The Glorious Twelfth brought great sport and record days, with some welcome windy weather ensuring that the season kicked off with a bang in most areas.
It’s been a terrific start to the grouse season in northern England, though reports from Scotland have been mixed.
Last month, estates reported big broods and perfect conditions along with the possibility of record seasons in some places. But Shooting Times checked back to see whether the Glorious Twelfth had panned out as predicted.
Fantastic start to the season
BASC’s northern director Duncan Thomas thinks so. He said that it had been a “fantastic start” to the grouse season up north: “There were some superb windy days, providing what look like October grouse right from the Glorious Twelfth. Heather beetle has affected some areas, but on the whole numbers are good with a few shoots having to rethink and squeeze in a few extra days at the end of the season.”
Sarah Read, northern development officer for the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, agreed: “What a start to the 2017 Grouse season it has been. Temperatures have remained fairly low and a nice bit of wind the first few days of the season has got the season off to a great start.
“In the north Pennines, the birds have been flying strong and well, with many estates hitting record days. These first few days of the season are so important, it’s when the keepers see what is on the ground and its when you can make an impact on the surplus stock.
“Reports from Bowland across to the North York Moors have been good to date, with plenty of birds around, though the odd moor will have suffered slightly from heavy rain in early June and parasite infestations.”
“Early on there has been some shoot disturbance from the anti-shooting lobby however only a small number of shoots have been affected and even some of those were still able to continue shooting, we will no doubt see some more of this but the majority of the estates will continue through the season seeing none or very little of this,” continued Sarah.
“The heather has been in fantastic condition this year, but the pollen that is kicked up when walking across it makes it a little uncomfortable for the beaters and the dogs. The scent has been okay so far but it is a wonder how the dogs do so well when the pollen is so apparent right now. There is also a concern with the heather beetle, which is active at this time of year.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association offered a more cautious outlook: “It has been a pretty localised picture. It seems snow, right at breeding time, has had a big impact in many areas, particularly in the highlands.
“There are some moors that didn’t shoot last year showing an improvement, while moors where you would traditionally expect good prospects have had to scale back programmes or, in some cases, are not shooting at all. Overall, there will still be good grouse shooting in Scotland, as ever, but it may well be a shorter season for some.”
Grouse numbers are looking positive in the lead-up to the start of the season, despite poor winter weather
Archive footage of the start of the grouse shooting season in 1937
Graham Downing offers the novice some helpful pointers on their first grouse shoot
Record bags reported
These regional outlooks were shared by James Chapel, director of William Powell Sporting Agency, who told us: “The moors of northern Scotland — Inverness-shire and Moray — have not produced the numbers of recent years and many are now cancelling part or all of their programmes. Aberdeenshire and parts of Angus look better with the likes of Hunthill achieving record bags on their early days.
“Estates in Perthshire are reporting excellent bags as well, and generally speaking numbers get better the further south you go. The Borders looks very strong again and the likes of Mayshiel have excellent numbers.
“The trend continues into northern England where records are tumbling in the Alston area and again down towards Middleton-in-Teesdale. Heather beetle has caused problems north of the A66 but again most moors seem to have good numbers here.
“There is less positive news on the east Pennines, but the North York Moors look strong again with Snilesworth, Bransdale and Hawnby all having excellent days. Further south again, and despite some disturbance on the 12th, the Peak District is producing some good bags of grouse and the early season windy conditions making these grouse particularly testing.”