Woodcock Days

First woodcock, by Jess Eve

This weekend we had two days of what were billed as “experimental” woodcock days. Experimental because we have not shot woodcock at Croick before and so were a little unsure about where to find them. Overall I think we can declare success. Over two days we saw some 50 woodcock and we ended with a bag of 3 brace of woodcock and a grouse. We walked our socks off and everybody finished tired and in good humour.

The weather both days was quite extraordinary. It was dry, there was practically no wind and at one point the temperature peaked at 16c. I don’t think we had any days as warm in August. When we had planned the day I had assumed we would be fighting the cold. In practice we were bathed in sweat most of the time.

We started the first day in the forestry blocks at the top end of the estate, using a team of spaniels to flush birds to walking and standing guns. As the first picture shows, we certainly saw woodcock that way, but not in the numbers we had anticipated. This was perhaps because the weather was so warm that the birds did not need the shelter of the forestry, or perhaps because there was better feeding elsewhere.

After lunch, and again the following day, we changed tactics. We walked with dogs – spaniels and pointers – through trees and searching for areas of bracken on south facing slopes. This was hard work and we walked a long way in the end, but much better value. There were regular woodcock flightiness, even though the fact that we were walking through trees meant it was not always possible to get off a shot.

All in all these were two happy and enjoyable days; good friends, good weather and good sport. I am sure it will be the first of many Croick woodcock days.

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