Shooting organisations have backed GWCT calls to delay woodcock shooting until migrating birds arrive

In an effort to protect the woodcock population, several countryside organisations, including the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, are following the recommendation of conservationists by asking shoots to schedule any shooting until at least after November’s full moon, which falls on Wednesday 25th November.

This will allow the declining resident woodcock population time migrate to more temperate regions, and the arrival of wintering woodcock (whose numbers are stable) from Scandinavia, the Baltics and Russia.

 The most recent science by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) stated there were 55,241 breeding males in the UK in 2013, a fall of 29 per cent from 2003.

Ensure the resident breeders get the best chance for future years

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “GWCT has done a lot of scientific work regarding these birds and we agree with their guidance that shoots should leave it as late as possible in November before shooting woodcock.
“While it is legal to shoot woodcock from September 1st, the majority of estates offering it don’t start this early in the season.
“However, it is sensible to minimise the pressure on the birds as much as possible to ensure the resident breeders get the best chance for future years and we will be encouraging our members to take these steps going forward.
“Shooters have always been receptive to conservation guidance, as was shown with black grouse, and those we have spoken to are happy to support the later start to help the resident woodcock.”

Preserve native stock

Adrian Blackmore, Countryside Alliance director of shooting, agreed: “The Countryside Alliance has been supportive from the outset of this voluntary change to shooting woodcock by advocating a time before which shooting would be discouraged in order to preserve our native stock.”
BASC chief executive Richard Ali added: “BASC urges all shooters to behave responsibly and always to consider the impact of their shooting. This demands a flexible approach; when we shoot and where we shoot are often governed by local conditions so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The GWCT advice recognises this and is concerned with the numbers of resident woodcock.
“Shooters in the UK have demonstrated responsible restraint when adverse local conditions occur. BASC believes that they should be trusted to shoot responsibly when it comes to woodcock,” added Mr Ali.
The GWCT is working to protect the UK’s woodcock population and shooters can help in several ways, such as by providing bag details and sending shot birds for study. For more information on the woodcock study click here.
A longer version of this article can be read in the 11 November 2015 edition of Shooting Times.