Walking in our grandfathers' footsteps
The Field|January 2022
There’s no better way to enjoy unspoilt countryside, companionship and testing birds than on a walked-up day – just how it used to be
ED WILLS

The joy of a walked-up day in January provides a palate-cleaning contrast to busy driven days earlier in the season. Now the weather has turned, the birds are wilder and wilier, presenting a greater challenge and the chance to experience the sort of day our grandfathers relished, when you would remember every bird that broke cover and could tell how every bird that made it to the pot was added to the bag.

Walked-up shooting is what it says on the tin: one either walks up in a line or as a solitary Gun and shoots any game that gets up. It is usually in this way that the boundaries of the shoot are paid attention, with bags that can vary from about 20 to 60 birds. A far cry from big bags but just as well when you may be carrying anything you shoot for the rest of the day.

Michael Brooks shoots on an estate on the outskirts of Leicester, where grassland supports a herd of Belted Galloways. He enjoys the sense of adventure that walked-up shooting provides. “There is a more traditional feel of hunting and an increased sense of reward and satisfaction from shooting birds you have put up yourself,” Brooks says, “plus the added exercise is always beneficial rather than being carted round the countryside from peg to peg in a vehicle.”

Exercise and adventure play a big part in the enjoyment of a walked-up day, the same excitement one remembers from those first days’ shooting as children; memorable days spent running round a wood after a squirrel or a pigeon. Long-time Field contributor Sir Johnny Scott remembers similar experiences from his childhood. “I started shooting by creeping up hedgerows at the age of eight. You learn much more about bird behaviour from walked-up shooting than you do standing at a peg.”

To outsmart a pheasant is the basis of any shoot day but when you are on your own or have limited numbers, the odds are stacked more evenly than on a driven day with an army of beaters and a line of Guns waiting. Laurence Catlow, who manages a shoot in Cumbria, adores rough shooting. For him, “rough shooting has many recommendations. It brings healthy and enjoyable exercise in usually beautiful places. It offers the opportunity to work your dog properly in different sorts of cover. It involves continual expectation and brings a wide variety of shots. It also often ends with the satisfying thought that you and your dog have made your own sport. It’s also very flexible in terms of both time and company: an hour or two, a whole day, alone or with a few friends.”

Walked-up shooting has also been labelled the beginner’s sport. “Arguably walked-up shooting is the entry point for many to the sport of shooting,” says Charlie Evans of CKD Property Advisers, a keen proponent of the walked-up day. “It is their first taste of it, often when they are young and the simplicity of it is wonderful.”

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