I suppose a bucket list shouldn’t be geographically restricted as it sort of negates the idea of a bucket list somewhat if you put parameters on it, but I was wondering what would be, for me, the top three UK countryside pursuits I would like to do should I only be able to do three before my body is actually returned to the elements hopefully at some point way off in the future!
Whilst some may think the best hunting and fishing experiences are to be enjoyed in far off distant lands, I think we are pretty lucky back here in the UK. Unlike the USA where ‘tags’ are required for nearly all public land shooting, and game and wildlife sports are policed by dedicated state law enforcement agencies, we are in a position where, in reality, self-regulation is the order of the day. I accept that there are rules, regulations and laws to comply with but nothing too onerous. Don’t get me wrong, I thought our general licenses were fine as they were before Packham and Avery decided to break something that wasn’t as broken as they would try to have people believe, but the fact is we can still catch wild brown trout, salmon, and grayling, shoot six different species of deer, walk up, rough or driven shoot for grouse, partridge and pheasant as well as harvest pigeon and squirrel throughout the year. Our seasons often overlap ensuring we can get out to pursue some quarry at all times of the year. With that in mind, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try and list my top three countryside pursuit outings to form some sort of bucket list which was actually achievable here in the UK.
Scottish Highland Imperial Red Stag
Red deer aren’t my favourite deer species to hunt, but stalking one high on a mountain in the Scottish Highlands, with the recovery supported by a highland pony, the backstrap served in an historic highlands castle, and the Imperial head mounted on my wall at home sometime after the trip would be something anyone would cherish until their last breath. I would have to ensure I worked hard for the deer. That would mean no motorised transportation to ascend the mountain, but rather achieve the ascent under my own steam carrying everything I needed for the trip which would likely take a few days. The location would have to be iconic, with the dynamic rough features of some of our most beautiful mountains as a backdrop to the stalking ground.
Rough shoot a young wild Irish Grouse
The big challenge with this choice is that grouse populations in Ireland aren’t really something we can all shout about! The Glenwherry Grouse moor regeneration project, under the watchful eye of Alex the keeper, has been a huge success and whilst it would be incredibly fortuitous to take a gun on one of the rare driven days that occurs there, that’s not the way I’d like to hunt this quarry. Scattered around Northern Ireland there are still some very small populations of wild grouse surviving with no human involvement. Unfortunately, that’s all they are doing, as without management its hard to see how these populations will ever recover and flourish. Assuming they did however, a rough shoot with my faithful new cocker, Fiadh, where she flushed one, I shot it and she recovered it before pan frying the breasts in butter on a hot skillet sitting on my Aga would top what could only be seen as a perfect day.
Chalk stream wild brown trout
We are so lucky to live in a country where the vast majority of the world’s chalk stream reside. That said, getting the opportunity to fish one isn’t the easiest thing to achieve. I have been lucky twice but I’d still put this on my ‘to do’ bucket list, I’d just have to add the word ‘again’! Its such tremendous sport, combined with the iconic setting for brownies, it's something you will never tire of doing. It goes without saying that only dry flies would be allowed!
Looking at my selection its not far off a Macnab. Swap the trout for a salmon and we have the three species required. But for me it's not a case of trying to rush the quarry in a single day. Savouring the entire occasion of each species in setting, style and conviction is what would make the day special.
If you were to select your top three, what would they be?