Are shoots putting down the same number of birds as last year? Have days sold as hoped?

If we look back to this time last year, before the bottom fell out of the financial markets, the shooting industry was thriving. Clients had paid their deposits for the forthcoming season, allowing keepers to place early orders for birds. Indeed, the rearing fields produced a surplus of chicks and gamefarmers were confident that shoots would snap them up as they signed up extra bookings. The system worked and the industry was profiting as a result.

However, when a financial crisis removes an important cog from the machinery — in this case consumer confidence — the system risks crashing. If clients delay paying their deposits, the shoot’s cash flow quickly dries up. Either shoots can take a gamble and put birds to wood in the hope that they sell later, sparking the possibility of last-minute deals for canny clients, or they can opt to reduce their stock and take the shortfall on the chin. The client could be left rueing his indecision, and have no shooting. The keeper could face losing his job. The gamefarmer could have a field of poults but no buyers.

Shooting Times asked a number of industry spokesmen, including keepers, gamefarmers, paying clients and managers of large, medium and small-scale sporting estates, for an update on how they are faring in the current economic climate. Perhaps the outlook is not as bleak as it might seem.

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