomas Bland & Sons Interview With Commonwealth gold medallist David McMath


Shooting tips With Ian MacGregor

January 2019

Country Woman Featuring Tracy Ferguson Plus

Readers competition with Hoggs of Fife Fox Control s Deer Management Rural Training s What’s New Gift ideas for Xmas and beyond and all our regular columns plus more

contents editor's bit To smile or not to smile? Oh yes, the media have had a field day about certain images appearing on social media recently, and pro-active vegans are amongst those jumping on the ‘lecturing bandwagon’ with great gusto, much to the complete irritation of most folk it should be pointed out. Here is my own personal take on the ‘trophy hunting’ posed photo for what it’s worth. I am not a hunter, but I eat meat, I do not kill any animal, but I eat their flesh, but neither would I pose with a big cheesy grin if I did shoot an animal for food consumption. I have no personal problem with a photo being taken if that is what people want to do as a show of respect to the beast soon due for the dining table, I get all that! But I do think people should be aware of how idiotic and cowardly they can sometimes look when ‘bragging’ about their ‘kill’ on social media – what do they expect, the world to give them a round of applause for being brave? or having great teeth? But like I say, I am no hunter, and my knowledge of deerstalking and game hunting is very limited indeed, so I am in no real position to criticise fully. However, being the publisher of this magazine means that I am learning more with each passing edition, and long may that learning curve continue. I will only say this. Perhaps it is better to smile when you eat the bounty rather than when you kill it? Just a thought. Slàinte, Athole. All Editorial & PR enquiries to EDITOR Athole Murray Fleming Tel. 01738 639747 E-mail:

ARTICLES 8 A year with much to grouse about? 12 Finding the right shotgun 22 What price our freedom? 36 The Northern Shooting Show 38 It’s a dog’s life! 46 The Great British Shooting Show 49 Are you easily offended? 57 Securing the future of shooting 60 Hill loch fishing in Scotland NEWS AREAS 4 News 70 What’s New 73 Gift ideas for Xmas and beyond TOPIC 10 Maximising venison markets IN FOCUS 29 National Shooting Centre CLASSIC GUN 47 Thomas Bland & Sons THE INTERVIEW 48 With David McMath SHOOTING TIPS 54 With Ian MacGregor FAVOURITE READS 64 Whisky Galore SCOTTISH COUNTRY LIFE 65 With Linda Mellor COUNTRY WOMAN 66 Featuring Tracy Ferguson COOKING WITH GAME 68 Venison with festive trimmings READERS COMPETITION 74 Sponsored by Hoggs of Fife REGULARS 20 Scottish Ladies Shooting 26 Rural Training 32 Habitat & Species Protection 44 Deer Management 52 Fox Control COLUMNS 11 Viewpoint 13 Gamekeepers Welfare Trust 18 Airguns 19 S.A.C.S 43 Gundogs 51 BASC Scotland 55 Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group 56 The Deerstalker 59 The World Pheasant Association 61 Scottish Gamekeepers Association 63 The Ghillie 67 Scottish Countryside Alliance All Advertising enquiries to ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Athole Murray Fleming Tel. 01738 639747 E-mail:

january 2019





68 FRONT COVER IMAGE: Game for the table

ADVERTISING MANAGER Barry Tweed Tel. 01738 550157 Email:

ADVERTISING MANAGER Trevor Knights Tel. 01738 447378 Email:

PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Christina Fleming Email: COPYRIGHT This publication has been produced and published by ATHOLE DESIGN & PUBLISHING LTD who are the copyright owners. No reproduction, copying, image scanning, storing or recording of any part of this publication without the permission of ATHOLE DESIGN & PUBLISHING LTD. Contents disclaimer: SHOOTING SCOTLAND MAGAZINE is not responsible for any factual inaccuracies within press information supplied to us. Any concerns regarding such matters should be directed to the supplier of the materials. SHOOTING SCOTLAND MAGAZINE is designed, produced and published by Athole Design & Publishing Ltd., Tolastadh, 18 Corsie Drive, Kinnoull, Perth, Scotland PH2 7BU. Tel. 01738 639747

ISSN: 2399–2220


news Countryside organisations support official review of grouse moor management Countryside and wildlife organisations have appealed for the Scottish Governmentled review into grouse moor management to be allowed to take its course in the interests of rural Scotland. The British Association of Shooting and Conservation, The Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Association of Country Sports issued a joint statement as anti-shooting activists called for further restrictions on grouse moor management. The cross-sector statement said: “Since the end of last year, there has been an independent review - commissioned by the Scottish Government - of grouse moor management, led by Professor Alan Werritty. It

is due to report in the Spring of next year and a wide range of organisations and individuals with differing opinions - have been contributing to the review process. That process needs to take place without constant attempts to demonise an important rural sector. “We are today witnessing another attempt by anti-grouse shooting activists to further their agenda under the guise of calling for reform of grouse shooting. They want to stop it and pursue that agenda relentlessly with little or no recognition of the facts. “The fact is that for decades now, the grouse shooting community has been embracing reform and modernising land management practices. This

is a sector that complies day in day out with a wide range of regulation and legislation and is committed to constant improvement. Standards have improved greatly and - like progress in farming methods and addressing climate change - they will continue to develop. “Grouse moor management also provides as multitude of social, economic and environmental benefits. These include the sustaining of thousands of jobs in remote rural communities, a substantial contribution to Scotland’s tourism industry and the safeguarding of many bird species and habitat. “This takes place against a backdrop of the lowest wildlife crime figures on record. We fully understand public concern that

management of wildlife is carried out to the highest standard. Every sector should seek to improve and moorland management is no exception. We totally condemn all forms of wildlife crime and support the weight of the law being enforced against those who commit offences. “It has, however, been proved time and again that the best outcomes are achieved when people work together in pursuit of sensible, shared goals. Scotland is fortunate to have in grouse shooting and moorland management a world-class tourism offering and everyone who truly has the interests of rural Scotland at heart should be working together to ensure that we maintain this pre-eminent position in future.”

Luxury Perthshire family business takes the top award at Scotland’s Prestige Hotel Awards A Perthshire family business is celebrating after being named Scotland’s ‘Hotel of the Year’ at the 2018 Prestige Hotel Awards. East Haugh House in Pitlochry, a 4 star boutique country house hotel, took home the top award at the 2nd annual Prestige Hotel Awards, presented by Allied Irish bank, in Glasgow on February 18th. Over 18,000 votes were cast to find the best of Scotland’s hotel trade; competing venues from across the nation were whittled down by public vote, then judged by an independent judging panel who visited each of the hotels. Bought in 1989 by husband and wife team Neil and Lesley McGown, the 17th century country house was lovingly (continued on page 6)


news converted into a luxury 12 bedroom hotel and restaurant, and has established itself as a popular destination for tourists from the UK and overseas. Renowned for its locally sourced seasonal food, specialising in seafood and game, Chef Patron Neil McGown

leads a talented and passionate kitchen team with East Haugh’s restaurant recommended in the Michelin Guide. Steven Dobbin, GM, joined East Haugh House from Cameron House in 2016, and attended the glittering awards on Sunday

along with owners Lesley and Sophie McGown. Lesley McGown, Proprietor of East Haugh House, said: “We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to have won the main award of Hotel of the Year at the 2018 Prestige Hotel

Awards. After almost 30 years in business, this recognition couldn’t be a more fitting accolade. It reflects our fantastic team’s dedication to delivering a very personal service for our guests with first class hospitality and exceptional food.”

Scotland’s anglers urged to help save critically endangered fish

Scientists are calling on Scotland’s anglers to help save one of the largest and rarest creatures in British waters. The common or flapper skate can grow more than 2m in length and weigh more than 90kg but despite its name, the fish is classified as critically endangered - making it more at risk of extinction than the giant panda. Anglers throughout Scotland are being encouraged by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) to send any photographs of common skate to Skatespotter, a new online catalogue launched. The project aims to help conserve this remarkable diamond-shaped species through identifying individual fish by the distinctive spot patterns on 6

their backs and studying their movements. Dr Jane Dodd, Marine Operations Officer at SNH, said: “We’re launching Skatespotter with more than 1,500 images of nearly 800 individual flapper skate, taken by volunteer anglers in the

Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (MPA). “This MPA has a healthy population of the endangered fish, which made it easier to collect photographs, and anglers have been fundamental in providing the data to designate the area as

an MPA – but to understand skate movements and populations we want to see anglers’ photographs of skate from all over Scotland.” Anglers can help monitor the skate population by uploading photographs to https://skatespotter.

Angus game celebration raises thousands for air ambulance A celebration of the journey of local game from hill to dinner plate by chefs and gamekeepers in Angus has raised over £5000 for a lifeline rural service. The event at Rottal Steading, Glen Clova, saw game meat sourced from the glens and fields of Angus - cooked for guests

by award winning chef Adam Newth of Tayberry Restaurant. Local gamekeepers, whose year-round stewardship provided the venison, rabbit, grouse and pheasant, served 122 guests and answered questions about the origin of the meat and its benefits.

Proceeds from an auction and ticket sales for the evening, which paired game with wine and gins from Angus gin maker, The Gin Bothy, saw £5,443.50 raised for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance. Attendees, previously unaware of how to prepare and cook fresh

news game, have now vowed to use the sustainable local produce more often. The event was organised by Angus Glens Moorland Group, whose efforts in providing game for care and homelessness charities, in partnership with Grampian Moorland Group, led to a ‘Working with Communities’ award earlier in 2018. Venison is lower in fat and higher in protein and iron than beef whilst pheasant contains high levels of iron, protein and vitamin B (6). Co-Ordinator Lianne MacLennan said: “Promoting game, its taste and health benefits, is a passion of ours. It is the management of the land which brings the food to the table and we want more people to be enjoying the benefits of what is on their doorstep, particularly those who have not tried it before, or cooked with it. “To raise so much money whilst doing so was excellent. All the game was supplied by local estate gamekeepers.”


Grouse shooting

A year with much to grouse about? Adam Smith, Director Scotland, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

It all looked so promising for 2018, even though 2017 wasn’t an exceptional year for grouse across the board in any way. In fact, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s grouse counts from across Scotland were on average very close to the average density for 20122016. But shooting was modest, or even reasonable for many and a ‘stock’ of birds went into the winter. From there on 2018 turned from the year of great promise, to one where grouse shooting was in very short supply. Across


Scotland spring counts of grouse pairs were down by 2025%. Fewer breeding birds then produced many fewer grouse chicks, with some estimates suggesting around 50% less productivity (chicks per hen) on average; from around two young grouse for each old to less than one young for each old. It wasn’t unexpected. As well as fewer breeding pairs, numbers of moors reported smaller than normal clutch sizes, and then dwindling brood sizes. It was a recipe for what most moors ultimately saw

in their grouse counts, with small broods or barren pairs, and pockets of ground where brood sizes, and thus numbers of grouse, had held up. While it was most moors, it wasn’t all and there were some notable exceptions where numbers and breeding success allowed a near normal shooting programme with low but adequate young to old ratios in the bag. What drove the decline for many moors from year to year and why some moors survived relatively unscathed is much more difficult to assess. The small

clutch and brood sizes could also be signs of poor hen grouse nutrition before laying (the cold, dry early weather delayed plant growth) and poor chick nutrition thereafter (the hot, dry later conditions affecting plant and insect quality). Research from previous years shows around 30% of the variation on grouse breeding success comparing between moors can be explained by the quality of the heather food available. Indeed, this is one of the most important factors explaining the ability of grouse moors to carry larger peak

Grouse shooting There was much chat this year about putting out water, with some heroic efforts going into topping up dewpans on some moors. There doesn’t seem to have been a consistent picture emerge around how important the drought and natural or supplied water was this year. A real supporter of dewpans on a dry north east Scotland moor rather dispiritedly reported few if any signs of grouse having been at or around the pans to benefit from his hard work! Various disease impacts may also have been exacerbated by the challenging weather and food. The fall in adult numbers overwinter and into the spring had signs of the old fashioned strongylosis disease and we have seen a small increase in worm parasite counts this year. This may have been because medicated grit was hard frozen for a long time this winter. There were also reports of large tick rises from some moors. It’s possible that the overall tick population wasn’t greater than normal this year,

but that many of the ticks were questing for a host on which to feed at the same time. This can happen when the weather is drying – ticks can’t regulate their body moisture and have to judge when it is humid enough to spend time clinging onto plants waiting for a grouse or sheep or deer to pass by. All in all, 2018 was a challenging season. Most moors

shot little or nothing and we can all hope that 2019 sees the benefit of this caution. When grouse moors face many social and political challenges, and the scrutiny of the committee being chaired by Prof Alan Werritty, a reasonable year of shooting would be a fair return for maintaining one of Scotland’s greatest natural assets, our open heather moorlands.

Photograph Ele Milwright

densities of grouse the further south we go. The availability of insect food for grouse chicks is also vital. Grouse in the first few weeks of life must have more animal protein in their diet than they typically take when grown. This is because they need certain amino acids which aren’t readily available from plant proteins. These animal proteins come from insects. Grouse east many species of flies and bugs but craneflies, ants and spiders are the most common and important. The cold start to 2018, a damp intermission, followed by hot dry spring and summer probably meant a challenging year for buglife on some moors. It is in these years that good quality moorland habitat, the mixed heather, berries, mosses and grasses that well planned muirburn and heather cutting supports, comes into its own. These mixed habitats support many more and more diverse insects than pure heather swards.



New strategy to maximise venison in domestic and international markets

At the launch (l to r) Bob Prentice, Downfield Farms (Stagison); Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment, The Scottish Government; Bill Bewsher, Chairman, Scottish Venison Partnership

The first ever strategy for Scotland’s wild and farmed venison sector was launched in September 2018 with the aim of bringing together wild and farmed deer interests for and setting out nine key areas for growth across the sector. Those areas include skillsbuilding, a fund to support new entrants to deer farming and deer farm expansion and further research and development. Speaking from Downfield Farm venison processing plant in Cupar, Fife, Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon said at the launch of the document “I am delighted to launch this strategy for this exciting, burgeoning sector in Scotland’s food and drink success story. “Venison is a premium food, renowned for its quality, provenance and health 10

credentials, and its reputation continues to rise in both domestic and international markets. We know the venison market in the UK alone is estimated to be worth around £100 million per year and demand has been increasing year on year. With this strategy in place, the sector in a Scotland now has a fantastic opportunity to meet rising demand and target new market opportunities. “I welcome that the industry has come together to develop a plan that will build on the strong foundations put in place by the venison pioneers in Scotland. Deer farming and management play a significant role in supporting a thriving and sustainable rural economy and this strategy will support our shared wider ambitions to grow it. “The Scottish Government looks forward to working with the

sector to take forward the actions contained with the strategy.” The new strategy was launched on 4 September, Scottish Venison Day, during Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight, the annual celebration of Scotland’s food and drink sector. Bill Bewsher, Chairman, The Scottish Venison Partnership, said: “Venison producers and processors in Scotland, both wild and farmed, will take very significant encouragement from this new strategy. “We are exceptionally fortunate that on the one hand we have a rich asset in our wild deer as a sustainable source of healthy food and, on the other, increasing enthusiasm and undoubted potential to grow our farmed venison sector to meet expanding markets both in the UK and

elsewhere. This strategy points all of us in the right direction with a set of common goals for 2030 and we are grateful for the additional support forthcoming from government in helping us to meet them.” James Withers, Chief Executive, Scotland Food & Drink, said: “There is huge potential for the Scottish venison sector to grow, and key to unlocking this will be strong partnership between industry and government. This new strategy will act as a catalyst to drive growth, build our reputation and ensure that rising UK demand for venison is met from high quality Scottish suppliers. The ambition of the sector is great to see, and will make venison an increasing part of Scotland’s food and drink success story.”

View Point By Niall Rowantree

None so blind In recent weeks, field sports and indeed the much misunderstood term ‘trophy hunting’ has featured in the media. Although there are various opinion’s of how and why a visiting hunter used social media to display animals, the outpouring of threats and abuse has shocked many people, not only to the hunter herself, but towards professional wildlife managers and their families. This, I believe, should have been a time for the shooting/ hunting sector to draw together and present a united front and further highlight the economic and environmental benefits of the activities undertaken and the host of rural jobs field sports support. Unfortunately, some saw it as an opportunity to open up old division’s and try to suggest some forms of hunting are more acceptable than others, blind to the fact that those who are opposed to shooting and hunting seek the demise of it all and not just certain elements. It’s also concerning when politicians who should know better, jump on the band wagon in the hope of a few extra urban votes and once again turn their back on the rural sector. I think that for a host of reasons the John Heywood saying fits much of the debate “there are none so blind as those who will not see” for this whole story highlights an alarming disconnection between our urban and rural communities and a desire amongst some elements of

society to force their will on others and call it democracy. So what lies at the back of this and how can we better understand the reactions from urban Britain? I feel the main reason is that they feel biodiversity depletions are a global concern which is also at the forefront of the European Union’s (EU) conservation agenda. The loss of our natural resources principally due to unsustainable management undermines economic and social development as well as our well-being. Studies including the Stern Review, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) all focus on the better management of biodiversity. The TEEB’s recommendations are to incorporate economic value of ecosystem services into decision-making forms part of the key actions of EU’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy to halt biodiversity decline. Across Europe there has been an increasing trend in showing the immense value of nature to society in order to raise awareness about the consequences of biodiversity loss and better inform policy makers. I feel that the public in general have been convinced that hunting is the primary source of loss of biodiversity, implying that hunters alone have led to the degradation of our planet and the removal of this activity will alter the fate of the planet.

