Monday, October 04, 2010

Letter from Scotland: Teaching an old dog new tricks

From my brother in Scotland, via his column on the Horse & Country blog:

It is frightening how quickly summer turns to autumn, and the light evenings start to draw in. The birch trees have already started to turn yellow and the weather has turned noticeably cooler. We try not to turn our central heating on until November but we have started to light a fire in the evening. We burn all our own wood and mostly birch that is in plentiful supply and smells wonderful when burning. I am looking into the viability of a wood chip boiler, with oil prices continuing to rise and the fact that we have a large amount of our own wood, I am hoping it will prove a useful alternative.

We have been very busy in September with more let days shooting, with shoots every Saturday, and more planned throughout October. Then we will be nearly finished for the year and time to plan next year’s days. It is a good source of income for the estate and one tends to meet a lot of very interesting people that become friends. The first weekend of September was my own shoot for friends and family. The day started badly with thick fog which made getting up onto the hill to shoot grouse impossible. People tend to either get lost or shot in those conditions. So we decided to do three partridge drives (much safer) and see if the weather cleared. We shot 53 brace of partridge and stopped for an early lunch up on the hill. Luckily the weather began to clear and we managed a couple of grouse drives in the afternoon shooting 32 brace of grouse. It ended as a glorious sunny day and a total bag of 85 brace (170 head) which was one of our best days ever.

Archie, my youngest son, has adopted our house pet Labrador, Rosie, as he is mad keen on picking up. Rosie is about nine-years-old, rather overweight, and completely untrained as a gundog - but she did win first prize in the Highland Games as mentioned in my previous blog. Anyway, Archie has been out with her day after day training her to pick up a dummy and to come when he whistles. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Archie has managed to train Rosie to pick up and really rather well! So now when we shoot he comes out with Rosie, his whistle, and a game bag and does a great job a picking up birds other people can’t find. Sadly he has now started at boarding school so is not only missed by me but the guns who come to shoot too.

He has just started to shoot with a very small .410 shotgun, and as a treat before he went back to school I took him duck flighting with his older brother Jack, to a pond we have up on the hill. He had never shot anything before despite having a few shots. He was very excited but it was a still night and the midges were awful, and I forgot the midge spray, so we got bitten to death, any he nearly gave up before the duck started coming in. Anyway we persevered and duck eventually started coming in and after a number of shots including Jack shooting three or four, Archie managed to shoot his first duck, and Rosie picked it for him.


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