With the 2016 Grouse Season just underway we’ve produced an informative guide to Grouse Shooting in the UK.
The ‘King’ of Game Birds
Red grouse are widely regarded as the most prized of all game birds. They make their homes in the heather moorlands of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England. Small, agile and fast, they represent a significant challenge to even the best shot.
Unlike other game birds, such as pheasants and partridges, it’s impossible to rear red grouse artificially in captivity. Instead populations are supported by habitat management. Heather is the primary food source for grouse, they eat up to 50g of heather a day and maintaining the heather moors is critical to ensuring a healthy population of grouse.
Historical and Cultural Context
The Victorians popularised grouse shooting in the mid-1800s. Queen Victoria’s famous patronage of country pursuits contributed to the fashion for hunting and shooting. Whilst technical advances in shotguns and the railways made it more accessible for the country elite.
Red grouse have deep cultural resonance in Scotland. They are the national game bird and for many years they championed the cause of Scottish rugby in a campaign that paid tribute to their agility, wit and cunning. Most Scots instantly recognise the red grouse, even if they’ve never had the pleasure of eating one, let alone shooting one.
Gamekeepers on moorland estates carefully manage the grouse habitat. Successional burning of the heather moors, out with nesting season, promotes regeneration and regrowth in mature heather moors.
Fire is a natural component of the ecological cycle, instead of killing the heather, fire renews their vigour. By burning areas of the moor in succession, gamekeepers seek to maximise the food available for the grouse and therefore numbers of grouse for shooting.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust estimate that grouse shooting in Scotland supports 1,072 jobs and contributes to £23.3m to GDP.
Are Grouse Moors Big Business?
Despite the best efforts of gamekeepers and estate managers the grouse numbers vary each year. Weather and local conditions have a big impact. Last year’s record breaking wet weather spelt disaster for the shooting season.
As businesses go, running a grouse moor for profit isn’t a safe bet. Despite the proliferation of reports of oligarchs and city tycoons paying through the nose to join a shoot, only 43% of Scottish estates in the GWCT report made a profit on their grouse activities.
As ever where sport and conservation meet, there is a degree of controversy. The Estates and gamekeepers assert their position as conservationists. They insist that responsible grouse moor management benefits the environment and acts for the good of all wildlife.
The other side of the argument attests that endangered birds of prey, such as golden eagles and hen harriers are being illegally killed because they are grouse predators. They also believe that burning the heather damages the ecology.
Where to go Grouse Shooting in Scotland
What to Wear
A Hume have a wide range of shooting jackets, vests, breeks, hats, gloves, socks and scarves.
Footwear depends on whether the shoot is Walking or Driven.
If it’s a Driven Shoot you may manage with brogues or walking boots. Best to check conditions.
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