In European culture, hunting has a long history and although hunting may be controversial in some circles, it is a legal pursuit in all European countries and regardless of the motivation, hunting creates a use of wild living natural resources which, because the social and economic benefits derived from such use, provide incentives for people to conserve them. Simply put, wildlife that pays is wildlife that stays. Currently, there are over 7 million hunters in Europe, making it the world’s second largest formally organised hunting population after the United States of America. The numbers and densities of hunters vary from country to country and even from region to region, often reflecting local hunting cultures, traditions, land uses and political circumstances. Because of this, the hunting community is a diversified group bringing together a host of perceptions and values. There are 13.7 million American hunters who spend more than $38.3 billion huntingrelated expenses each year and is an integral part of their culture, providing a powerful connection to the outdoors for millions of people and generating billions of dollars to local and international economies. The contributions of these hunters serve as the fundamental foundation for a social and economic support system for conserving wildlife and habitats throughout the world. This socio-diversity

is echoed in their values for hunting and biodiversity. Hunters are united by a common passion for nature and their attachment to a traditional rural pastime. Amongst these are hunting tourists who contribute significantly at the upper end of the market and can be seen as ‘trophy hunters’. They are not necessarily disrespectful but their appetite to celebrate their trophies is distasteful to many. In America and much of Europe, however, this is common place and an expected part of hunting where people keep mementoes of their adventures for generations. Currently, there are few economic models that compare to the value of hunting tourism particularly in remote and fragile communities. Although those opposed to field sports speak of restoration, rural communities are still at a loss as to see the actual income streams and demonstrations of this on the ground. Some MSP’s have suggested a vision of professional marksmen controlling wildlife at a cost to the taxpayer or better still, a proliferation of apex predators unaware that they would inevitably require some sort of control at some point. If we are already spending millions controlling a small part of the deer herd and feral/alien non-native species, how can we source funding to expand this? And even if we did find funding, is this not further alienating the people from the land and from our primary 11

Finding the right shotgun By Linda Mellor

and wish to further your interest and apply for a shotgun license and buy your own gun. What do you buy, what factors should you consider, and what will it cost? We are all aware of the old maxim of having the right tools for the job, and shooting is no different. The right gun will benefit your shooting, it will boost your confidence and improve your technique. When you pick up your gun you need a positive feeling of knowing it is the right gun for you. Olympic gold medal winner David McMath said, it is very important to really like your gun. Do not buy a gun that fits and

Photo by Patrick Hamilton

Identifying a shotgun to match your shooting interest is important. Shooting is an expensive pastime, and on the market today, there are a multitude of brands, barrel lengths, new and second-hand shotguns to choose from. With such a vast choice, it can be tricky reaching the right decision. If you are new to shooting, lessons are essential. An early investment in your shooting will be worth every pound because you will gain a professional introduction to the sport. After a few lessons, you will be able to safely load and unload, aim and shoot at moving clay targets

David McMath winning gold at Commonwealth Games

suits you if you don’t like it, wait for the right gun to come along.’ There is a vast choice of new and used guns for sale. You may think you are getting bargain, but you have to ask yourself if it is truly the right gun for you and does it fit the purpose and the discipline. Most experienced shooters will advise you to buy the best shotgun you can for your budget. The first thing to look at is what type of shooting are you doing, is it game or clay, or both, and if you are planning on shooting a particular clay discipline, which one is it? You can shoot clays with a game gun, and you can shoot game with a clay gun, there are many shooters who own one gun to shoot pheasants and to blast clays. Game or Clay shooting? Game guns are generally lighter than clay guns. If you have carried around a heavy gun designed for clay shooting by the end of the game shoot you will appreciate the difference a few 12

pounds can make, especially on a walked-up day. Game guns tend to have shorter barrels to make them easier to use and swing when faster handling is required. Clay guns, sometimes referred to as Sporters, usually come with customisable options. They have multi-chokes, adjustable stocks, longer barrels (less kick, and more comfortable to shoot with) and visible ribs. Over and Under or side by side? The over and under was developed in the early 20th century and increased in popularity through the 1960s. The side by side was the gun everyone associated with game shooting, it was part of the tradition of the game shooting day – tweed clothed shooters with gundogs at heel and a side by side over the arm was a classic picture. Many side by sides had generations of history and were handed down in families. They were works of art with engraved designs and crafted detailing and made by the coveted gunsmiths,

Finding the right shotgun

12 Bore Over and Under Shotgun

most of whom as no longer in business. Side by sides may have had a sentimental value attached, but this factor does not necessarily make them the right choice of gun for you unless you are able to replicate the previous owner’s shooting interests and you are the exact same height and build. On a game day there would be side by side shotguns used, on some shoots, if you turned up with an over and under it would be frowned upon as unsuitable or too modern and out of place. However, in the last decade the over and under shotgun has surpassed the traditional side by side in popularity. The over and under is more ‘pointable’ and gives the shooter a narrow line of sight, and a single trigger. Look and size? Shotgun choice is personal. Do you want a 12 or 20 bore, maybe

something different like a 16 or 28? What look of shotgun do you want, an engraved master piece, a recognised and popular brand or an unknown name with no design? Also, what is your budget? You can pick up a second-hand shotgun for less than £1,000, and most are from the well-known brands like Beretta, Browning and Miroku. Try out a few guns. Every gun will feel different, even an identical make and model. If a familiar brand of shotgun requires repair, spares will be readily available unlike obscure brands. Size does matter! You should find a shotgun that works for you, if you are 5ft 5”, a 34” barrel is going to look odd. You need to look at the proportions and also, if you can get the gun to fit you, are able to shoot with it and manoeuvre it. Do you

Gamekeepers and Stalkers have seen it all before – unseasonal weather, patchy grouse years and deer which have thrived well during harsh winters and those which have not. However an environment which brings back ancient species in retreating wild places, a public who have never understood less about the balance of wildlife and the countryside and the importance of game as a rich resource of nutrition is different. Maintaining the equilibrium of the uplands and lowlands of Scotland as well as managing the expectations of many needs, not least a sustainable future is not for the faint hearted. Our gamekeepers and stalkers of the 21st century are a species of rare and special quality. With a wide ranging set of skills which includes an understanding of science and environment hitherto largely instinctive, the gamekeepers of today are equipped with a long list of certificates and academic back up

to supplement practical skills and a fundamental appreciation of the wildlife and environment in their care. Providing information and liaising with a number of organisations, public and school children is now a vital part of the job. Trainees and students are exposed to all these experiences along with practical skills on the estates and shoots around Scotland. They are a critical and central part of our future. It is the time for gamekeepers, stalkers and ghillies to polish up their c.v.s and move on and up the career ladder. The Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust along with Rural Recruits can help individuals with every detail which will maximise their opportunities. Our helpline, website and packs provide tips and support at each step from leaving school to college and later on through the journey. We also provide a forum for advertising positions in Rural Recruits which is easy and competitive. Never hesitate to call.

Tel: 01677 470180 13

Finding the right shotgun have the strength to shoot with a heavy gun? Ranald Hutton said, ‘I have been shooting for 35 years off and on, mainly game shooting but occasional sporting clays. Certain makes of gun stood out because of their fit or ease of use and whether they had nice wood and/or engraving. Sometimes my priority for what makes a good gun was appearance and not so much function, however that has changed. A 28” barrelled Miroku or Browning Skeet gun was fine but I had the chance to use a friend’s 30” Perazzi on the Skeet range at Auchterhouse and shot a 25 right away! It was a joy to use too. I saw a beautiful straight hand stocked Perazzi MT6 over and under game gun in a Perth gun shop, 28” barrels but with gorgeous wood, looked like a side by side and I had to have it. I did mainly pigeon decoying and it shot extremely well, I felt I couldn’t miss. I took it to a Game Fair at Hopetoun House and had a go at their sporting shoot and did


Engraved John Dickson and Son Side by Side

Finding the right shotgun

Gail Barclay on stand at The National Shooting Centre

surprisingly well, and wish I still had that gun today, but the “love affair” with Perazzi had started.’

Ranald continues, ‘more recently, I have taken up National Skeet and remembering

my success in the past with Perazzi, I bought a 30” MXS Teague choked Sporter from

Ian Coley. I took a risk buying it without trying it first but it fits me well and I shot some mid 90’s


Finding the right shotgun

Ranald Hutton using a Perazzi shotgun

with it. I had the opportunity to try a friend’s 32” Perazzi MX12 at Morton Clays and noticed an


improvement in my practice scores. I’m 6’4” tall and the 32” gun was swinging better with an

apparent reduction in the lead. On the basis of that, I traded my 30” MXS for a 32” barrelled

gun, Teague choked with 1/4 and 1/4 and was delighted with the results. First Skeet

Finding the right shotgun

A game shooter using a 34 inch Barrel Over and Under shotgun

competition with it at Morton Clays produced a 97 and High Gun. It’s interesting how fashion in guns has changed but I am convinced that for me, that extra barrel length is paying off.’ ‘Advice from a coach is a good starting point but buy the best gun you can afford,’ said Ranald. ‘Gun fit is a priority and the shooting discipline will also point to the set up. An adjustable comb and multi chokes can be a blessing.’ Olympic gold medal winner David McMath asks pertinent questions; ‘Does the gun actually fit you? It is not only about looking down the rib at the correct height, but is the cast right for you, is the pitch right, and importantly, is it the correct length? These are all things that you might not know about but you should consult a professional coach/gun fitter and not a gun salesman. Would you ask a car salesman to advise you if a car suits you, probably not, so why would you ask a gun

salesman? You also have to think is the gun suitable for what you want to shoot? You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari to take up off-roading so why buy a trap gun to shoot skeet?’ ‘Picking the correct choke and cartridge for what you are going to shoot is hugely important.’ David continues, ‘the common misconception that the best cartridge is the cheapest is not true, you have to give yourself the best advantage. Pick a shot size that suits what you are going to shoot, don’t buy heavy recoil cartridges if you find them uncomfortable to shoot. My number one bug with cartridges is the hype with high speed loads (HV), do not listen to it. It’s simple, they generally kick like a mule. To achieve high velocity means you need high pressure this results in a very high disturbance in the pattern, not good! Furthermore, it has also been shown that HV cartridges retain less energy when they reach the target then

conventional loads due to the increased in air resistance. Be careful with cartridge shot size EU and British sizes are not the same! If you are going between manufacturers make sure the size is the same in mm.’ Scotland ladies team shooting star, Gail Barclay, talks about the reasons for changing her gun; ‘I injured my knee almost immediately after getting my Beretta Silver Pigeon, and by the time 3 years and 4 operations had passed I had unfortunately put on over 2 stone in weight. When I finally got back to being fit to shoot it no longer fitted me well, and I resolved never to get a gun without an adjustable comb again. My next gun was a Beretta 692 Sporter, with multichokes. It was a great fit for me, but once I discovered DTL I decided to move to a trap gun. I looked for a Miroku MK38, as everyone speaks very highly of these as trap guns. I tried out one 30 inch and one 32 inch barrel gun at Bywell, and decided on

the 32 inch, which, in retrospect was a mistake. The whole gun was too long, from a stock pad that curved into my chest, to barrels which were too heavy to avoid fatigue. I also had to wind myself round the gun to get the ideal sight picture. ‘ Gail bought a second hand Caesar Guerini Summit Impact (high rib) 30 inch gun. ‘I realised that the length of pull was too long, but I felt the head up position was much more comfortable for me. I tried to find Caesar Guerini Syren (ladies fit) guns, but quickly realised that all the Syren models available in the UK are Sporter models and I wanted to stay with a trap version. Nevertheless, the first time I picked up a CG Syren Tempio Sporting gun it immediately felt right. The shorter distance between stock pad and trigger meant I didn’t feel I was stretching to hold the gun up, and the increased cast on the stock meant I could mount it in a comfortable position on my 17

Finding the right shotgun shoulder and it naturally came to the correct position on my cheek, rather than having to cant my head across to reach it. A revelation!’ Gail did her research and discovered there were no ladyfit trap guns to buy in the UK. ‘I approached Cluny Country Store about importing a Caesar Guerini Syren Tempio Trap AT from Italy, and after a few phone calls the answer was, “yes, but it will take 5 months.” Buying a reasonably

expensive gun unseen is really not a sensible approach,’ said Gail. But, she took the plunge and bought the gun. ‘It feels “right” in every way, and being multi choked in both barrels I can use it for everything from skeet, through sporting, to trap. To search for shotguns for sale online, visit or ask at your local clay ground.

F.A.C Airguns and when you need one By Davie “Barndoor” Scott

When airgun licensing came to Scotland many airgunners decided to get their firearms certificates as the cost was pretty much the same as an air weapons certificate and this allowed them to get a much more powerful airgun. So what are they used for and are they worth getting? If you are a full time pest controller then the answer is a definite yes. FAC airguns can dispatch quarry at greater distances and are less affected by wind than sub 12ft/ lbs equipment. This of course leads to being able to clear an area of pests quicker and generally a happy landowner. They do this job well and the only down side is that they have a lower shot count and mostly they need to be filled more often with air. There is however a downside for the casual pest controller who is there just 18

to keep the pest numbers down slightly rather than eradicate them or the more casual shooter whose friend asks them to get rid of a few rabbits. The downside is that FAC airguns are downright boring to use and it takes a lesser degree of fieldcraft to dispatch your quarry and to be perfectly honest they just aren’t as much fun. Having to approach with forty or so yards of your quarry with a sub 12 airgun takes skill and sometimes a little bit of luck and you do hone your fieldcraft skills to a much greater degree and that’s always a good thing. If you are not a full time pest controller sub12 is definitely the way to go. You might as well enjoy what you are doing and still be able to carry out the landowners wishes. It might take a bit longer but you will still get there.

Scottish Association for Country Sports

SACS News Update SACS Director of Policy, Julia Stoddart MRICS, takes us on a whistle-stop tour of current fieldsports advocacy work As 2018 draws rapidly to a close, the incessant pace of fieldsports advocacy work continues. In a year that has seen shooting rates move from information gathering to appeals, salmon conservation develop from petition to inquiry, the future of fox hunting procrastinate in the depths of government bureaucracy and .50 rifles threatened with a ban without a shred of evidence that they represent a threat to public safety, our work has never been more necessary or unrelenting. As I write, I have just submitted our response to the 2019 salmon conservation regulations consultation; this is the annual call for views on the categorisation of conservation status for Scotland’s salmon rivers. Although progress has been made, there are still significant problems with the scientific methodology used to calculate a river’s status and, of course, the frustrating irony is that rod angling remains a minor pressure on salmon stocks in the face of the triple-threat: aquaculture, predation and habitat quality (not to mention climate change and marine impacts). Still on my desk is our draft response to the consultation on Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-2029, due in at the end of November. What, I hear you ask, does that have to do with fieldsports? The strategy sets out the direction of travel for the forest environment for the next decade, including deer

management and landscape quality. As commercial forestry competes with other land uses for acres and resources, it is crucial that it is not allowed to damage or compromise vital habitats like heather moorland, upland rough pasture and native woodland; habitats that are home to many of our most iconic species. More inspiring, perhaps, is my next to-do list item: a features article for another publication on the conservation of Scottish wildcats. Working with Scottish Wildcat Action and SNH, along with other fieldsports stakeholders, a new wildcat-friendly management protocol is being developed

for gamekeepers and land managers. As hunters, we often take for granted our status as conservationists, but other groups do not always see us in this way; for this reason alone, it is essential that we actively work with non-fieldsports interests to play our part in ensuring a sustainable future for rare and vulnerable species. The wildcat is just such a one, and I’ll be sitting down to write about how our community can best help this ethereal creature with one paw already in history. Finally, our dedication to the cause of Scottish fox control continues; we are beginning to hold our breath as Christmas

approaches and the new Environment Minister prepares to make her announcement about whether to amend the Protection of Wild Mammals Act – and if so, how. I met with Ms Gougeon last month, to describe to her using case studies from my members why a full pack of hounds is essential, and why terrierwork must continue in its present form. The Minister asked intelligent questions and appeared to empathise, but we know from previous experience that the whims of politicians are often as unfathomable as a hill wind in a high corrie. Only time will tell; in the meantime, our work continues.


Happy Fifth Birthday Scottish Ladies Shooting Club

By the time this goes to print, the Scottish Ladies Shooting Club will have held it’s fifth birthday shoot and party night at County Clays and Dunkeld House Hotel. This is one of the highlights of our year. This gives the ladies a chance to remove the winter layers after an afternoon of shooting, put on a posh frock, enjoy a few cocktails made with Brudar Sloe Gin, Raspberry Vodka or Whisky Liquer and dance off a fabulous three course dinner. A great way to end a fabulous year of shooting. It is hard to believe there were only a couple of ladies events a year until we started the first club in Scotland for ladies five years ago. We now have monthly clay shoots, an annual Ladies Charity Day, several simulated game days, annual Game Shooting Day and attend a number of charity days across the country. It has been fantastic to see club grow year on year as more ladies realise shooting is not just for the boys. Many first timers had never lifted a gun before coming along to one of our events. Ladies coming along for the first time are placed into groups depending on their skill level to ensure they get the right level of coaching and targets; nice and easy for the beginners, moving up to more testing and challenging targets for the experienced shots. Our aim is for everyone to have fun and ‘smash’ lots of clays. Our monthly events are generally held on the first Sunday of every month, subject to school holidays, and rotate around a number of shooting schools - County Clays at Dunkeld, Auchterhouse near Dundee, Cluny Clays at Kirkcaldy, Gleneagles in Perthshire and the National Shooting Centre, Falkirk. We 20

SLSC Simulated Game Day

have ladies travelling from as far afield as Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire, Galloway and the Borders to attend our events. Rotating round a variety of shooting grounds ensures we get the widest variety of targets and gently push our ladies to improve and progress. Our event fees range from £55 to £60 for 50 clays (beginners and novices shoot less clays as they get more tuition) and includes a light lunch, expert tuition, cartridges, loan of a gun and any safety equipment required. Besides catering for complete beginners, the club is perfect for any novice, improver, intermediate or experienced lady who wants to improve her shooting and meet other ladies who shoot. We like to close our events with tea/coffee, cake and chat as making friends and socializing is a big part of the club. We try to keep the fun element to the fore at several specific events, so it’s Christmas Jumpers in December, fancy dress to support the Auchterhouse Charity Ladies Day in June, a BBQ at our end of June shoot, and a longer afternoon tea with cakes galore at our October event to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support (£127 raised this year). Whilst having fun we also like to help others, especially as many of us have had those close

to us affected by cancer. The club’s chosen charity is Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Dundee. Our Scottish Ladies Days and raffle at the shoot party night have raised £4287.13 for Maggie’s to date. The Scottish Ladies Shooting Club has entered teams into several charity events the last couple of years to help raise money for the Saints and Sinner’s Charity Fund, the Army Benevolent Fund, Royal Marines Charity Shoot and Amulree Christmas Fundraiser. Charity shoots are a great day out and fun way to help raising money for a good cause. Membership of the club, once you have tried it out and decided it is for you, is £30 per year and unlocks a number of benefits including reduced price lessons, cartridges and other benefits offered by the grounds that have supported the club from the very beginning. The club is non profit making. The Scottish Ladies Shooting Club is ideal if you want to try shooting for the first time or want to take your shooting to the next level. We are a very friendly and welcoming bunch of ladies who love to shoot. Please have a look at our dates for next year and get in touch if you want to find out more.

