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‘Muted’ grouse season draws to a close

A modest grouse season is coming to a close.

walked-up grouse day

The crucial spring breeding period passed largely without incident, meaning that numbers of young birds were relatively good. Where birds did breed, chick numbers were high with broods of six to nine chicks relatively common and one remarkable brood of 19 found on a moor in southern Scotland. Consequently, most moors ran a shooting programme. However the effects of 2021’s disastrous breeding were still keenly felt and there were simply too few breeding birds on most moors for anything other than some modest driven and walked-up days.

Mike Smith of the Tay House in Dunkeld explained the wider benefits of a return to grouse shooting. Mike said: “It provides jobs, income, communities, opportunities for young people, conservation by estates and field to fork sustainability.”

The season began with a wave of targeted disruption by hunt saboteurs and anti-shooting protesters which led to a series of arrests including one for possession of a knife. (Read what’s the law on carrying a knife for hunting.) However, as the season moved on and the weather turned colder, anti-shooting activism began to drop off and shoots moved ahead with their calendars. However one campaigning organisation still had time for an embarrassing error.

The antis persuaded themselves and the Guardian newspaper that the Ritz Hotel had dropped grouse from its menus when in fact it had done no such thing. Small bags and quality days out were the focus for most shooters. David Moore, whose permissions in the east of Scotland include a small area where grouse are present, told Shooting Times: “We normally walk up a few grouse in September and we had a shot this year, but birds were thin on the ground. We don’t manage land specifically for grouse and rely on a bit of an overspill from the ‘proper’ grouse shoots, this year there wasn’t that much to spill over.”

Shooting quietened down through October and November as the pheasant and partridge seasons got underway and keepers’ focus turned to the vital tasks of habitat management and predator control.

The prospects for next season are impossible to assess until counts begin in the spring; however as long as conditions are good most shoots will be heading for next season carrying healthy breeding stock and hoping for a second year of improving bags.