The camaraderie, unpredictability and relaxed atmosphere of a day’s rough (or walked-up) shooting can make a refreshing change. Here are our tips for a great day.

Rough and ready: tips for a good day

  • Wear appropriate clothing for walking, shooting and swinging through birds—you don’t want to get too hot or be restricted by your clobber
  • Invest in a good pair of leggings to fend off vicious brambles and stop sugar beet and kale soaking you in seconds
  • Establish which species you can and cannot shoot
  • Take a sensible amount of cartridges and have some non-toxic shot with you
  • Keep a close eye on dogs when they’re hunting, as they will indicate game
  • Always be aware of the location of fellow guns, keepers or stops
  • When walking up, move as fast as the slowest gun and always allow dogs time to work cover in front of you
  • If carrying game, take it out of the bag and allow it to cool during any breaks
  • Paunch rabbits as soon as possible
  • If shooting over pointers, never rush to the point and make sure you position yourself to take a safe shot
  • Be prepared to take a snap shot, but don’t rush it
rough shooting tips

Holkham keepers in their traditional bowler hats

Taking the rough with the smooth

Although Holkham in north Norfolk is believed to be the birthplace of driven game shooting, the Earls of Leicester were fond of going out on regular sorties with their keepers in pursuit of all sorts of quarry, from pigeon to wild duck, as the estate’s game books (dating back to 1793) attest.

But one aristocrat you might not have wanted to shoot with in Edwardian times was that fabled shot the Marquess of Ripon. One of his favourite pastimes was to shoot round his estate boundaries accompanied by a young gamekeeper. Being a competitive soul, Ripon insisted each man carry what the other had shot.

One day, irritated that a young keeper, a crack shot, was shooting so well that his own game bag was filling quicker than the keeper’s, Ripon lost his temper, shot a nearby grazing sheep and shouted: ‘All right you bugger—now, you carry that!’

Where to go rough shooting

Holkham estate, Norfolk (01328 710227; www.holkham.co.uk)

Raby estate, Co Durham (www.rabycastle.com; 01833 660202)

Elveden, Suffolk (01842 890223; www.elveden.com)

Higham Lakes, Northumberland (07950 428159; www.highamlakes.com)

Honeycombe Shoot on the Sherborne Castle estate, Dorset (mikekeeper@aol.com)