To find out more :• Website: www. • Facebook group www.facebook. com/scottishladiesshooting. • Email: info@ • Telephone Lesley Fleming on 07971 547 826 Scottish Ladies Shooting Club events for 2019 - We are currently finalizing our calendar for 2019 and will advise prices on our website and Facebook page. Sunday 6th January 2019 Cluny Clays, nr Kirkcaldy - 11:00 Registration – 12:30 commence shooting. Sunday 3rd February 2019 – Gleneagles Shooting School, Nr Auchterarder - 11:30 Registration – 13:00 Commence shooting. Sunday 3rd March 2019 – County Clays, Dunkeld - 11:30 Registration – 13:00 Commence shooting. Sunday 7th April 2019 – National Shooting Centre Scotland, Nr Falkirk - 11:30 Registration - 13:00 Commence shooting. Spring Simulated Game Day – Date to be confirmed – Edradynate Estate nr Aberfeldy - Meet for tea/coffee and hot

breakfast roll, shoot five/six drives of simulated game of 200 birds per drive with a break for a light lunch and finish with afternoon tea. Full guns or half gun available. Sunday 5th May 2019 – There will be no event this Sunday as the annual Scottish Ladies Day will be held later in the month. Sunday 19th May 2019 – Scottish Ladies Day at Dunkeld House Hotel and County Clays – The aim of the event is to bring together ladies from across Scotland who love to shoot, as well as those who would love to give shooting a try. Registration with tea / coffee. Tutored sessions for beginners, novices, intermediate and experienced groups. There will be a raffle, a goodie bag, a selection of guns and cartridges to test on our demo stand, selection of outdoor / shooting clothing and a fun Team Flush to finish. The event will close with afternoon tea and presentation of Top Gun prizes.

Saturday 1st June 2019 – Auchterhouse Charity Ladies Day – There will not be a SLSC event on Sunday 2nd June as the SLSC supports this event. Price and fancy dress theme to be confirmed. Sunday 30th June 2019 – Summer shoot and BBQ County Clays, Dunkeld – 11:30 Registration with BBQ and refreshments – 13:00 Commence shooting. Event brought forward as Scottish Game Fair is the first weekend in July. Summer Simulated clay day – Date to be confirmed – Glamis Castle, Meigle, Angus - Meet for tea/coffee and hot breakfast roll, shoot five/six drives of simulated game of 200 birds per drive with a break for a light lunch and finish with afternoon tea. Full guns or half gun available. Sunday 4th August 2019 – Cluny Clays, Nr Kirkcaldy - 11:30 Registration with tea / coffee - 12:00 light lunch - 13:00 Commence shooting.

Sunday 1st September 2019 – Joint Ladies Improver Day with BASC - County Clays, Dunkeld - 11:30 Registration with tea / coffee - 12:00 light lunch - 13:00 Commence shooting. Autumn Simulated clay day – 15th September 2018 - Venue to be confirmed - Meet for tea/coffee and hot breakfast roll, shoot five/ six drives of simulated game of 200 birds per drive with a break for a light lunch and finish with afternoon tea. Full guns or half gun available. Sunday 6th October 2019 Gleneagles Shooting School, Nr Auchterarder - 11:30 Registration with tea / coffee - 12:00 light lunch - 13:00 Commence shooting. SLSC Ladies Driven Game Day – Glenericht Estate, Bridge of Cally, Perthshire – 10 x lady guns – Five / six drives with lunch at the Bridge of Cally Hotel. Date and price to be confirmed.

Sunday 3rd November 2019 - Cluny Clays, Nr Kirkcaldy – 11:00 Registration with tea / coffee – 11:30 light lunch – 12:30 Commence shooting. Saturday 23rd November 2019 – BASC Ladies Driven Game Day at Glen Ample, Perthshire – 10 x lady guns – Five / six drives with a light lunch. Date and price to be confirmed. Saturday 7th December 2019 – SLSC Sixth Birthday – Shoot at County Clays, Dunkeld with dinner at the Dunkeld House Hotel – 11:00 Registration – 11:30 Light lunch – 12:30 Commence shooting. Free time late afternoon to relax. Pre-dinner cocktails, three course menu with coffee and entertainment. Dunkeld House Hotel offer a Party Night Package of Dinner, Bed and Breakfast.

Want to try clay pigeon shooting or looking to improve; come join us!


What price our freedom? By Alex Stoddart, SACS It has been said before that selfishness and greed lie at the heart of most of society’s troubles, and this is true also of the fieldsports world. Alex Stoddart discusses the folly of egotism at the centre of ‘Goat Gate’.

SACS has previously warned about the risks posed by irresponsible use of social media, not just for UK firearms licensing – the Police are absolutely watching you – but also the egodriven, self-aggrandisement of the cult of the ‘hunting celebrity’, usually driven by a commercial and product placement agenda. As professional advocates, SACS is fully engaged with legislators and very much aware that the message we give to politicians about hunting being a legitimate, sustainable activity with its own culture and community must be matched by the actions of our community members. In Scotland especially, we operate in a tinderbox atmosphere where one ill-considered incident that seems minor to us can spark a wildfire of media intrusion and political grandstanding. And that is exactly what has happened with the Islay goat and sheep hunting

story that made the national news in October. The management of goats in Scotland, whether considered wild or feral non-native, is lawful and necessary to manage the impact of goat populations on their habitat and wider ecosystem, just as with deer. Goat management is also an income-generating activity in economically fragile parts of rural Scotland. Posing with a dead wild goat for a ‘trophy’ photo is a matter of personal taste, but if someone chooses to do this, they should do so respectfully and, if they are posting the photo publicly on social media, rather than to their own private family and friends audience and especially as part of a commercial promotion campaign, they should do so with forethought for others who may not understand. At the very least, explain what you are doing in a management context and refrain

from using stupid and emotive language such as ‘sniper mode’ and boasting about quite average shooting distances. Wearing camouflage is a total non-issue; after all, Scottish tweed is our homegrown camouflage, and to our knowledge no politician has yet called the wearing of tweed abhorrent. The only abhorrent tweed in my house is an ancient pair of breeks that the dog has decided to nest in and chew. As far as the ‘trophy ram’ goes, many of us will have been called to assist a farmer or crofter in the cull of a sheep that has turned feral and cannot be caught, and which may pose a risk to breeding timing and flock health. But posing with dead livestock and bragging about the curl of its horn as if it were a mouflon, is frankly absurd. In the prevailing anti-shooting culture of Britain, we believe that the sheep photograph was a mistake and

one that could have been avoided if this hunting ‘celebrity’ had bothered to research the political climate of the country she was visiting, which could not be more different from her homeland. Opponents of fieldsports can and will capitalise on public ignorance and the media obsession with scandal to foment further prejudice against our community. As a direct result of this ‘celebrity’ hunter’s actions, the Scottish Environment Secretary has announced a planned review into the regulation of culling: and all because someone wanted to brag on social media, using language that could only antagonise antis. Whether we like it or not, the vast majority of people do not understand our world, and they won’t seek to educate themselves. We are ALL advocates for our community, and the time for being self-centred is gone. SACS and our sister organisations, (continued on page 24)


What price our freedom? who are already at full capacity dealing with the many and multiplying other serious threats to our way of life, will now have to deal with this mess; SACS has already engaged with the politicians concerned, and with other stakeholders. This is our clear message: think before you post. Social media is not just about commercialism as some insist; for all its potential negatives and expert use by anti-hunters against us, it has many positives for our community as well and let us keep it informative and positive. Don’t give the antis ammunition to fire back at us; make sure any photographs are respectful and convey the message that hunting is a sustainable activity necessary either for conservation or to provide healthy food. Use intelligent language. Don’t make life even more difficult when our community already occupies such a precarious position. And if your social media profile


What price our freedom? is dominated with photos of headshots and wound channels, then you really need to grow up. If you regard yourself as one of the new generation of selfpromotional hunting celebrities, you must accept that with a public profile you have a greater responsibility not to make a complete spectacle of yourself and, in the process, derail the competent and necessarily less-public advocacy work we and our sister organisations do on your behalf. In essence, Goat Gate was a total non-story; however, the stupid manner in which the hunting trip concerned was communicated could only ever have given antis ammunition against us. Meanwhile, this particular hunting celebrity has jetted away on another trophy hunt elsewhere in the world, leaving SACS, an extraordinarily hard-working and not-for-profit shooting and fieldsports advocacy body, and our partners to deal with the political shit-storm she has left behind.


8th Intergrated Land Use Conference By Stuart Blair In March 2019, the University of the Highlands and Islands [UHI] will be holding its 8th Integrated Land Use Conference [ILUC]. The conference is held at Carrbridge Hotel and Seafield Estates, and brings together Land Use students from the UHI network together to look at Upland Land Use issues. It was widely evident that within the Land Use Sector, everyone worked within their own silos, whether sporting, agricultural, forestry, environmental or governmental and “never the twain shall meet”. So we thought, why not get everyone together as students, before their views become too entrenched, and get them all talking. In such a small sector it is inevitable that students’ paths will cross in the future, so why not start making connections now? It was agreed that the conference should be studentfocused and that speakers and case studies should stem from

• • • • • • •

If interested, call us now on: 01847 889000 or look at our website: the “real world”. Working to “Chatham House rules”, in an attempt to listen to the experiences of the individual rather than any organisation was also an important objective. We discovered that when you take away the often entrenched

views and allow individuals to talk without any organisational bias, there is a huge amount of common ground when discussing Land Use issues. At the conference, when debating Upland Land Use, topical, current issues and subjects have been raised, such as;

Land Ownership Grazing Renewables Re-introductions Rewilding Recreation/Tourism Sporting Over the last few years the conference agenda has attempted to offer different activities throughout the course of a few days, in order to provide students with a comprehensive experience, which has included; field talks with interactive and practical elements, conference style talks, and student-led group tasks. The aim has always been, to address specific integrated Land Use issues in an interactive, engaging way. The event has also provided a forum for students to talk to industry professionals and learn about volunteering and potential career opportunities, as well as giving them the opportunity to share their own experiences too. The modern Gamekeeper is now expected to have a far larger suite of skills at his/her disposal than in the past. The ILUC allows Gamekeeping students to interact and discuss a wide array of subjects with students from differing subjects and backgrounds. The days of Gamekeepers, living in remote glens and not interacting with others is over. In the multimedia melée of today, Keepers must possess a wide range of skills, to allow them to be able to interact, debate and work with a wide range of stakeholders. Over the last 7 years, the Conference has gained quite (continued on page 28)


a reputation, in part due to some interesting delegates and speakers from around Europe and Scandinavia that have attended the event and from the local expertise on hand too - it has even been used as a Case study for delivering complex multi-disciplinary land use issues, throughout Europe.


For more information on the ILUC and the organisers of the conference, have a look at the website or look for our Facebook Page “UHI - Integrated Land Use Conference�


Photographs courtesy of Pace Productions

The National Shooting Centre The National Shooting Centre (NSC 92) is an international shooting ground with top of the range facilities based in Central Scotland. Catering for a vast array of shooting disciplines including their newly opened airgun range, NSC 92 provide clay shooting lessons, professional lessons and regular competitions including registered shoots. The NSC 92 team completed a Q and A of frequently asked questions from customers and members who had many burning questions to ask. If you’re still looking for further information you can visit their website on:, contact them via email at: or call them at their newly renovated clubhouse on: 01324 851 672. The grounds standard opening hours are Tuesday through to Sunday from 10am until 5pm. NSC Q&A 1. What does the number 92 stand for in the National Shooting Centre logo? a. The number 92 stands for the year 1992 as that was the year the shooting ground opened.

2. What are then benefits of becoming a National Shooting Centre member? a. By becoming an NSC 92 member, you receive a discount on clays and cartridges. You are also entitled to 2 FREE lessons per membership year (tuition costs are included but consumables - such as clays and cartridges - are charged at members rates) and our NSC 92 membership rewards scheme. Membership costs £75.00 per annum and can be purchased from our website or in person at the clubhouse. A perfect last-minute gift for Christmas if you’re running a bit behind.

3. Which clay shooting disciplines does the shooting ground cater for? a. The ground caters for all aspects of clay shooting including DTL, NSK, OT, OSK, STR, NSP, ABT and our layouts are all interchangeable. 4. What, in your opinion, would the ideal discipline for beginners be? a. The softer presentations on a sporting clays course are more suited to a beginner/novice shooter. We recommend that you start on the easier 29


targets before moving into more complex layouts, it may also be helpful for a novice shooter to come in for an introductory lesson. We offer lessons for all capabilities here at the shooting ground, including professional lessons - for more advanced shooters - with four-time Scottish Champion, Stewart Cumming.

5. What’s the best way to prepare for the game season? a. Preparations for the game season should ideally start at the end of the last season. Your gun should not be put away and unused up until a couple of days before your first shoot. Our instructors here at NSC have previously had clients attending lessons 2 days before a shoot, with an unrealistic hope of picking up where they left off at the end of the previous season or more-often-than-not better! It’s important to remember that practice makes perfect and we’re more than willing to help you achieve your game shooting goals, whatever they may be. 6. Do you have any tips for approaching difficult targets? a. Trust your technique, if its working on the easier birds, in theory you will hit your fair share of difficult targets. The key here is to remain focused on the so-called easy targets as that’s where you can run into difficulty. Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us! 7. What are the best cartridges for clay shooting? a. In all honestly, the best cartridge for clay shooting is the cartridge that fits your budget. We stock Hull cartridges here at NSC, as a company they offer cartridges to suit all budgets, from the extremely popular Superfast 27g through to the top end Sovereign Parcours. 8. Can you suggest any tips for preparing for a competition? a. If you are happy with your timing and technique, don’t overdo it, it is better to enter the competition with a hunger. If you are unhappy with form and timing, shoot plenty of easier targets. There is nothing better to build your confidence than breaking targets and seeing success. Know your limits and be confident in your abilities as a shooter. 9. Christmas is fast approaching; do you offer Gift Vouchers? a. Yes! They were incredibly popular in the club house last year. We recently added them to our website under the NSC 92 STORE header, listed as digital files so once you purchase the gift voucher you receive it immediately via email. Gift vouchers are available in monetary values and for specific types of lessons. Visit www.nsc92/com/giftvouchers for more information.


habitat and species protection

Winter brings challenges for birdlife on the farm Dr Dave Parish, Head of Scottish Lowland Research, GWCT Winter is here. The crops are in, bales are wrapped and stored and winter visitors have arrived. Pigeons in flocks tuck down into any remaining stubbles; noisy rooks gather in the high trees. Many species, both game birds and song birds are now facing the challenges of survival through the cold months ahead. The modern countryside in winter is a harsh environment for wildlife, with scant opportunity for food and shelter except where farmers and land managers have specifically made provision. This may be because they have a shoot, or through a support scheme

where public money compensates farmers for providing wildlife habitats. As we head towards Brexit the policy underpinning the Westminster approach is clearly towards ‘environmentally responsible farming’. The question remains “will Scotland follow suit?” Measures that support wild birds and other wildlife are what GWCT has been advocating for years but our premise is that if you farm for the benefit of game then a whole barrage of other species will benefit in addition. So, when we count wild grey partridge we are also noting other species that are

taking advantage of measures on farms put in place to protect and provide for them. To the lay person seeing that a field has not been ploughed or planted right up to the hedge or the dyke might make them think that the farmer took an early lunch, or is short changing the subsidy system. But we want to see margins left, hedges cut on a planned basis and never short back and sides at once, unproductive strips and headlands allowed to stand, or better still planted with seed mixes that will benefit birds and other wildlife. We are working hard on the science to establish what different

bird species need for food, for shelter, for nesting cover and, come spring, for rearing their chicks. And we know that managing the farm for game will deliver outcomes for our much-loved farmland birds and songbirds too. This is the basis for the Interreg North Sea Region supported PARTRIDGE project in which GWCT is a partner, which aims to show how grey partridge measures can boost wildlife at demonstration sites across northern Europe. We hope this will lead to improvements in the support packages available to farmers to give wildlife a much-needed boost. Indeed, if we can provide for

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We stock Gamebore, Hull & Proper Cartridges, Hornady rifle ammunition with alternative brands available. We supply most popular brands of fishing tackle & accessories, frozen bait, clothing, footwear, rods, shotguns, rifles, air weapons, ammunition, clays, home loading components, darts, gift vouchers & much more. We carry an extensive stock of pre-owned shotguns and rifles; new shotguns and rifles can be ordered, weapon storage and gun hire is also available. We are Scottish agents for Patternmaster Chokes. We carry a varied stock of outdoor clothing, Daiwa, Hoggs, Deerstalker, Pinewood, Harkila, Grubbs, Jack Pyke, Meindl with others available. Stockist of Rovince Tick Repellant Clothing. Contact us for a price; if you have a quote we’ll do our best to match it, if we don’t carry it in stock we’ll try our best to source it for you. Estate accounts catered for. *Now agents for Caledonian Cartridges in Angus. anguscountrysports


habitat and species protection At this time of year all farmland birds need food and shelter, so plants that stand through the winter and retain their seeds for as long as possible are important. In Scotland we have been trialling

kale, triticale, mustard, wheat, oil seed rape and quinoa benefiting many bird species and any future payment regime we hope will ensure that greater levels of this type of work can be implemented.

