The black grouse blog is a month into the season.

Although they have emerged after two months of mysterious skulking in the deep undergrowth, the black cock still have brown necks and stubby tails and the grey hens look even worse.

They are like raffia mats that have been fed through a lawn mower.

Despite the fact that this year’s poults are now up on the wing, they will only reach a form of adulthood at the same time as pheasants, and most still look decidedly weak and straggly, flying short distances only under the most extreme provocation.

In truth, black cock shouldn’t really be shot until they have all reached maturity, and a tremendous amount of journalistic wrangling has gone on over the past two hundred years to decide precisely when the season should open.

On one hand, many moorland guns argued that an adult black cock breaking from cover in late October presents a fine and testing target for any gun.

They recommended that the season should be changed to prevent the birds being shot before they reached their stunning best.

Other, more traditionalist opinions viewed black grouse as total vermin, and fought to keep the early start so that they could really make a killing on young poults before they could start causing trouble.

It was (and still is in some areas), incorrectly held that black grouse attack and disrupt red grouse, which, in addition to their destructive powers on the harvest fields made them lower than crows in some circles.

What we have now is the same season established by the 1831 game laws; August 20 to December 10.

It is something of an irrelevance considering the tiny numbers of black grouse which will be shot this year, but when we get the birds back to the stage when they can be shot properly again, it is sure to become a bone of contention again.

The views expressed on Patrick Laurie’s blog are the author’s and not the views of Shooting Gazette, ShootingUK, IPC Media or its employees. www.gallowayfarm.wordpress.com