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What is the Macnab Challenge and why is it special


The Macnab challenge is what the triple crown is to F1 racing, completing the challenge grants you entry into a very exclusive club. The rules for the challenge are painfully simple but actually, make the challenge as difficult as it is. To shoot a brace of grouse, a red stag and catch a salmon all in the same day is anything but simple.

Due to the nature of nature, finding all of these in a day requires the perfect storm. Without a set order that the challenge has to be completed in much of this comes down to personal strategy. If you’re a good shot then you should probably start with the salmon, while the fisherman amongst us may want to start in the hills. You have from the start of August to Early November to complete the challenge to not catch any of these species out of season.

Red Deer as part of the Macnab Challenge

The Rules

As with any challenge of this nature the rules are crucial to the validity of each entry. The rules are simple but without a set order, this leaves a lot of options for the participant. However, with this many options, there is a higher chance of mistakes or oversights.

  • The animals must be taken legally and all between dusk and dawn of the same day
  • References from the Ghillie and the estate owner must accompany the submission.
  • All the animals must be sporting and taken at the entrants expense.

The Field Magazine are those who you should submit your entry too. they keep a record of successful entrants year on year and no doubt will mention your success in their magazine.

Why these animals

Based on the book from John Buchan, the protagonist John Macnab ( A collective of 3 bored but successful men) Would take a stag or salmon from 3 forewarned estates. There is no inclusion of the grouse in the book but there is ample justification for its later inclusion. The three animals are distinct figures of the fieldsports world. Any of these animals in their own right are on any country persons bucket list. Importantly, these animals are all completely wild, there’s no easy way of getting to any of these species. The you vs nature aspect to the challenge makes it as well regarded as it is. Going back hundreds of years these were the animals at the top of the poacher’s wishlist. While Poaching doesn’t exist on the same level, to take all these animals in one day is following in the footsteps of kings and queens of old.

A salmon on the fly is part of the Macnab Challenge

Why is the Macnab famous?

You can’t always replicate what written into real life actions. There are real world limitations to the realisation of these plans. Consider the round the world in 80 days expedition in a hot air balloon, achievable in literature but complicated in real life. For the Macnab challenge, the real world limitations exist but aren’t insurmountable. Many people will take a full weeks trip just to stalk a Red stag and a day walked up shooting might only return a handful of grouse. With this in mind taking the 3 kings of British fieldsports in one day is a monumental achievement. The skill to take any of these animals isn’t something you wake up with. To master the skill with a Rifle, Shotgun and fly rod is something that takes years of practice. To complete the Macnab is proof that you have the skills required in all 3 disciplines. The limitations are day light and ability. While there is little you can do about daylight there is plenty you can do to improve ability. With the fishing regarded as the hardest part, practicing your casting may be the difference between success and failure.

Strategy and equipment

The Macnab requires and early start, that is something completely unavoidable. The kit required is half personal and half strategy and a miscalculation might fail you before you start. While a trusty 12 bore might be your go to for everything else. Walking across moorland with it and a pocket full of cartridges might be too cumbersome, swapping to a 20 or 28 bore might make it a little easier.

These compromises can’t be made with the rifle. The legal minimum size dictates that .243 is the smallest caliber you can use. While legal it might not offer you the best knockdown power should a bigger deer than expected come across your path. The 308. has been dependable for over half a century and renowned for its accuracy and knockdown power. This should cover all bases when you get on the hill. With plenty of options for rifle rounds, you shouldn’t find yourself shooting out of your comfort zone.

Hunting grouse as part of the Macnab Challenge

We will be the first to admit that we’re no fly fishing expert but this isn’t the trip to make compromises. For myself and anyone, talking to the Ghillie who will guide you will be fundamental to your success. They will know the lay of the land better than anyone else, especially when it comes to the waterways. Make sure if you’re buying kit for the occasion you’re taking advice from you Ghillie. The key will be having the appropriate flys for the stretch of water you’re on and the appropriate rod. Too heavy a rod will put of smaller fish and too light will put immense strain on the line.


While there are many places where you can find stag salmon and grouse, Scotland is the only logical choice. When it comes to taking each in one day, Scotland may be the only place where this is possible. Furthermore, It’s the spiritual homeland of the challenge so doing it elsewhere may not be as authentic. Written by John Buchan while housed at the Stobo Estate, he was sat in possibly the best location. Within its immediate vicinity was moorland, the River Tweed and immense stalking hills. An obvious inspiration to the book itself, Scotland is the obvious choice for completing the challenge. Naturally, the choice of location is up to you however, time is of the essence. Compacting your shooting area will only make the process simpler and improve your chances of success.

Macnab Challenge in the Scotish Highlands


To complete the Macnab takes an equal dose of Skill and luck. To relying solely on luck however, won’t save you up in the hills or on the fly. This challenge is the ultimate accolade to a countrysports person and proof of their skill. While completing the task is one thing the, ongoing legacy is the ultimate boast to sporting peers. There aren’t many people who can claim to have taken each of these animals in a lifetime, let alone a single day. Its worth remembering that more fail the challenge and succeed, many try year on year and some without success.

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