Management for game is at the heart of much of this thinking and, for those of us that do that, we can take heart that such an approach will result in the survival and success of many other farmland bird species too.

Photo: Hannah Greetham

these species all year round we will come far closer to ensuring their future. So, for example, the wild grey partridge requires suitable habitat, enough food and tolerable levels of predation for success and when farmers plant cover crops, provide supplementary feed and perform even basic predator control they can meet these needs. Other factors might include hedge maintenance and tree planting, but good habitat management for wildlife basically means planting and managing vegetation with appropriate care to provide a sound environment. Killing weeds within crops with chemical treatments or killing insects with insecticides takes away a valuable food source, but this can be offset by treating areas around fields, margins and headlands with fewer or selective chemicals allowing more wildflowers and arable weeds to flourish, and the associated pollinators and pestpredators, which can actually improve crop yields.

Grey partridge covey



Raising the game in the Lammermuirs An event to help raise awareness of where to buy and how to cook local game meat in the Lammermuirs saw Brian Grigor, executive chef consultant for Albert Roux OBE at the Roux Group Scotland, conduct a cookery demonstration for guests at the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, a magnificent country house hotel in St Boswells in the Borders. Launching its ‘Moor to Eat’ campaign, the Lammermuirs Moorland Group organised the Game Dinner recently which was attended by 60 guests including gamekeepers, game dealers, experienced game chefs, local restaurants, hotels and businesses. Brian, who was previously the executive chef at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Number One at the Balmoral Hotel, demonstrated cooking a Michelin-starred dish and talked about how more restaurants are using game on their menus in recent times, also answering questions from the floor including how long to hang game for before cooking. “I cook with fresh, local produce whenever possible and I can’t wait for the start of the game season each year when I can feature grouse, pheasant and partridge in my menus. Consumers are now eating far more conscientiously, choosing produce in season and there has been a real surge in consumers’ appetite for game. Events like this are great at bringing together local outlets and business owners who may otherwise not have given game a thought and showing them the wide variety of options that game meat offers” said Brian Grigor. Grouse, pheasant and partridge are all lower in fat and higher in protein than chicken. 34

Many local outlets now stock a selection of game meat sourced locally from estates in the Lammermuirs. Gosford Bothy Farm Shop in East Lothian for example sells ‘oven-ready’ grouse and grouse breasts wrapped in smoked streaky bacon. John Wallace of the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel said: “We are a family owned business and we have been involved in country sports for nearly 50 years as we recognise its importance to the Borders economy and way of life. We support local shoots by ensuring that game in season is always on the menu. Our efforts were nationally recognised when we reached the final of the “Eat Game” awards earlier this year. We have shooting parties from all over the world here most weeks of the season and we are invariably asked to prepare a selection of what they have shot for dinner, which we are very happy to do. We wish the Lammermuirs Moorland Group every success in their efforts.”

The Northern Shooting Show 2019 11th & 12th May The Northern Shooting Show has in just three years become the UK’s largest indoor and outdoor shooting show. It will be returning for the fourth year on 11th/12th May and will be building on the great success of last year. The show gives visitors the opportunity to see and get hands on with thousands of new and used shotguns, rifles, airguns, optics products, specialist clothing and accessories which are all for sale over the show weekend. There is also an extensive clayline, which is Europe’s


The Northern Shooting Show

longest and allows visitors to try out shotguns from all the major manufacturers such as Browning, Fausti, Longthorne, Marocchi, Remington, Perazzi and Blaser or you try your hand on the 50 bird sporting competition or have a lesson from BASC or CPSA coaches. The indoor exhibition halls have exhibitors such as Beretta, Benelli, Air Arms, Daystate, Sauer, Sako, Tikka, Merkel, Meopta, Minox, Leupold, Pulsar, Swarovski, Weihrauch, Vortex and Zeiss and many of the optics manufacturers take advantage of the viewing platforms at the show so visitors can try the optics products out, looking across the valley at the showground. Dozens of distributors and retailers will also be in attendance and include CSW, Thomas Jacks, Ruag, Viking Arms, East Midlands Regional Range, Hammer Pair, Low Mill Ranges, Caledonian Classic Arms, Bolt Open Classics, Rifleworks, Devon Custom Rifles, Form Rifle Stocks, Scott Country, AimField and NiteSite. At the show there are also many UK product launches allowing the public to see them for the first time. Specialist clothing and stalking accessories from popular exhibitors such as Best Deer Call, Nomad Clothing, Bushwear and Fortis along with vehicle displays such as Polaris, Honda and major road vehicle retailers.

There are extensive outside areas which give it a ‘game fair’ feel and makes it an event where family can attend too with gundog clinics, scurries and demonstrations along with airgun ranges, archery, bushcraft demonstrations and plenty to see and do. You may want to visit the demonstration and presentation stage hosted by Darryl and Byron Pace with live podcasts and high profile panels discussing hunting and shooting issues relevant at the time with questions from the audience. The Deer Focus Area will be back even bigger this year with everything deer related including hunting and stalking along with deer management. Cali Ap Bryn will be demonstrating how to skin and butcher a deer correctly then putting his own twist on preparing the meat with a modern take of a kebab which will then be on sale to visitors. Relevant associations such as British Deer Society, BASC, NGO, GWT will be in attendance too offering members benefits along with CIC and BASC trophy measuring services. The show is literally a one stop shop for everything shooting allowing you to see,try and buy, and will be a fantastic day out for shooters and their families . Advance tickets are available now for only £12 for a limited time which include free booking, free parking and fast early entry. Go to tickets

It’s a dog’s life! by Linda Mellor Humans and dogs have worked together for a very long time. Early ancient cave paintings are decorated with pictorial evidence of prehistoric man hunting with or alongside domesticated wolves. Over time, selective breeding created an intelligent and less aggressive companion that we now call a dog. Dogs are renowned for the loyalty and their ability to hunt, chase and guard. Over the centuries man adapted and began farming livestock so the frequency of hunting changed. Hunting was no longer essential for survival, and man needed a


broader range of canine skills and began to breed dogs to fit a particular purpose. Each task required different skills, and each hunting dog has its merits and specific natural characteristics – speed, stamina and strength for hunting deer, water resistant coats for dogs used for wetland hunting, and smaller, feisty dogs that could find underground prey. Gundogs were trained to find and flush live game and to retrieve game that had been shot or wounded. Gundogs are divided into four groups – Retrievers, Spaniels, Hunt/Point/ Retrieve (HPR) and Pointers

and Setters. Many of the gundog breeds are great all-rounders, versatile, and ideal family dogs. Their adaptability is often demonstrated in the work they do. Below, I speak to five owners to find out why they are so passionate about their favourite working breed. Retrievers There are seven retrieving breeds listed on the Kennel club website, including Golden Retriever, Flatcoated, Chesapeake Bay, Curly Coated, Nova Scotia

and the Irish Water Spaniel (apparently it is classified as a spaniel in shows but referred to as a retriever when working). One of the most recognisable gundogs you will see working on a shoot day is a labrador retriever. Favoured in black or yellow but also available in chocolate, fox red and other colours. It is a dog bred to primarily retrieve shot game back to its handler without damage. Most retrieving breeds will naturally retrieve a shot bird; however, regular training is needed to harness their natural

It’s a dog’s life!

Black Labrador retrieveing a wild duck

instincts so they understand and respond to a range of advanced commands. Retrievers must be able to sit quietly and wait for commands from their owner. Training is a great bonding exercise for dog and handler, uniting them as a team and creating a stronger, close-knit relationship. A good gundog should have strong working lines. Some retrievers have been bred for showing, and this prioritises their appearance above their hunting instincts. A working dog should have a pleasant temperament, be biddable, intelligent, friendly and strong. Retrievers are bred for their soft mouths so they carry game in their mouths without biting into it. This trait is particularly important as the majority of the game birds shot are destined for the table. A hardmouthed dog renders the game unpresentable and unfit to eat. It is a serious fault in a gundog as a hard mouth is nearly always incurable. Fife based Lawrie Robertson has trained, worked and competed with Labrador retrievers for more than fifty years, he said, ‘you need patience to quietly bring them on from pups, and also a little luck. All dogs are different and, in your lifetime, you will probably find there is one dog that stands out and far outshines all the others and never puts a paw wrong. My

gundogs have always been house pets so they have been around lots of different people in the home and outdoors, exposed to different places, situations, other dogs and animals. This gave them a well-rounded life.’ ‘You want a steady, reliable dog,’ said Lawrie. ‘It’s great to see your dogs work and also feel confident in their abilities to do their job. Years ago, on a driven shoot day at Crawford Priory, I recall sending one of my black labs out on a particular retrieve. A Snipe had been flushed from boggy, long grass on the edge of the Clatto reservoir, it was shot over the water and my dog had a 50 yard swim out into the water to retrieve the bird. It was a great retrieve.’ Lawrie credits putting a lot into the training of his gundogs, ‘it is rewarding to see all my training paying off, when a bolting rabbit is shot and the dogs sit and wait for my command. It’s that investment you have made in their training that pays you back time and time again with tight teamwork.” Spaniels Spaniels are bred to hunt and flush game, and worldwide, there are 26 recognised spaniel and nine in the UK, including the Irish water Spaniel. The most popular breeds you will see working on a shoot day are Springers, Cockers, Clumbers and Sprockers (a cross

between a Springer and a Cocker). Peter Keyser is a lifelong English Springer Spaniel owner and enjoys working his four dogs on the grouse moors and picking up on partridge and pheasant

days. Peter said, ‘I find them great characters, and they are all different. They may not be the easiest but they are very fast and will cover the ground and are brilliant on the moor.’ Peter

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It’s a dog’s life!

Three generations of Spaniels

has made the most of the spaniel intelligence and flexibility and has used them for wildfowling and deer stalking. ‘I have always had a stalking dog, they adapt and never leave my heel. They are very surprising, during one stalk my spaniel assisted me and I was able to quickly dispatch a wounded Roe. The girls are no good for stalking because they are erratic and very fast.’ One of Peter’s most memorable dogs was a black and white springer called Prince, who had five previous owners. Peter said, ‘he was an extremely goodlooking dog, good natured and enthusiastic and could jump a five-bar gate. I gave him lots of work, and he didn’t half go for it. When we were wildfowling on Orkney, he jumped into a group of seals to retrieve a Teal and came back with it.’ ‘We are 13 or 14 generations on from Prince and have bred down the line. I don’t like huge spaniels, mine are light and fast with lovely natures. It is very rare for me to have four as I usually have two but I’m pretty pleased with my lot.’ Peter’s wife loves the dogs and enjoys daily walks with them from their rural home in Angus. The dogs

David Pullan’s Wirehaired Vizsla


have always been in the house and enjoy a warm spot close to the Aga. Peter said, ‘they do their job, and our grandchildren enjoy playing with them, and I get lots of exercise!’ HPR Hunt, Point and Retrieve (HPR) breeds are known for their versatility and ability to match the skills of all the other gundog varieties and are able to hunt, point and retrieve. They include German Longhaired, Shorthaired and Wirehaired Pointers, Weimaraner, Hungarian Vizsla and Wirehaired Vizsla, Munsterlander, Italian Spinone, Bracco Italiano, Brittany, Slovakian Rough Haired Pointer and Korthals Griffon. David Pullan was ‘absolutely smitten’ by Wirehaired Vizsla, he said, ‘it was 11 years ago when I got my first dog, Amber, from a good friend of mine. She was absolutely bomb-proof, a good all-rounder for beating and picking up, great for deer tracking, and also great in water. Unlike some other breeds I didn’t have to worry she would turn up in the next county as Vizslas are very loyal.’ ‘It’s interesting to watch

It’s a dog’s life!

Peter Keyser with his Spaniels

their paw and going on point at seven weeks old. They are my dog for all reasons, they hunt something out, they scent it, get downwind and they go on point. They turn their head to look at you, you give the command, they flush it, you shoot the bird and they retrieve it. No matter when they go on point, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.’ ‘They are not a hugely recognised breed but you can

Rosella Di Palma

them around the house, they are placid and quiet but when you get your gun out they switch into work mode and they are by your side, it’s the same when they get out of the truck, they know it’s their job.’ David has used his wirehaired Vizslas for shooting and deer stalking. ‘I wouldn’t have any other breed. They’re super intelligent and easy to train. I have seen pups lifting

Pointer belonging to Richard Macnicol


It’s a dog’s life!

Yellow Labrador Retriever picking up on shoot day

learn so much from them. When I was out stalking the forest I would always watch Amber because she had a good nose. She would stop, taste the wind and pick up on something before me, she was that good.’ Setters and Pointers Setters and Pointers are bred to find game and then freeze, ‘pointing’ in the direction of the game. They do not need to retrieve but some are trained to do so. The breeds include English Setter, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Red and


White Setter, and the Pointer, sometimes called the English Pointer. Richard MacNicol said, ‘I train and manage the Morness kennel of Pointers for Monsieur Laurent Hild who owns Tressady Estate in Sutherland. His own passion for the working Pointer makes the job I love so enjoyable. Mr Hild and his guests enjoy shooting over his Pointers especially at grouse and woodcock. Currently in the kennel we have 14 adult Pointers ranging in age from 1 to

8 years old and also have a litter of pups. We strive to improve the working lines of Pointers through selective breeding. This has been a lifelong love of mine. Formal training for me does not start until they are 8 -12months.’ For more than 40 years Richard has been training, working and competing at field trials and has fed his working dogs Chudleys dog food for over 30 years. ‘In 1971, my passion for the working Pointer was ignited as a young gamekeeper working on Viscount

Leverhulme’s Badanloch Estate in Sutherland. At that time there were a great many estates in Caithness and Sutherland that had large kennels of bird dogs (Pointers and Setters) as shooting grouse over dogs was preferred. The English Setter was the preferred breed as many felt the harsh Highland weather did not suit the shortcoated Pointer. Although I had been brought up around gundogs, I never owned one of my own until I was given an English Pointer by my father when I was

It’s a dog’s life! 19. This pointer was partly show bred and started my love affair with the breed.’ Richard said, ‘Pointers kennel well together, they are quiet, not barkers and are probably the easier to train of the bird dog breeds. They are very loyal and a wonderful sight to behold when they are working.’ ‘I have had many proud moments with Pointers. Winning my first field trial, making up field trial champions and back to back British and Irish Championship wins to name but a few. Ultimately for me, running the dogs for a team of guns gives me great pleasure, showing their superb attributes and qualities which many are in awe of.’ The spotty working gundog The Dalmatian breed is listed under ‘Utility’ on the Kennel Club website, and not included in sporting or working categories but Gamekeeper’s wife, Sarah Mottram successfully works her dalmatian on shoot days at Hopetoun Estate. Sarah said, ‘I have trained Panda from a pup just like I did with my other gundogs and have been taking her to shoots ever since beating and picking up. She enjoys going out on a shoot day her tail doesn’t stop wagging. She has an incredible nose on her and has eye wiped plenty of field trials and other gundogs dogs on a shoot day. Panda had endless stamina, and would run all day true to the history of Dalmatians of being carriage dogs. Panda is a talking point on a shoot, some guns call her a lab with spots!’

Ongoing Training GUNDOGS By now we’ll be in the thick of a new shooting season, November, December and January will hopefully bring some crisp, cold, frosty days and a fantastic shooting season ahead. Our gundogs will probably have had a few days under their belts by now, if you and your dog are privileged enough to have had a few days picking up at August grouse, or September partridges, this time of year can bring many challenges for both dog and handler. For most, a combination of short winter days, lack of time, and numerous shoot days, could mean your normally placid dog can start to be a bit of a handful. The odd creep forward, the earlier than anticipated outrun, or the failure to stop on an over blown stop whistle, sometimes show up the failings that we and our canine friends can have.

By Stuart Dunn Caledonian Retriever Club

Finding time during the season to readdress some of these problems is difficult, but neglecting the issues could create a long lasting issue, which may become incurable. Should problems start to show themselves, the earlier you start to take corrective action the better the results will be. A well trained gundog is a pleasure to own and an asset on any shoot day, but an unruly dog can be an embarrassment to you and a disaster for a shoot. So try to recognise the early warning signs, before they go too far wrong, if the dog starts to put you on edge with its behaviour, it’s time to look at corrective action. This can be as simple as slipping the lead on at the next drive, or even removing the dog from the field altogether and putting it back in the vehicle and attempt to address the problem

another day. Pushing young dogs in particular, on too quickly and introducing them to “huge” excitement levels on shoot days can show up many previously unseen problems, and a “softly softly” approach, can sometimes bring the best end results, building confidence and control across the season. Most well run shoots will accommodate the odd mishap or misdemeanour from dog or handler throughout the season, but the key to everything is the balance between training and play. The correct training advice can be hard to find and good training ground and training days under “shoot conditions” even harder, but they are available and joining a training club or gundog club like the Caledonian Retriever Club could be a great starting point. Good luck for the season!

For a full list of gundogs breeds, see Kennel club link: https:// services/public/findaclub/breed/ Default.aspx?group=GDGS

Subscribe to SHOOTING SCOTLAND see page 53

Stuart Dunn, Caledonian Retriever Club 43

deer management

Scottish Venison rolls out meat hygiene campaign Dick Playfair, Scottish Venison Partnership The Scottish Venison Partnership has linked up with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Scottish Quality Wild Venison (SQWV) in a campaign to remind stalkers to take the greatest care and attention when putting venison into the food chain. While the majority of stalkers take great pride in the quality of the carcasses that they present for processing, the campaign is designed to impress that all stalkers/deer managers must recognise that they are in the food production business. The initiative coincides with the follow-up promotion of three films produced by the same partners to remind

stalkers about where the highest risks of contamination lie in the process and steps that can be taken to minimise these. There are a lot of good things happening in the wild deer sector right now, not least the new venison strategy Beyond the Glen launched in early September by the Scottish Government which recognises the qualities of both wild and farmed product and their potential to meet the demands of an expanding market in the UK and beyond. There is also an application in process to register Scottish Wild Venison as a protected food name (PGI). Coupled with this is the drive to raise standards and remind

those involved that, whether they are producing venison for their own consumption, or to give away, or to sell into the food chain, they have a responsibility to ensure that what they make available is as safe as it can possibly be. A series of short meat hygiene workshops for stalkers are also planned from early in the new year, and a visual guide on Understanding Contamination has been added to the information available for those in the sector. This is on the Association of Deer Management Groups site at http://www.deer-management.

