65% of the country’s shoots will be lead free by the end of 2023 with another 20% phasing lead shot out by the end of 2025, according to a survey by land management firm Savills.

The Savills Game and Conservation Benchmarking Survey found that the vast majority of shoots had already got rid of plastic shotgun wads and that most were expecting to transition away from lead shot.

Conservation work is also being given increasing priority by shoots with two-third of respondents saying they undertook self-funded conservation work. This includes 93% of shoots who have established wild bird seed mixes, 64% establishing insect-friendly pollen and nectar mixes and almost half which have worked with farming operations to establish conservation headlands.

Encouragingly, 11% of shoots reported doing more conservation work after the pandemic and only 4% said they were doing less. The survey also found a general mood of optimism among the shoots surveyed. Three quarters of all the shoots surveyed said they either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statements that: “I am optimistic about the prospects for the 2021/22 season”, and “I am optimistic about the future of driven game”.

Only 5% of shoots told the survey that they were pessimistic for the future of the sport.

Upbeat mood

Numbers of birds being released also showed an upward move, with the 27% of shoots which said they were reducing fewer birds than normal outweighed by 36% saying they were reducing more. Commenting on the upbeat mood shown in the survey, Roger Draycott, GWCT Director of Advisory and Education said: “In this survey, we were keen to understand the impact of the Covid pandemic on the environmental aspects of running a shoot. It is heartening to see that despite many shoots scaling back on shoot days and numbers released last year, shoots continued to provide and manage habitats for gamebirds with knock-on benefits for other wildlife.”

However, in bad news for shooters, the average cost of a driven bird has now risen to above £40 for the first time.

Read more on driven shooting here.