So, the Great Lead Debate is back with a vengeance. I dimly recall writing a feature piece on this issue more than a decade ago. My conclusion then was pretty stark: “lead is dead”. The fact that we’re all still happily using it today might have surprised me back then. But it could be just a matter of timing.

Now, I realise that a lot of people get very hot under the collar about the prospect of a lead ban for shooting and stalking, and I hope nobody doubts my own commitment to the future of shooting. Oh, and I happen to own three English shotguns that would be wrecked by steel shot. And yet, over the years, I have got used to the fact that lead may have to go. And I think I could cope with that prospect. So could most shooting folk, I reckon. So I’m not getting worked-up about this latest development. Allow me to explain my reasoning…

First, sooner or later, there was always going to be some sort of lead working group or Government consultation on lead. At least this new Lead Ammunition Group not only includes shooting interests, but is actually chaired by the boss of a shooting organisation.

Second, it seems to me that if we simply sit back and wait for others to provide clear, unequivocal proof that lead ammunition causes problems for human health or the environment, then we will have waited too long. Can you imagine what just one serious food scare about lead would do to the gameshooting industry? The best form of crisis management is to avoid having a crisis in the first place.

Third, most of the science on lead ammunition is being done abroad. But that doesn’t mean it is duff or utterly irrelevant. We need to, er, get our ducks in a row here in Blighty before anything nasty blows over us from over there. This isn’t defeatism, it’s just common sense.

Fourth, there are now plenty of alternatives to lead for both shot and bullets. Yes, they have their rawbacks, but then so does lead — it’s toxic.

Can we learn from others? How have the Danes managed to maintain their gameshooting without lead shot? I draw some comfort from their example. Perhaps I am wrong to do so. No doubt readers will let me know, either way.

The rising cost of shooting

How much do you pay for your shooting? I know, it’s a “wifey” sort of question. Besides, “money is a renewable resource” according to my friend Gerry.

A while ago, I read a piece by Robert Rattray, head of CKD Galbraith’s sporting department. He was detailing the price of various sporting packages back in 1959, which just happens to have been the year in which I was born.

Back then, red deer stalking on the hill was £65 per stag, with hind stalking at just £18 per day. Nowadays, you might be lucky to get a stag for less than £375, and a day at the hinds might easily be £165. Interestingly, this seems to show that the cost of hind stalking has risen more sharply (x9) than that for stags (x6).

I have to say that, though I do enjoy accompanying a youngster on a foray for his fi rst stag, and I like to be on the hills when the beasts are still

roaring, I generally prefer hind stalking on the basis that it is a finer, more demanding sport.

According to Mr Rattray, the biggest change in prices has been in driven grouse. He records that a modest day with an expectation of 60 brace might have cost about £680 in 1959, whereas today it might be more like £10,000 — nearly 15 times greater.

I don’t know about you, but calculating an annual driven grouse budget is one source of worry that I have somehow managed to avoid in life. Roughshooting and stalking are the mainstays of my own shooting activities.

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