This year there has been a drive to increase awareness of risk of contamination in the venison food chain


Conscious that enthusiasts come from all over the UK to stalk in Scotland the ‘safe venison’ campaign has not been restricted to north of the border. Best Practice is paramount where ever deer are being managed which is why we are highlighting the food safety aspects of that process for all who involved, no matter where they hail from. What happens after pulling the trigger is crucial. It’s not a wake-up call but a strong reminder that food safety must be a priority in order to maintain the reputation of UK wild venison. To view the films Google Youtube – Scottish Venison Channel

The British Shooting Show is the UK’s Premiere trade and retail shooting event held each year at the NEC Birmingham. The 2019 show runs from February 15th to 17th and celebrates over a decade of serving the shooting industry and shooting enthusiast from the UK and overseas. For three days the might of the shooting industry, from the smaller and newer company’s to the well-known market giants, all come together to present visitors with an enormous ‘shop window’ displaying the finest quality products covering all disciplines of shooting. The


show is packed with shotguns, rifles, air rifles, optics, knives, shooting accessories and specialist clothing, in fact everything a shooter could possibly need, want or dream of! A popular feature of the British Shooting Show has always been the unveiling of brand new product ranges and 2019 continues this trend with even more exciting product launches, giving visitors the chance to be among the first to see and handle them. Visitors can meet with the manufacturers to get the latest product information before visiting the stands of

distributors and retailers to make a purchase or place an order. The central location of the venue makes travelling to and from the NEC very simple. For 75% of the UK, driving to the NEC can be done within three hours. Car parking fees at the NEC have been prepaid by the show organisers so parking is quick, easy and free. Visitors can also travel by train direct to the NEC and for visitors flying to the show a rail link from Birmingham airport to the NEC takes only 90 seconds. The British Shooting Show is an experience that balances

the very best of shooting retail with stunning attractions that include arena displays, air rifle range, private rifle and pistol collections, arms heritage displays, demonstrations of gun engraving, stock making and gun- fitting. Join us at the show and see everything the shooting industry has to offer in the warm and comfortable surroundings of the NEC, all in the company of fellow enthusiasts, professionals and friends. Visit the British Shooting Show website for discounted tickets and show details h t t p s : / / w w w. s h o o t i n g s h o w. accompanied visitors 15 years of age and under go free.


Here we have a 16 bore back action top lever hammer gun by the well known London Gunmaker Thomas Bland & Sons. It was built between 18751887 and features top lever opening with a Purdey under bolt, rebounding locks, 30’’ browned Damascus steel barrels with a Dolls head extension and a Prince of Wales grip on the stock. It is unusual in that it is completely devoid of engraving apart from the serial number on the guard tang & the makers

name & address on the top rib. It has its original proof marks for black powder cartridges and has a pushrod forend release. The action, locks and furniture would have been blued originally. Thomas Bland began in business in Birmingham in 1840 & opened its London branch at 106 Strand in 1875. It had a branch in Liverpool around 1885. Some years ago I owned another Bland hammer gun with the 62 South Castle Street address.

During Clifford Bland’s tenure as owner the company specialised almost exclusively in wildfowling guns such as The Brent and The Greylag, built in calibers ranging from 12 to 4 bore and became well known in this area of the sport. They also built Punt Guns and Harpoon Guns, both shoulder and deck fired. Often there wildfowling guns featured nickel plated actions and furniture to help protect the gun from corrosive salt spray on the foreshore.

Bland were in business until 1988 when there last shop at 2122 New Road, St. Martins closed. The name & records now belong to an American. Small bore Bland guns are unusual and this gun was probably made for a Lady or a Boy originally. It remains in very good original condition. Plain guns like this are unusual but are not necessarily cheaply finished as the finisher has to make sure ALL file marks are polished out before the parts are blued as they will show up badly after blueing!

Ross Haygarth is the owner of CH Haygarth & Sons, Gun & Rifle Makers, in Dunnet, Caithness. They are Scotlands oldest family owned Gunmakers. Ross is the son of Colin Haygarth the famous Gunmaker, Trap shooter, sportsman & conservationist. Ross is considered to be one of Scotland’s leading experts on British Guns & Rifles. 47

THE INTERVIEW up close & personal

With David McMath When did you start shooting – when, where and why? I started Shooting in 2011 when I was 14 at my local gun clubs in Kirkcudbright and Dalbeattie. My mother’s side of the family have always been involved in shooting so I had an interest from there, but It was my dad’s friend who shot for Scotland that first took me along, and from there I was hooked.

Commonwealth Games Gold Medal in Mens Double Trap

Biggest shooting achievement to date? Winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

Where are you based? I live in Glasgow, so there is plenty of ground close by.

Your favourite shooting memory? Probably sharing the moment winning a gold medal with my family and friends.

Can you recall your first feelings when you started shooting? Not particularly, I do still get the same addictive feeling every time I shoot thought! What shooting disciplines did you try and what did you focus on and why? I only every shot DTL to start with and shot it for 4 years, I then started shooting Double Trap in 2015 and have been solely focused since then. How did you progress your shooting? Coaching, don’t be naïve as no-one gets good on their own. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned competitor the secret to real improvement is quality coaching. How often do you shoot? Normally I shoot one or two times a week at most, however a month 48

Double Trap. I am a big believer in tight choking, don’t be scared, a long tight pattern is more effective than a flat wide one. I currently shoot RC4 Champion one of the best cartridges out there.

David McMath

or so before a big event I train more, maybe 3-4 times a week. What challenges have you faced in shooting and how did you overcome them? Mental “strength” was one of the big things that I had to work on so to speak, everyone talks about being mentally strong but what does that really mean to shooters, probably many things. I struggled when I first started going to big shoots, everyone does but it is how you cope with the disappointment that makes you! If you shy away from it you will eat your up! Don’t think of being nervous, this has

connotations of being anxious, if we are anxious doing the sport we love why do we do it ? Before a shoot think of the feelings you get as excitement because that is actually what it is! Your favourite shooting grounds for shooting and training? I usually train at NSC and Auchterhouse. What is your shotgun/chokes/ cartridges? I shoot a Perazzi MX8, I think if you are serious about shooting this is the best gun on the market simple! I shoot 1/4 and full at

Your shooting plans for the future? I am currently transitioning to shoot Olympic Skeet due to DT being removed from the Olympic programme. I aim to win more medals in the future. What’s your secret of shooting successfully? Preparation! Don’t rely on luck. Don’t just shoot rounds in training! When I train I only shoot 1 or 2 rounds all day, break down your shoot train every little aspect individually then build it up. Any advice to impart to anyone wishing to progress their clay shooting? Have a think about what you want to achieve, find an appropriate coach. Work hard, as I said don’t look for luck.

If you’re not outraged, goes the perennial saying, you’re not paying attention! By Jamie Stewart Director, Scottish Countryside Alliance

In the months since my last column our community has faced further attacks from those who would see the end of our chosen path in life and associated and practices. Missing birds of prey, celebrity condemnation of moorland management and heaven forbid, even visiting hunters having the audacity to smile in photographs have all come under attack. These attacks are nothing new, and I would hope that you would agree that we are well placed to defend them. However, when we start attacking our own, now that’s quite a different challenge. Quite frankly I have been more than a little disappointed in some of the comments in relation to Larysa Switlyk from those who should know better (you know who you are) and the advice given out by some of those charged in representing our interests. No smiling please we are British. Really! Several years ago, I was most fortunate in having spent time with a colleague who represented the Nordic Hunters Association. As you will imagine, we used the time constructively, although I don’t believe that I have photographic evidence…In our last conversation, he asked me a poignant question. Why do hunters in the UK apologies for what you do? I put up the well-rehearsed answers, we invest in the conservation of habitat that benefits none hunted quarry, we plant more trees than any other sector outside of forestry, we bring much needed financial investment for rural communities… but on reflection, We apologise!

When did we become so afraid that others might object to what we do and why are some of our representatives telling us not to be seen to enjoy ourselves as it might offend others. It would seem that Michael Franti’s thoughts on “television, being the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance …” has been outgunned by digital media as it fuels moral outrage. Open your Facebook or Twitter account, and you are more than likely to be greeted by an endless stream of outrage-fuelling provocation and discussion on matters both momentous and minute, all handpicked by sophisticated analytical algorithms based on subjects and topics you have shown an interest in. Big brother, absolutely is watching you! And too many today seem to have been trained to seek out a reason to be offended. In other words, it’s your problem that I am “offended.” Let’s just think about this for a moment. You’re offended. You’ve taken offense. You announce that on a website or comment thread as if it means something, as if it’s some grand proclamation with relevance and importance, but all you’re really saying is this: “I don’t know you and you don’t know me, and we’ve had two totally different lives, but your existence is not validating mine, and that makes me sad and angry, therefore you should stop doing what you’re doing! There’s a real danger lurking here - namely that the squalls on Twitter or the views of ten or twenty vociferous tweeters can be mistaken for the view of the wider

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... outraged? public as a whole, when in fact it does not. Miss Switlyk is clearly driven by motives other than hunger (at least for food) and some anonymous person simply chose to expose their moral outrage at this, sparking comment from not one but two prominent Scottish politicians and a plethora of celebrities. The most vociferous and vitriolic coming from none other than self-appointed wildlife crusader, foul mouthed “comedian” Ricky Gervais. Ironically the same Ricky Gervais who when chastised for his stand-up routine which includes mentions of paedophilia, race, terrorism, rape, and even the death of children, stated “Just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right!” Oh Mr Gervais I wish you would take some of your own advice. But do the views of those in “memes or social media viral” really count?

Outrage is good for business! Despite the “news” appearance, in reality social media platforms have little other function than to make money. Very few, if any campaigns on social media do anything other than amplify the original outrage. It is not financially conducive for operators to direct users into “real world” action. Heaven forbid, any attempt to do so might end in the loss of user attention and the profit gained from “liking and sharing”. There is one significant area where social media can claim success. Whilst crime in general has been falling for decades, hate crime has gone in the other direction and has increased substantially over the last few years. This is even more worrying given that hate crime is chronically under reported in the official figures. The Countryside Alliance strongly condemns online

bullying of any kind and has long campaigned to raise awareness of the issue. The Alliance has become increasingly concerned over the last couple of years about the rise of online abuse against the country sports community. To identify the true extent of online bullying directed at rural communities we launched a survey during the summer to ask our members and supporters about their experiences. Incredibly 62% of respondents had experienced online bullying or harassment for supporting country sports. Online bullying of rural communities continues to grow year on year and has become more aggressive and antagonistic Whether we like it or not in nearly every argument about hunting and wildlife management public reaction is defined by the perception of the individuals involved, not whether the death of an animal was “humane”. The outrage that is supported by an individual’s ‘ethical view’ is nothing more

Beware the nanny state!


than the imposition of the prejudice of one part of society on another. Discrimination is never acceptable. Everyone admits that while discrimination (and stereotyping) are wrong, we continue to let it happen every day. We must always remember that logic, evidence and principle are largely irrelevant in debates about wild animals. “Perception and prejudice trump them every time. While I absolutely accept that the misguided actions of some might impact on the abilities of all, rather than jumping on the bandwagon and alienating the sections of our cultural heritage that we perhaps do not directly identify; we need to stop apologising, stand up and sign up with those supporting our community. If we don’t, misguided politicians making meaningless statements to appease an invisible audience might just do something rash. Remember. Just because they are offended, doesn’t mean they are right!

Challenges to shooting in Scotland BASC Scotland ran a series of “Shooters’ Evenings” in November and revitalising this format of event was successful for us. With over 120 people attending in Aberdeen there was standing room only and it was similarly busy at both Dumfries and Bridge of Allan. The evenings had two purposes – the first was to update members and others on current issues that affect, or will affect, shooting sports in Scotland and the second was to encourage members on the ground to help us to organise further events in their area and to help with our allparty political representation. It also got me thinking about the use of the word “shooter” and whether this was the best descriptor of the shooting community. More of that later. Scotland is in a very interesting position just now and we are poised to hear the results of a number of important reviews of our management practices. It is highly likely that SNH’s Lowland Deer Panel will have reported by now and this may set fresh challenges for all of us who manage roe, in particular, in the central belt (where more holders of the DSC1 qualification live compared to anywhere else in Britain), in the south west and in Aberdeenshire. Any such challenges, such as increased collaborative management, will be addressed by the Lowland Deer Network Scotland, its members and member organisations. The other reviews include the Deer Working Group

BASC CEO Ian Bell addressing a packed audience at a Shooters’ Evening in Aberdeen.

and the Grouse Moor Management Review Group. We await to see if there will be recommendations on legislative change with respect to deer management but some suspect that we could see strong recommendations about some form of mandatory testing for all who stalk deer unaccompanied as well as further movement towards the use of non-lead ammunition for deer. We have faced such challenges before and the fact that 80% of those who currently stalk deer unaccompanied in Scotland already have the DSC1 qualification supports BASC’s position of the voluntary rather than mandatory approach. The challenge to current grouse moor management is probably greater and again we await the report from the review group in April. Many organisations and individuals have contributed to this review and BASC’s main input, both written and face to face, has

been to challenge the concept of shoot licensing. We have also been faced with growing pressure from a new coalition of organisations under the Revive banner, calling for reform of our grouse moors. What is really interesting is that this group, fronted by Chris Packham among others, is not calling for an all-out ban on grouse shooting but for a change in land use. It may be a subtle change in tactic but it is noteworthy. It is also noteworthy that this coalition was launched towards the end of the official grouse moor review. There are other issues that you will probably have heard about elsewhere, including Lufthansa refusing to fly sporting firearms to Scotland, political concern over Larysa Switlyk’s shooting of a goat and a ram, the culling of barnacle geese on Islay and increasing EU activity over the use of lead ammunition, for both shot guns and rifles. While

none of these on their own is a major threat, collectively and taken alongside the reviews mentioned above, they indicate a direction of political travel for 2019 that we must halt and indeed turn around. Without the major distraction of Brexit it is inevitable that these matters would have attracted even greater political attention. This brings me back to the second purpose of the Shooters’ Evenings – on the ground assistance with political representation. After each meeting I was able to speak to enthusiastic members who were keen to help and so far a number have already spoken to councillors, MSPs and MPs, just to let them know that they are living in their ward or constituency and that as active shooters they have an interest in their political representative’s views and opinions. This is a great start and something that we will be building on, as well as an increase in social and local events. Finally, should we be calling ourselves shooters? It is simpler than “countrysports enthusiast” and more general that specialisms like wildfowler, stalker or game shot but does it have a negative connotation in the eyes of the public? Europe has it easy because they can call themselves hunters – a word that is widely understood and in many countries widely respected. One consequence of Brexit, and possibly Larysa, may be that our wider adoption of this term is still many years away. 51

fox control


What is infrared (IR) light and what does it do? This is a question I get asked on a regular basis by people who are new to night vision equipment. In short, it is a light source, which is detectable by night vision (NV) devices but is invisible to humans and animals. When using a night vision spotter, a NV scope or even a NV scope add-on, the user’s prime purpose is to remain covert. Infrared (IR) light enhances the image through the NV device – providing more clarity and allowing the user to see further. Since the IR light is covert, neither you or the quarry can see the light with the naked eye but when you look through your digital NV device, such as the new Pulsar F155 (front of scope add-on) or the Pulsar N355 scope without using IR, you will not see a great deal but when you switch on the IR illuminator it looks to the user as if there has just been a lamp switched on and then everything starts to make sense. Most of the night vision units now come with a builtin IR illuminator but they are quite weak and can only give you clear and safe identification out to around 100 yds. The only way to get the best out of your device is to add an aftermarket IR illuminator. Night Master offers a whole array or IR illuminators and can recommend the best type to suit your particular NV device. Some devices only need a small helping hand such as a Night Master 400-IR IC, whereas others may need the extra power of the NM800-IR IC – the ‘IC’ stands for intensity control, which is essentially a dimmer switch for fine-tuning the light output. 52

There are a couple of different types of night vision units on the market and they all vary dramatically in the way they work and their prices. Digital night vision units, such as the ones I mentioned above by Pulsar, need the aftermarket IR illuminator. You also need to be able to control the amount of IR at different distances, as too much IR light at short range, such as 30-40yds for example, will produce what’s called ‘white-out’, which means there is far too much light for the unit to handle at that distance. This can easily be remedied by Night Master’s IC range of illuminators by simply turning the switch to reduce the light

fox control intensity. To see further, you would just need to increase the light intensity with a turn of the rotary switch. Other types of night vision are available, such as Gen 2+ and Gen 3. I personally use the PVS-14 Gen2+, which can be seen attached to the rear of my scope in the photo. This is a rear add-on and with it having a Gen 2+ image intensifier tube, it gathers light from the moon and stars to intensify the image. However, an IR illuminator is still needed for clarity at longer ranges and to also get eye-shine from foxes, which is sometimes the best way to spot them if you don’t use a thermal imaging spotter. For more information, you can either contact myself in Scotland on 07990 954973 or Night Master HQ in Yorkshire on 01535 611688.

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shooting tips

“It’s not my fault!” By Ian McGregor

The first thing I check with any new, and indeed returning, client is eye dominance. People have dominant eyes. This has nothing to do with optics and people with cataracts, for example, still have their “original” dominant eye. And yes, I do know eye dominance can shift. But its amazing how many people do not know which is their dominant eye and how that relates to shotgun shooting. Shotgun shooting is a pointing, not aiming, game. The target – of whatever nature – is moving. Best then to use the two eyes that Mr Darwin, or God?, decided it was most sensible for us to identify that moving object. That’s probably readily agreed. However, in shotgun shooting, there is the gun to be considered. It should rationally be shouldered on the side of the dominant eye, thus allowing both eyes to work effectively and get the information to the brain, but often isn’t. So the shooter is immediately placing themselves at a disadvantage. Easy to say, but if people have been shooting off the “wrong” side for some years, or many, its quite a mental and physical challenge to change. Lots choose not to, but they do have more information and, working together, we can enhance what they are doing. Many, numerous, lots of clients have guns which do not fit. Do not fit at all. After master eye we do gun fit. Stocks too long, contributing to bad gun mounting, are common. Combs too low, contributing to head lifting, are common. Poor cast is common. Few, bother to get much done about it and all I can tell them is that they are working with an inappropriate tool for the job and that they would be better visiting 54

Photographs by Linda Mellor

Athole Fleming has kindly, amazingly?, asked me to pen another few words. What does one write? The answer, on this occasion, is to discuss faults which I observe daily in my work. They maybe are your fault!

the gunsmith to get those basic requirements attended to. What’s the most common response? “But I’m shooting tomorrow!” How is it that people can plan so many things in their lives, but, with game shooters in particular, they cannot manage their diaries to get their shooting lessons started in May – at the latest? So, off they go in August, if they are lucky, or October/November, happily paying £30/£40/£50 per bird and hitting not very much. Madness – and not even a fine kind of madness. Then, gun mounting. So many horror stories. Let me put this thought into your mind. “The first movement of the gun should be attempting to place the barrels on the target.” I would have said “placing the barrels on the target” but more of this in a moment. The first movement of the gun is not to houk (great word) the gun into the shoulder with no relationship to the target and then wave it across the sky in search of said target. The front hand should guide the gun with silky smoothness to the target so that when the gun arrives at the shoulder the barrels and target are aligned. (Yes I do know there are other systems,

but they all rely on barrel target relationship of some sort.) All that the shooter then has to is accelerate relative to how they perceive that relationship, pull the trigger and eh voila perfect shot. Simple. Rarely do I see this happening. What happens is that the target appears, the back hand lifts the gun into the shoulder, the barrels dip – immediately losing any relationship to the target – and then the chase is on. Due to the above, shooters do not achieve a barrel target relationship. We, as a group of professional coaches, often shake our heads and say “not once did he/she point the gun at the target.” Ergo, they are not going to hit much until we can educate them in the importance of that small point. Most game shooter’s gun mounting is so bad that I change my coaching technique and ask them to focus completely on placing the barrels on the back edge of the target. I would normally ask people to place their gun on the target, but, unbelievably that’s a step too far and the gun is stuck somewhere in the sky waving around seeking salvation. Placing the barrels on the back edge of the target helps

prevent mounting, if it can be called that, the gun miles in front of the target, inevitably, stopping, as they have lost sight of it behind their barrels. Of course, at some point, the barrels have to be in front of the target, but, as I have tried to stress several times, in relation to it. And so, finally, in this short missive, we come to posture. Shotgun shooting, like many sports, is a front foot thing. The simple matter of getting the weight on the front foot has a beneficial effect on balance, rotation, gun mounting and keeping your head on the stock. So, some simple aide memoirs. Nose over toes works very effectively. Shoulders in front of hips, or, the old stand by, “stick your bum out” I once had a very grand lady as a client who, if she did as instructed, could shoot rather well. However, one day, after many “stick your bum out” reminders, she looked at me rather imperiously and said “Iain, my mother spent an absolute fortune trying to get me to stop doing that very thing” Ah, the benefits of a Swiss finishing school! But I digress. Please try and get your weight onto the ball of your front foot. It matters not, and looks so stylish, if you have to raise your back heel to help achieve that. Keep the weight there, with your shoulders forward. Tuck the gun under your armpit, use your front hand to place the barrels on the target, or the back edge of the target, keep the gun on the target as it comes into your shoulder, mount the gun with the target, at it, at it, with it, out in front, pop. As the Grand Duchess would never have said, “Bob’s yer uncle!” Or, as Jack Black says all the time – “it only works.”

Beyond ‘Goatgate’ By Andrew Grainger Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group I have already enjoyed a couple

On the day the ‘goatgate’ story


could be pounced upon by

young, blonde female in camo

each occasion the subject

checked the SCSTG website

anyone with either a pro or anti

with a hunting rifle and scope?

of ‘goatgate’ has been a hot


message to air. The message

I think it probably would not.



com as I knew it was very

she put out would not have

Has the media moved on

amongst those of us who

well illustrated with anglers,

caused the same stir in the

from ‘goatgate’? Normally I

know and understand country

shooters and stalkers proudly

USA as it did here.

would have thought yes but in

sports there appears to be

posing alongside their quarry

a huge difference of opinion




bloke in green rather than a

of shoot days this year and on



her images and comments


this case the story continues

species. Open any shooting

away from this ‘storm’ was

to develop with Ms Switlyk

on the rights and wrongs of

or fishing magazine and you

who commented and when.

launching a new range of

what was said and the images

will see any number of similar

For about the first 12 hours


accompanying it. We can all

images. The difference being

it was very much an anti

journalists’ digging away in the

make our own judgement.

the lack of words ‘apparently’

shooting/fishing/landed gentry


I think the real lesson here

glorifying the kill. But back to

agenda that was being voiced.

Be careful if you post on

is how we portray ourselves

those magazines, they will also

However the following day

social media as there are many

and what we say on social

describe the events of the day

it was much more reasoned

other potential ‘storms’ ahead.



leading up to the capture or

and nearer the truth of the

The Countryside Alliance

angler having a photograph

killing of the quarry. So what


taken with their first fish to



the serious stalker with a 16

those magazine words and

goats, and the way in which


point red stag. We like to have

what Larysa Switlyk said in her

the wild goat was culled using

online abuse for supporting

a reminder of our successes

‘post’? To those of us who do

the appropriate calibre rifle and


and a photograph is a quick

shoot and fish she probably

scope to ensure a clean kill.

their evidence. The link is

and easy way of recording that

said nothing we would not say

Would this have been quite

h t t p : / / w w w. c o u n t r y s i d e -

memory, especially with easy

to one of our own. But she

the same ‘storm’ it was if the

access to smartphones.

said it on a public forum where

author was a middle aged















have only this week (12/11/18)


launched a dedicated portal those sports







Lady guns en masse As women’s participation in shooting hits a high

The number of women taking part in both clays and game shooting, such as grouse, in Scotland has risen steadily over the past few years, breaking the stereotypical male dominated image of country sports. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has welcomed the influx of women into shooting sports in recent years and now has almost 11,000 women members, up 10 per cent on last year’s numbers. Grouse shooting in Scotland has seen an increase in female participation in line with this trend. The latest Home Office figures reveal that 5.87 per cent of certificate holders in the UK are now female, equating to 35,367. It is estimated that there are around 3,000 female shotgun certificate holders in Scotland. The establishment of organisations including the Scottish Ladies Shooting Club and Glad Rags & Cartridge Bags has been a catalyst in terms of increasing participation by women in Scotland. Glad Rags & Cartridge Bags was founded by Mhairi Morriss 56

four years ago with the aim to make it easier for novice shots and women from all backgrounds to progress in the sport. Over the past four years Mhairi has organised over 54 events with 1300 attending and over 370 individual ladies having shot with the club. Mhairi Morriss said: “Everyone is welcome at one of our events, from ladies who have never taken a shot to more experienced guns. Shooting sports is becoming much more popular among women and we provide all the equipment and tuition needed, so it’s easy and affordable for anyone to come along and join in. There are many events organised through ladies shooting clubs which is a great way to allow novice shots to join like-minded guns and gain companionship and encouragement. Glad Rags and Cartridge Bags is the only group organising events for ladies in venues that are not traditional shooting grounds, we are like a roving syndicate which adds a whole new unique element to the day.”

The Deerstalker By Megan Rowland, Land Manager and Deer Stalker Firstly, hello one and all. My name is Megan Rowland; I am a land manager and deer stalker in the county of Sutherland, in the north of Scotland and I’ll be taking on the Deer Stalker column in the New Year. I began my career in a roundabout way. Upon leaving school I firmly identified as a conservationist, and vegetarian to boot. However, part-way through a degree, I realised academia wasn’t the right fit (at that time), and instead began working and volunteering with RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. During this time, I also began eating meat; in small amounts, and produced locally by friends and family on their crofts. Gradually, I wanted to see the process through for myself, to harvest wild meat, and so was taken out deer stalking by a colleague. I was hooked from the first time. Spending a

season on a low ground shoot in Perthshire; I migrated back north spending the last three years stalking with clients and colleagues in Strath Brora. I still class myself as a conservationist, but my definition of this word has altered vastly over time. I am a great believer in being proud of my sector, but also in change and working with others in the countryside - finding ways to benefit from each other’s experience. The slide towards urbanisation and the resulting knowledge gaps are something we all need to work together to bridge. Deer stalking and land management have become political ‘hot potatoes’ in recent times, and they are topics I am incredibly passionate about. Being involved in practice and policy, on a daily basis, with people from all walks of life, I am looking forward to sharing my views and experiences with you all over the coming months.

British Game Alliance:

Securing the Future of Shooting

Photograph by George Gunn

Launched in earlier this year, the British Game Alliance (BGA) is the official marketing body for the UK game industry and has made great progress in the last six months. The not-for-profit organisation seeks to ensure the provenance of game meets rigorous ethical standards. The BGA is working on a national scale taking inspiration from British Beef, Scottish Venison and Welsh Lamb to create a bigger demand for game around the world. With the ever-decreasing value of game and the continued growth of shooting as a sport, the BGA seeks to take action, to not only promote game as a healthy alternative to other meats, but to also safeguard shooting by selfregulation. The BGA already has over 300-member shoots, which will be audited by Acoura over the next two seasons, to bring in achievable yet credible regulation to shooting. This number is continuing to grow at a pace, with the BGA aiming to grow the game meat market. Across Scotland, the support for the BGA as an initiative has

been tremendous. Organisations including, Scottish Land and Estates, BASC Scotland, Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) and Countryside Alliance Scotland have all thrown their support behind the launch of the BGA, to name just a few. Tim Baynes, Director of Scottish Land & Estates said: “Scottish Land & Estates strongly supports the British Game Alliance and would encourage all member estates with shooting interests to register, in order to develop new markets for their shot game, and to help demonstrate how best practice is followed in shoot management.” It’s this best practice that the BGA hopes to set the standards for across the shooting industry. Best Practice Although the primary aim of the BGA is growing the game meat market at in the UK and overseas markets, even small shoots that do not sell their game meat to processors are signing up. All member shoots have agreed to stand by the BGA’s Shoot Standards, which are applied by

auditors from Acoura. The more shoots that sign up, of all sizes, the more credible game shooting becomes as a self-regulating sector to the rest of the public. The BGA has seen so many prominent shoot owners and sporting agents sign-up so far, all backing the aim of securing a sustainable future for the shooting industry. The purpose of the BGA Shoot Standards, and audit by Acoura, is to provide assurance to

consumers about the marketing of game and ethical issues relating to game production. The aim of the scheme is to provide confidence to consumers in the provenance of their food and help the BGA achieve its objective to increase the consumption of game meat. The BGA have made this scheme essential, although achievable to those who become members. Alex Stoddart, Director of Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS), has

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Photograph by George Gunn

Securing the future of shooting

Winter grouse heritage carrots credit Eat Wild

been one of the early supporters of the BGA since its launch: “It is important to emphasise that the BGA is not another shooting

organisation, it is a game meat marketing body and standard. As well as shooting agents and game meat processors, shooting

organisations and their members have a big role to play in taking the BGA forward.” Alex Stoddart continued, “For over two years SACS has watched trends in our sector and emphasised that we face a march or die position. The biggest threat to our way of life is not virulent ‘box of frogs’ anti-shooting sentiment; it is the combined threat of a widening gap between society and primary food production, not just game, and increasing apathy within our own community. Collectively, there has been far too much reactive grandstanding to emerging threats and not enough proactive thinking. Right now, the future of game shooting depends on broad community support for the BGA; as a food standard for game, the BGA is something we should all be proud to support.” New Markets With the support of the Assurance Scheme, the BGA is also concerned with creating new markets for game processors across the U.K. Accredited BGA game processors are given access to new game export markets and contracts that the BGA have developed themselves. By carrying British game with the BGA stamp of approval, buyers can be assured about the quality of the game meat they are supplied. These BGA stamps can already be seen on game in world-renowned shops such as the Selfridges Food Hall in London and the famous Ottolenghi, who have recently adopted the assurance scheme, having never stocked game before.


As well as receiving tremendous support from organisations across Scotland, the BGA has already secured some big wins in the food market. Ardgay Game, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, is one of the first members. Supplying wild Scottish Venison and Game, Ardgay Game supply meat from across Scotland from estates that meet their rigorous quality standards. Alongside this, Braehead Foods, one of Scotland’s leading distributors, concentrate on the ‘from estate to plate’ concept and are now members of the BGA. Braehead Foods source a wide variety of game from Scotland and deliver to chefs across the UK, as well as exporting to Europe. Craig Stevenson, Managing Director of Braehead Foods explained, “Braehead Foods has been processing and supplying Scottish game to chefs across the UK and Europe for over 20 years, and we are proud to be part of the newly formed British Game Alliance. We are delighted that the BGA are promoting the consumption of game and ensuring that their members practice the highest standards of animal welfare and game handling. Craig Stevenson continued, “I would love to see game more readily available on supermarket shelves and in restaurants across the UK, and the BGA will not only give consumers confidence in the provenance of the game they eat, but also promote the benefits of eating game in general.” The BGA needs all shoots of all sizes to join the movement. For more information on how to sign up a shoot, become a supporter

Securing the future of shooting

By Barbara Ingman, WPA Administrator

Partridge bubble& squeak credit Eat Wild

or BGA assured supplier and stockist information, visit www. Created by the BGA, ‘Eat Wild’ is designed to raise the profile of the game

meat industry with a huge list of contemporary recipes, as well as access to a portal of BGA assured game stockists. Visit www.eatwild. co for more information.

The World Pheasant Association (WPA), as the name suggests, is primarily concerned with pheasant species, including our own Scottish Capercaillie, Blackgame, Red Grouse and

Why do we not have Capercaillie in them? In Poland, where Capercaillie numbers had collapsed for the same reasons as here, a Government Capercaillie breeding centre

Grey Partridge. Capercaillie are again heading for extinction – having already been extinct and reintroduced successfully. ‘Conservationists’ seem to have accepted that the numbers are so low,that extinction again seems inevitable. Capercaillie are found across northern Europe, and in some places they thrive. In others, numbers have gone down to almost extinction. Why? Where extinction looms, habitat loss and unbalanced predation are the main factors. Capercaillie need large areas

has successfully produced hundreds of Capercaillie and released them back into their former areas. Four areas, in National Parks in Poland where the birds were near extinction or extinct, now once again have a thriving wild population, breeding naturally. With any species there is a ‘critical level’ – the number needed to survive predation and weather well enough to reproduce and keep a stable population. In Poland, this ‘critical level’ was achieved by releasing captive bred (but parent reared) birds back into their environment.

of mixed open forest, mainly coniferous, with plentiful supplies of blaeberries and deciduous trees. We have extensive areas of this habitat in Scotland, capable of supporting good populations, and relatively undisturbed by human presence, which these birds do not like.

Why can’t we do this here? There seems to be a dogmatic view against releasing captive bred Capercaillie in Scotland – should we look again at this, and learn from Poland (and other European countries) how to get our wild populations back up to a safe level, instead of doing nothing as the birds gradually become extinct?

Middle, Ninebanks, Hexham, Northumberland, NE47 8DL 59

Hill loch fishing in Scotland By Simon Barnes If you ask a tourist “What comes to mind when you think of Scotland?” the answer is often haggis, whisky and bagpipes, and of course mountains, lochs & glens. Scotland has all of these in abundance but arguably the greatest attraction is its landscape. From awe-inspiring massive lumps of rock, offering epic challenges to climbers, to the gentle slopes of the lowlands for pleasant walking, the Scottish terrain has it all. Of lochs there are thousands, from deep wide bodies of water such as Loch Ness, to a myriad of small lochs, hidden crater lochs, corrie lochs and wee lochans. Almost all of these lochs will contain fish of some sort – wild brown trout, salmon,


sea trout, pike and perch to name only a few. You can fish from the shore, from a boat or simply take a walk into the hills with your rod. - a lifetime isn’t enough to sample all that’s on offer here to an angler. It’s the hill lochs that give me the most pleasure. The choice is so vast it’s almost too much – where do you begin? Well, that depends on your intended location to start with, or whether you are planning a day trip or a week’s fishing or more. Are you going alone or with a spouse or a group of friends? Maybe an area with some other places to visit would be interesting for a day off or for the non-anglers in the party. Wherever you go you will

need permission to fish. Whilst there is a right to roam, you can’t just fish wherever you like. Ask locally – tackle shop, hotel, estate office or look online. Often fishing permission for hill lochs will be given either free or for little charge. Many hotels offer guests fishing and some also offer day-tickets to non-residents. Some specialise in fishing holidays - the Scourie Hotel and Altnaharra Hotel for example. You can get there by train, car or camper-van – the North Coast 500 is now a very popular route and can be very busy but there’s always somewhere you can find a spot away from the madding crowd. Equipment for hill loch fishing need not be too much –

it’s an advantage to travel light. A 9’ rod in a 6wt would be a good start, with a floating line and a box of flies, that’s all you need. A small landing net can be taken but not essential. I often don’t take one and look forward to the challenge of landing that big fish if I hook one! I like to venture out in boots when hill loch fishing. No ordinary boots though – these are strong hiking boots. They come high enough up my leg to allow me to step into a small burn or into the loch to pass an obstacle. I want to feel secure when hill walking and protect my ankles. Always wear gaiters – there are ticks out there and the heather is very abrasive on clothing. Two friends – let’s call them Jon and

Hill loch fishing in Scotland Ralph because, well, that’s their names – appeared for their first hill loch experience wearing neoprene chest waders. After sweating off several pounds by lunchtime, and completely exhausted hauling themselves over the rough hill, they wisely adopted hiking boots for subsequent trips. I travel with a rucksack in which I carry some paclite-type waterproofs, my lunch, water, an extra fleece, midge repellent or hat - and a spare rod! I designed my “Wee Loch Rod” specifically for hill loch fishing. It’s 9’ or 10’, comes in a 5, 6 or 7 wt., and in 7 sections so it fits away safely into its 20 inch tube and is easily carried in a backpack. I also walk with telescopic walking sticks which are essential for me, especially coming downhill. They make life so much easier and they can be attached to your backpack when fishing. Your mobile phone (or tablet) with a GPS mapping system, such as Viewranger, can be very

helpful with navigation. Take a traditional map and compass as a back-up though. It’s amazing how easily you can walk right past the loch you’re looking for if it’s slightly hidden or if, as often happens, there is no obvious path to it. Finally, often overlooked, take a space blanket - it could save your life. These gold foiltype blankets take up no room or weight and if you get lost or fall they can be easy to spot from a distance. I like to fish with a friend but I often go up into the hills on my own so telling someone where you are headed and what time you expect to be back is a sensible idea. The Viewranger system allows you to “buddy beacon” with your fishing pal so both of you know where the other is. The challenge now is to pick your loch. When staying at the Scourie Hotel there is a “Boardmaster” system. Each week during the season a Boardmaster (an experienced

Fend off the attackers By Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman, Alex Hogg Barely a month goes by when there is not another group or body formed to attack grouse shooting or the game sector in general. The latest cohort is ‘Revive’, a collection of left wing animal rights groups with the added weight of land reform focused Green MSP, Andy Wightman, and a female doctor who administers an extreme website which makes no secret of its desire to ban grouse shooting. I wonder if any of these individuals have ever managed an inch of rural Scotland? There is an old saying that, if you want to know a person you should first walk a mile in their shoes. These people may have a vision of a better Scotland where everything above 2000ft is providing the Scots with productive land and food, endless trees and climate mitigation. I say, ‘may have’ because we have not heard anything yet as to what this vision entails. All we heard, at their launch event, was a wish list of things they don’t like so want to ban.

The snare: one of the most efficient tools to catch the proven predator, the fox. At the same time, these people also want fox hunting banned. How does that work? Will highbrow moral views uttered in Holyrood save the Curlew or the Hen Harrier chick? What about the farmer’s lambs? Doers anyone care? It seems the answer is ‘no’, providing it contributes to the greater aim: to end shooting and consign the families, and rural businesses that rely on it, to the dole queue. Chris Packham even tweeted that the near 3000 jobs were worthless to rural Scotland, ironically at the same time the government were trying to bale out the 850 poor workers of Michelin whose time is regrettably coming to an end in Dundee. People in high positions should take cognisance of what these jobs mean to families and childrengrowing up in very difficult circumstances to themselves. Maybe a mile in their shoes would make a difference. Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Inveralmond Business Centre. 6 Auld Bond Road, South Inveralmond, Perth, PH1 3FX. Tel: 01738 587515 61

Hill loch fishing in Scotland and knowledgeable fellow guest) is appointed by the hotel to help allocate the beats to the guests. He or she will help to establish your abilities in fishing and walking and will give you directions to a particular beat. This could be one loch near a road or a series of small lochs with a path to them or even a distant loch involving a serious hike. There are fishing guides who can take you all over Scotland, specifically tailored trips for individuals or for groups. Visiting a new area can be quite daunting and employing the services of a guide may make good sense to avoid wasting precious time and effort. Assynt has hundreds of lochs and Stewart Yates of Assynt Fly Fishing (tel: ) knows the area very well and specialises in family safaris. Simon Byrne of Tuff Fly Fishing in Aberdeenshire also knows a lot about highland lochs and rivers. There are others but choose one who is qualified and insured. So now you have chosen your venue and you have your rod and flies in your backpack, let’s go! I imagine that the more effort I make in getting to my chosen loch the more I am rewarded – hopefully with


a decent fish but certainly with stunning views and seeing wildlife in its own environment. The female otter who spotted me before I saw her and whistled to her kits who shot back into the water, leaving her to stand up on her hind legs and hiss at me so the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I backed off slowly. The young inexperienced osprey who caught the best fish in the loch in front of me and then sank down down under the surface and – almost – allowed himself to drown rather than release his prize, only escaping with one final powerful downward stroke of his wings. The greenfinch who flew in and out and around our small group of three anglers, in a completely open treeless landscape in Sutherland, desperately seeking any sort of cover from the relentless attention of a sparrowhawk. When it finally decided to leave us and make for a nearby bush… At the loch, I have found that wading isn’t necessary – most fish will be found in the margins. Stewart Yates once said to me that you must remember you are trying to approach the most timid of wild animals. One heavy step or sudden movement on the skyline and they are gone.

Good advice - use stealth. Often when I reach the loch I will sit down and wait, allowing me a breather after a tough climb. It’s surprising what will appear when things settle down. What size and colour of flies are hatching nearby? Fish along the shore in front of you - fish can be found in surprisingly shallow water. I mentioned before that I use a floating line at all times. Even in colder weather you can vary the depth of fishing using a long leader and weighted flies. I like at least a 12’ tapered leader with a tippet attached, with or without droppers. Choice of flies can be vexing. As anglers, we probably all carry too many flies and end up using only a few. Black and scruffy was how one friend described his favoured flies and they often work. Bibios, Kate McLarens, Zulus and Black Pennells all work well. The nymph fisherman will find Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, Olives and Diawl (pronounced “dial”) Bachs are the order of the day. This season, after watching a friend do well with dry flies, I decided to try dries more often. What a revelation. Mastering the strike wasn’t easy as I often struck too soon, but once I had enjoyed some success there

was no stopping me. Seeing the fly, especially small ones, was tricky in certain conditions but my word, there was great satisfaction to be had in the achievement. Matching the hatch can be key if fish are taking a particular fly but often a wellplaced dry fly can induce a take at any time. Change your fly if it isn’t working – although in some places, Shetland for example, it is just as quick to change your loch! I am often asked why I enjoy hill loch trout fishing so much. What a big question. To begin with, the lochs are in the most stunning of surroundings. Getting there is great fun – leaving work and stress behind and driving through the highlands is a tonic. The walking can be variable – sometimes easy, sometimes literally breathtaking. I often stop to take in the view and catch my breath, and that first view of the loch is so exciting. Oh the anticipation - what fish might lurk in that water? The trout themselves are beautiful and so varied in their colours, even from the same loch. I mentioned the wildlife earlier. I will sacrifice a little weight in my rucksack to carry my treasured Swarovski binoculars. Watching an otter and her young fishing in the water, completely unaware of your presence is a real treat. Eagles soaring and searching for food, deer on the skyline – are all there to be seen. If the fishing is poor and it’s too sunny, I can think of no better place to hunker down in the heather, out of the wind and enjoy a snooze. Skylarks singing and the sound of lapping water is soporific and healing. My “go-to” place when I’m at the dentist! After a good hike up to a loch and back again, it’s just magic to enjoy a hot bath, a pint and a good hearty meal and to chat with others who’ve been out enjoying their day. I hope I’ve inspired you to try some hill loch fishing. I absolutely love it and you will too. One word of warning – it’s addictive. I can’t wait until next season….

The Ghillie

Difficult times By Bob White Ghillie on Catholes, Pitlochrie, Benchil and Luncarty on the River Tay

The past salmon fishing season certainly has been one to forget. In some cases, the season is still to close, but I guess it can not come quick enough with now virtually no autumn run. A few years ago, the autumn was the high point of the season but in the last three or four years that part of the run has disappeared much to everyone’s amazement. It is difficult to understand the reason, but it would seem that there is a cyclical change starting to happen which is not a new phenomenon in salmon runs. In the past these changes have happened influencing the strength of runs throughout the year and it is caused by changing sea temperatures over many decades. The North Atlantic is currently warming which

moves the first food source of young salmon migrating on the ocean currents further away. That food source is plankton and the young fish need that to gain strength to then go further afield to the feeding grounds around Greenland before they return as adults. Autumn salmon are made up primarily of grilse that only spend one year in the sea. It may be perceived that grilse are really a summer fish and small staring to return in May but if they spend longer in the sea they become much bigger returning as roughly 10 pounds fish in September and maybe around 15 pounds fish in October and so on. When these fish dominate the run the food source is far closer to our shores and the sea temperature is much colder bringing the food

nearer. In a warming sea the grilse tend to disappear, and that component of the salmon run changes to multi sea winter fish which tends to show a spring dominance. These fish go on the shores off Greenland to feed and return after 2 years or more tending to be much bigger as has been demonstrated in history. This was certainly evident from the 1920’s onwards to the 1950’s when autumn salmon were rare. The sea temperature started to warm after that slowly changing the runs but, in the seventies, we had the best of all worlds with great spring, summer and autumn until the spring runs gently weakened in the eighties producing an autumn dominance until recent years. It is important to understand these cyclical changes as history

backs those theories up, but we must hope that the current trend of a warmer sea will improve the spring. That combined with netting being recently bought out on the high seas around Greenland and on the way back to our shores hopefully will see improvements in catches next year. Scotland is a great salmon fishing destination with incredible scenery and a lot to offer to give you that special experience. Look out your warm weather gear and give the spring a go as the reward of a bright silver spring salmon is second to none. On the Tay in recent years we have seen much bigger spring salmon returning due to them spending longer in the sea so the possibility of a twenty pounds plus fish is not out of the question.


Favourite reads Looking for something warming for the cold winter nights? ‘Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whisky makes it go round twice as fast.’ Sir Compton Mackenzie

Say the words Whisky Galore and many of us will recall with a smile the Ealing Studios film of 1949, filmed on Barra in the Outer Hebrides (released on DVD to the delight of fans ¬– new and old – in 2011 and remade with Gregor Fisher in the lead role in 2017). The original was the film that cemented the Ealing reputation and it in turn was based on this wonderfully rich, detailed novel from Compton Mackenzie – first published in 1947 – and a real-life incident off the Isle of Eriskay much reported at the time. But be warned, quiet chuckles will quickly turn to tearbringing laughter as you read this gloriously detailed story set in 1943 when war-time rationing has hit the Hebridean islands and food is in short supply – but worse still there is no whisky. ‘When food is in short supply, it is bad enough, but when the whisky runs out, it looks like the end of the world.’ The morale of the tightknit island community lies as low as the ancient rocks that litter the island but these same rocks could offer salvation. A shipwreck off the coast brings with it good fortune in the form of many thousands of bottles of Scotch. Can the locals reach it before the officials? Compton Mackenzie – actor, soldier, Oxford graduate, Government spy, political activist, journalist, Jacobite 64

supporter, cultural commentator and great friend to Hugh MacDiarmid and Robert Cunninghame Graham – wrote a number of political novels (to the anger of the governments of the day) and a six-volume novel, The Four Winds of Love, but it

is the humour of Whisky Galore that makes this one stand-out still. Publication brought him legions of fans across the UK and beyond. He also wrote Monarch of the Glen. His biographer, Andro Linklater, commented “(He)

wasn’t born a Scot, and he didn’t sound like a Scot. But nevertheless his imagination was truly Scottish.” He, along with Hugh MacDiarmid and Robert Cunninghame Graham, went on to help establish the National Party of Scotland. The Scotsman reviewer summed this book up: “So what if it perpetrates the old, cliched ‘Brigadoon’ myth? Scots, English, American or Martian, no-one can resist this tale of illgotten whisky gain on a Scottish island in wartime. It’s simply hilarious.” Looking for a dram to enjoy as you read this novel? You’ll find just the right one in Charlie Maclean’s Whiskypedia (new edition published this year) – a book to entertain, inform and encourage enjoyable bad habits!

Whisky Galore by Sir Compton Mackenzie, introduction by Roger Hutchinson (Bilrinn, £9.99 hbk) Charles Maclean’s Whiskypedia (Birlinn, £14.99 pbk)

by Linda Mellor

SCOTTISH COUNTRY LIFE I hope everyone is out in the Scottish countryside making the most of the shooting season? We’re all aware the start of the grouse on the Glorious 12th wasn’t as monumental as everyone had hoped as dates were cancelled, days reduced and some postponed. Loaders, picker-ups and beaters and their dogs have had to look at other ways of filling their empty diaries. The lack of grouse days creates a negative effect flowing out to local businesses who support the shooting industry like hotels, pubs, clothing and other retailers. I wonder what the downturn numbers are regarding fuel consumption attributed to shooters, because 99.9% of us have to drive to shoots? All too often on a shoot day people have to travel for miles, spend a night or two in a hotel, eat, and drink. It is tough going everywhere. The cancellations have hit the estates and the keepers hard, these men and women have worked all year focussed on the opening of the season. There are no magic spells to transform the seasons and the effects of a harsh winter and an extended dry spell in the summer. They are hard to get around. Nature tries to adapt but the harsh reality is survival of the fittest. Nature and the outdoors can never offer any guarantees, and our weather system is changeable. All the gamekeepers and their teams

have worked hard to be ready for the start of the season and can only approach it with a full commitment so the low grouse count and the cancelled dates must hit them hard, and not just financially. Working towards one goal and being prevented from achieving it is difficult to overcome, but they do. They carry on with their workload regardless and remain hopeful of an upturn. If anyone is in a gamekeeping role and concerned about how they are coping or how they are feeling or if they are under pressure please take a look at the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust, they are always on hand to help (in many ways) https:// thegamekeeperswelfaretrust. com/ The pheasants are great gamebirds to enjoy, and an ideal way to make the most of them is by taking them home after a shoot day to share with family and friends, to

cook and enjoy. It’s positive to see so many companies and individuals doing their thing within the countryside sector to promote game and inspire others to give it a try, it’s one of the healthiest choices available, and just look at the range to choose from: pheasant, grouse (if you’re lucky), partridge, pigeon, duck and venison. The British Game Alliance http:// www.britishgamealliance. has been set up as the official board for the UK game industry. Take a look at the range from Wild & Game https://www.wildandgame. Locally, Venator Pro Ltd in Perth have launched a new range of game seasoning called Taste Gone Wild, take a look The last show on my calendar was the Galloway Country Fair at Drumlanrig, I took a trip down there on the third weekend in August. After the drive, my first visit is

always for freshly made coffee from Linton & Co van and some entertainment from The Sheep Show (a great laugh). My timing was good because in the Buccleuch Fox Hounds were in the main arena. Just as the rain started, I went for a mooch around the food and craft tent. The fair is set in the grounds of Drumlanrig castle, a stunning backdrop and a beautiful estate, there’s always plenty of car parking and even in the rain it is well drained with no boggy, muddy patches. One of my favourite hotels, The Meikleour Arms, http://www.meikleourarms. was in the national news over two weekends in September with two great recommendations in The Times. It’s heartening to see travellers, tourists, anglers and shooters are enjoying Meikleour’s warmth and hospitality; the food is exceptional and the comfort levels first class, I highly recommend it as a place to eat, stay and visit all year round, you will not be disappointed. If you are an angler you should have 15th January 2019 in your diary for the opening of the Tay and the start of the salmon fishing season at Meikleour, it is always a great day out and a treat to see lots of fisher men and women fishing on the Tay, supporting the Angling for youth development charity and having fun. The Meikleour Arms provides the food. See you there! 65

country woman

Tracy Ferguson By Linda Mellor

Tracy Ferguson lives in the Scottish Borders and is full immersed in the countryside. In 2016, Tracy moved to Scotland to run the Roxburghe Shooting School of Excellence, she is the senior shooting coach and runs professional clay & game shooting tuition and a range of target based activities and corporate events including Archery, Tomahawk throwing, air rifles, clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing and golf. Tracy said, ‘I was brought up in the London suburbs and worked most of my life in the centre of Town, so I did not have a great understanding of the country way of life - I suppose the closest I came to spending time in the country was when my parents took me to Epping Forest, or to pick strawberries!’ Scotland was a place Tracy used to visit, ‘I discovered Scotland many years ago, on business trips and started to take holidays there. 66

On one such break, I stayed in the Scottish Borders and never forgot what a wonderful place it was.’ ‘If you told me 10 years ago, I’d have my own shooting school in the Scottish Borders, would be teaching and taking people on guided deer stalks, teaching clay and game shooting, loading on grouse and being a part-time gamekeeper, I would, of course, have laughed uproariously!’ Happily settled in Scotland, Tracy married Stuart in May this year, on Seilibost beach, Isle of Harris and has a busy professional life with the Roxburghe Shooting School. Shotgun shooting is a sport Tracy was first introduced to about eighteen years ago. She had never lifted a shotgun before a Hen weekend in Norfolk, ‘the instructor gave me, what felt like, a ton weight in my shoulder, I could barely lift the thing. I did hit a few unlike my pals, who were all

put off, but something about the experience got to me.’ After visiting her local gun shop, Tracy was invited to their Sunday shoot and booked a lesson with their instructor, she said, ‘With a well fitted 20 bore, I practically hit every target he presented to me, suffice to say I was addicted.’ Tracy joined her local club, applied for her shotgun certificate and bought her first shotgun. For the first few months she shot and won most of the ladies’ competitions and started going to other shooting grounds. ‘Our club was entered in the Essex clubs championship and I came second in the ladies entry having only shot for six months.’At weekends Tracy enjoyed competing, and helping other people get into shooting. An instructor suggested that she take the CPSA (clay pigeon shooting association) Instructors course. She took time out and changed the

direction of her life, she left her job in central London and in 2005, she started the Frock Stock and Barrel Clay Pigeon Shooting School. Inundated with people wanting to try shooting, Tracy created themed shooting events like ladies days, have a go sessions, Valentines and Mothers days. Tracy was one of the CPSA tutors and assessment team, ‘I was then asked by the British Army to assist in coaching in the army development team and joined them in Cyprus for two seasons.’ In addition to many events organised by Tracy throughout the year she also designs and runs dedicated Ladies clay shooting days every quarter, these days are hugely popular with all ladies; from complete beginners to experienced shots. Tracy has been organising events since 2005 and appreciates and understands what makes a great day out for the girls;

country woman great sponsors, shooting tuition, competitions, fun prizegiving followed by lunch or afternoon tea all served up with lots of fun and laughter. Everyone is welcome to come along and give it a go, her days are great for encouraging and supporting women of all ages and levels of skill. If you are curious about shotgun shooting and interested in trying it out then Tracy’s days are ideal as a taster. Tracy said, ‘our ladies days are second to none!’ ‘When I have the time, I love to take my shotgun or rifle and my dog to one of our many hides and shoot pigeons or stalk roe deer. Sometimes I just watch the wildlife go by, it’s not all about killing, it’s understanding and having a real appreciation for the life that has given itself so that we can eat more healthily than I’ve ever done before. I butcher and prepare everything I shoot for the pot. How many people can say they know where their dinner has actually come from or how it’s processed? How many people can

be proud of what’s on their plate having stalked, shot, butchered and dressed it, then cooked and served it to their family? That is the best feeling when family and friends say how delicious it is!’ ‘I have a fox red Labrador who is 15 months old and I am learning to train her to pick up on game and track deer for recovery. The two of us, sitting in a hide watching the roe bucks, does and kids feed, the hares play, the pheasants go up to roost and badgers bumble by, I get real joy from watching the expression on her face when she sees something she’s never seen before!’ ‘I am in this idyllic place unlike any other, the amazing unspoilt scenery, the history, the people and the rural way of life here never fails to amaze me and every day is a school day, I learn more and more about where I live and the lives and history here. If I never went back to London, I would not care!

Ground breaking reform? By Jamie Stewart Director, Scottish Countryside Alliance We are born to communicate

written by Ben Elton and the



late Rik Mayall… The truth is

ambitions, though some don’t

that we are simply witnessing

question the consequences of


their words before writing or

grouse shooting activists to

speaking them or indeed, the

further their agenda under the

motives of those who might

guise of calling for reform of

seek to use them to further

grouse shooting. They want to

their own personal objectives.

stop it and pursue that agenda

Negative campaigning is

relentlessly with little or no



the process of deliberately

Permits available for local rivers 26 Allan Street, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, PH10 6AD Telephone 01250 873990 email:




recognition of the facts.

spreading harmful information

Instead of waiting for the

about someone or something

publication of the report by

to worsen the public image


and to create the impression

appointed task force, they

that there is public demand


for “urgent reform”, such

hide behind terms such as

as that fuelled by Chris

“radical” “ground breaking”

Packham’s horrible cascade




they are not confident that

in the media, which grows

the public would go along

daily. Is there really evidence

with their agenda if they were

of public demand? Or is this

more open and honest about

all whipped up by the antis?



Scottish chosen


Government instead



Rather than being known

The Countryside Alliance

as a well-meaning group of

is working hard to highlight



rural issues in Holyrood but

animal welfare charities the


it is vital that people contact

“Revive” coalition could be

their MSPs about the issues

better described as a bunch

that matter to them as this

of self-serving conservation

is the best way to get the

and animal rights campaigners

message across. We need

lead by a Peter Pan styled

to act collectively if we are



to ensure policy based on

term applied to the revive

“principle and evidence” and

campaign “radical” comes

not allow “ media noise” to


set the agenda.






cooking with game

Roast Haunch of Venison with Festive Trimmings By Wendy Barrie Venison is delicious tender meat, versatile and perfect for celebrations too. This Rothiemurchus Forest Venison was shot out on the hill. Famous for their estate venison, customers can expect it all year round from their lovely farm shop or contact them direct. Stalker Peter Ferguson selects beasts very carefully as it’s vital to have a consistent taste and quality. It should always be extremely tender and not taste ‘gamey’ – chefs describe Rothiemurchus venison as ‘velvety’. Their red and roe deer live on the Cairngorm Hills and ancient forest as they have for thousands of years. Philippa says, ‘About 35 years ago Johnnie learnt the basics of being a butcher so he could develop cuts of venison that were quick and easy for busy families to cook and we have been selling venison from our Farm Shop since.’ Ingredients: Approx. 1.3kg Rothiemurchus Forest Venison – rolled haunch Scottish rapeseed oil Isle of Skye Sea Salt & freshly milled pepper A few spring onions / young leeks 1 large carrot Small branch of rosemary Cornflour to thicken gravy Accompaniments… Chestnut & Spinach Roulade Potatoes (Arran Victory/Maris Piper are perfect for roasting) Brussels Sprouts Rowan jelly Chive buttered crumb topping

Chestnut and Spinach Roulade Ingredients A bag spinach 25g butter A twist of freshly milled black pepper& a light pinch of Isle of Skye Sea Salt 100g cooked chestnuts, coarsely crumbled 2tbsps natural yoghurt 3 large eggs 25g ground almonds Lingonberry/cranberry sauce to fill

Serves 6-8 Scotland’s foodie, Wendy Barrie is a highly respected campaigner for local sustainable food, popular cookery show presenter and food writer. Founder & Director of award-winning & . Wendy is Leader in Scotland for Slow Food Ark of Taste, Slow Food Chef Alliance Member & 2018/9 Regional Ambassador Finalist, Thistle Awards.

Recipes & Photos Photos © Wendy © Wendy BarrieBarrie

Method: s 0RE HEAT OVEN  # AND LINE A 3WISS ROLL TIN WITH BAKING parchment. Method: s 2INSESPINACH-ELTBUTTERINPANTOWILTSPINACHOVERMEDIUM s 0RE HEAT OVEN  # (EAT A SPLASH OF RAPESEED OIL IN A heat. Drain, return to pan, season and snip with scissors. Cool casserole on the hob and sear venison on all sides. Season a little then blend in yoghurt, egg yolks, almonds and chestnuts. and place in oven to roast, lid off, for 15 minutes. s 7HISKWHITESTOSOFTPEAKSANDFOLDINTOMIXTURE3POONGENTLY s -EANWHILE PEEL POTATOES QUARTER AND PAR BOIL $RAIN AND into the prepared tin. place in dish for roasting. Dice carrot and slice greens finely. s "AKEFOR MINSUNTILGOLDEN WELLRISENANDSET s ,IFT OUT CASSEROLE 0OUR HOT WATER FROM KETTLE ONE THIRD UP s ,AYOUTASHEETOFPARCHMENTSPRINKLEDWITHEXTRAALMONDS venison, adding carrot, rosemary and onions. Season. s 4URNOUT SPREADWITHlLLINGANDROLL7ILLREMAINWARMLOOSELY Return to oven, lid on, now at 160 C, for 12-15mins per wrapped in tin foil. 500g for medium. Serves 6-8 s 4OMAKEROULADEFOLLOWMETHODBELOW"AKEINOVENWHILST venison cooking. s 2EMOVEVENISONFROMOVEN,IFTOUTHAUNCHANDSETASIDE for meat to rest for <20mins wrapped in foil. Turn oven up to 200 C and roast off potatoes. Now itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to boil trimmed sprouts in lightly salted boiling water for 5-7mins until soft but not overcooked. Drain and keep warm. s #OMBINE CHOPPED CHIVES MELTED BUTTER AND WHOLEGRAIN breadcrumbs for a tasty garnish. s &INALLY DISCARD ROSEMARY BRANCH AND ADD A SPOONFUL OF cornflour dissolved in cold water to the venison gravy. Bring to boil, stirring, to thicken sauce. s 4OSERVE SLICEVENISONONTOHEATEDPLATESWITHVEGETABLES sauce and roulade. Delicious for cold cuts the following day!

Perthshire Chef awarded Scotland’s Game Chef of the Year 2018

A Scottish chef’s dedication with over half a century in the kitchen has been rewarded. Neil McGown, chef patron of East Haugh House Hotel, won Game Chef of the Year at the Scottish Food Awards, which were presented in May. East Haugh House is a luxury boutique hotel in Pitlochry who won Country Sports Hotel of the

Year 2018 at the Scottish Hotel Awards, for the eighth time. The hotel also took home the top award of Scotland’s Hotel of the Year at the second annual Prestige Hotel Awards, presented by Allied Irish bank, in Glasgow, in February this year. Neil has been cooking for almost 55 years and specialises in game.

Neil said: ‘I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have won Game Chef of the Year at the 2018 Scottish Food Awards. ‘After almost 30 years in business at East Haugh House, this recognition couldn’t be a more fitting accolade. It reflects my passion for cooking game food and couldn’t have been achieved without the talent I work alongside in my kitchen.’ Bought in 1989 by husband and wife team Neil and Lesley McGown, the 17th century country house was lovingly converted into a luxury 12 bedroom hotel and restaurant, and has established itself as a popular destination for tourists from the UK and overseas.

Renowned for its locally sourced seasonal food, specialising in seafood and game, Neil leads a talented and passionate kitchen team with East Haugh’s restaurant recommended in the Michelin Guide.


what’s new Marocchi Evo A stylish Italian shotgun ideal for clay shooting season

Following on from the successful Zero3, the new Evo offers features and quality that until now were only found in much more expensive guns. The Evo is now thinner and wider increasing stability and providing a lower profile to improve the feeling of the gun. The new ejection design makes the gun stronger and more precise, while the smooth boring barrels improve the pattern and reduce the recoil. Made in Sporting and Trap versions, with a choice of black or nickel action, and over 2 years in development, SRP £1,854

CENS ProFlex Headsets

Following on from the CENS Flex headset introduced in 2008, Puretone have now released a headset solution for use with the CENS ProFlex earpieces with unrivalled flexibility. Designed for use with the ProFlex soft silicone earpieces, the new ProFlex headsets are available in three variations: • Bluetooth headset • Standard earphones • Smartphone earphones. CENS ProFlex is the most flexible and complete solution for hearing protection and communication available. CENS is proud to be the market leader and all our products are manufactured in the UK from the finest components. From £99.00 inc. VAT

The Supermatch One clay trap

Dog nests!

Tuffies manufacture the very best dog beds for the hard working dog you love. The Tuffies nests are waterproof, cosy and warm and come with a machine washable fleece on the inner cushion. Further: Tuffies also supply full, removable covers that line and cover the entire nest. This is the ultimate in durable, practical dog beds. 70

The Supermatch One is ideal for individual or club use. It is light and portable, weighing in at just 24kgs. The traps holds 65 clays and comes complete with two hoppers for standard and midi clays. It has a re-cocking time of 0.9 seconds which can give a challenging fast following pair up to 90 metres. The Supermatch One is extremely user friendly; the lever locking handles allowing changes to the elevation to be made quickly and “spanner free”. The trap will elevate anywhere between horizontal and 75 degrees. Please contact us for special offers throughout December.

what’s new Trap boxes from Quill

Quill Productions are proud to introduce the Quill DoC 150 Trap Box. Designed in conjunction with DEFRA to meet the forthcoming legislation on double-entry requirements, the trap box contains fixed baffles ensuring the trap cannot be jumped, as well as a genuine DoC 150 trap which is secured within the trap box for operator safety. Available in traditional green and stone, the Quill DoC 150 Trap Box, is designed to be camouflaged when in situ and is made from plastic impregnated with scent (fish) to improve catch rates. The trap box will ensure the DoC 150 Trap withstands even the most peaty soil, meaning a longer-lasting trap. The stone coloured box has been field tested by customers on moorland ground with great success. Traps available separately & quantity discounts available. DoC 150 Trap: £27. Quill DoC 150 Trap Box: £49 (excluding VAT)

Lapua - Passion for Precision

The world famous quality of Lapua´s bullets, brass and cartridges comes from decades of experience, infallible raw materials and a well-managed manufacturing process, means unbeatable accuracy and reliability for both the target shooter and hunter alike. The Naturalis cartridges and bullets represent the latest technology in bullet manufacturing and are the market leaders in ballistic performance. This rifle cartridge is the perfect ‘Green‘ _hunting round. Lapua hunting cartridges are loaded with Naturalis, Mega and FMJ bullets, which have been designed and dimensioned for their purpose. They work in every environment, without fail, and are available in .222 Remington, .243 Winchester, 6.5x55 Swedish, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, 9.3x62, 6x47 LAP, 7x65R, 762x35R and 8x57JR.

Building a release pen using plastic mesh?

Every Gamekeeper builds a release pen slightly differently, but most follow the guidelines set out by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. The fence should consist of two meshes. Small mesh (25mm-31mm) galvanised wire netting at the bottom and bigger mesh at the top. Galvanised wire netting was traditionally used throughout; but now semi rigid plastic is of a very good quality and is commonly used to build up the height of the release pen. This plastic mesh is known as Jumbo Release Pen Netting; it weighs 80 grams per square metre and has a 2”x2” mesh size. It is UV stabilised, will not rust, and is much easier to handle than wire netting. Take a look online at Or give Collins Nets Ltd a call on 01308 485422. 71

what’s new From Longthorne Merkel Single Shot K3 and Gunmakers – Renaissance K4 Rifles

This exclusive collection is 100% English made and available in 12, 16 and 20 bore featuring a gold-plated trigger, extended full-length trigger guard, engraved stock cap and personalised stock oval. With our patented barrel technology, the barrels are made from one piece of metal with no soldered joints ensuring we create a lightweight, strong gun with low recoil. The Renaissance Collection displays beautiful deep engraving featuring gold inlayed game birds and flowers which have been finished by hand. Your guns will be presented in a Malton Bridle Leather double gunslip and in a bespoke leather-bound presentation case so that you have a protective case for all occasions. We offer the opportunity for you to customise specific aspects of our gun on request and will work with you to create a masterpiece you will be proud of. Plus, we offer in-house custom gunfitting to ensure that the gun is perfect for you when we finish. Price single gun £39,950. Pair of guns £79,950

This single barrel rifle is a beautiful lightweight rifle offering optimised shot performance, perfect for deerstalking. Lovers of this special gun appreciate its handling in practice – _when stalking, in the high seat and also in transit. The K3 Stutzen combines the short rifle with a full barrel forearm. Weighing just 2.5kg and available in .243 Win., 6,5x57R, 6,5x65R, .270 Win., 7x57R, 7x65R, .300 Win. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06, .30R Blaser, 7mm Rem. Mag., 8x57IRS, 9,3x74R. The K4 brings more stabilising mass to the scales – important for a steady firing position. The distinctive marks are the octagonal barrel and steel receiver. It has a finely tuned adjustable trigger, single lock hand-cocking system, automatic safety device, Jäger tilted block breech with steel receiver, pistol grip, Bavarian cheek piece and hogback comb. Weighing just 2.8kg and available in 6,5x65R, 7x65R, .300 Win. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06, .30R Blaser, 7mm Rem. Mag., 8x57IRS. SRP from K3 £3,625 and K4 £6,400

New storage service specifically for shooting industry The UK’s largest provider of fridge and freezer trailers has launched a service specifically for the shooting and game industry to help control the population of wild deer. Ross Pushman, Managing Director of Coldtraila, said: “Our new and exclusive Chill-Tow and Freeze-Tow trailers can be fitted with game hanging rails for the storage of up to 600 pheasants, 20 Roe/Fallow deer and 15 Red deer, which can be hoisted into the trailers with our new motorised winch system.” Both trailers come with a galvanised steel chassis, a multifunctional digital display unit, polyurethane panels, non-slip insulated flooring, internal bulkhead lighting and two-year full warranty. The team at Coldtraila will be exhibiting the new trailers at The Showman’s Show in October, the UK’s original and most comprehensive exhibition of products, services and entertainment for the festival, outdoor and special event industry. Ross added: “These trailers not only have the same fridges and components as our German Humbaur models, but are also the most cost-effective of their kind. What’s more, they also offer better insulation than most of the other popular trailers on the UK market. This means customers will be using higher quality trailers at a lower cost.” 72

For more information on the new trailers, visit chill-tow-freeze-tow-trailers/

Gift ideas for Xmas and beyond… Centrefire Watch

CenterFire reflects authentic innovation of Brazen Sports. A refined, durable & sophisticated spirit in dynamic engineering for daily wear. Crafted from 316L surgical steel. Black Ion Plated. Features a detailed dial with applied indices, sapphire crystal. Water resistance up to 100 meters/ 10 Atm. Price: $550.00

Invergarry Tweed Travel Bag

Stylish travel bag suitable for overnight stays or a weekend break. Made using the Invergarry tweed to co-ordinate with other garments in the tweed range. Tweed is Teflon treated for extra rain and stain resistance. Includes mobile phone pocket, zipped internal pocket and zipped outer side pocket. Dimensions: approx. 48cm Width x 30cm Base x 32cm Height. Price : £49.50

Fine Stationary Writing Set

Holik Shooting Gloves

Montblanc introduces a Fine Stationary Notebook in a brown vegetable tanned leather that is part of Purdey’s luxury luggage heritage. Ideal for keeping notes, the notebook is made of premium vegetable tanned leather, wrapped with a leather lace and features a bookmark ribbon in traditional Purdey colours. The accompanying light brown ink was specially developed to accompany the Great Masters fountain pen and is lightly scented with a whisky smell, inspired by the British lifestyle with which Purdey is synonymous. Price: £POA

Hand crafted in the Czech Republic, Holik gloves offer a combination of traditional glove-making craftmanship and the most recent technologies, along with the use of quality functional high-tech materials from prominent world suppliers. SRP From £19.50 73

Profile for Athole Design & Publishing Ltd

SHOOTING SCOTLAND MAGAZINE (December 2018 - January 2019  

Scotland's national country sports & rural living magazine

SHOOTING SCOTLAND MAGAZINE (December 2018 - January 2019  

Scotland's national country sports & rural living magazine