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Optimism for the new season


Early-season pheasant shoots are showing encouraging signs

Shooting contributes £2bn to the UK economy and supports 74,000 full-time jobs. After a few tough years for the shooting community following Covid and the bird flu pandemic, there is optimism that 2023 will mark a return to form for game shoots across the country.

A return to more seasonal conditions in October has meant early-season pheasant shoots are showing encouraging signs and days are selling well.

Liam Bell, headkeeper at Millichope Estate and ST contributor, said: “Build-up to the season has gone well for the most part. The terrible weather in June and July has meant that the poults have stayed tight to the woods and the game crops. Days are selling well; people are just keeping a weather eye on the potential for bird flu to rear its head again”

Sir Johnny Scott, author and president of the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust, added: “From an industry point of view, despite the muddled bureaucracy, the preparation hasn’t been too bad. More broadly, shooting really has to pull itself together and focus on quality rather than quantity. “We need to lower the stocking rate of pheasants, be more conscious of their welfare and increase the quality of the product that makes its way to our tables. Many agents are advertising ‘mini days’, which is the right thing to be doing. Paying to kill a certain number of birds is increasingly unpalatable; we should be paying for the pleasure of the day.”

This story first appeared in Shooting Times, Britain’s oldest and best-selling shooting magazine. Published every Wednesday, the 141-year-old title has long been at the coalface of the countryside, breaking the stories that matter to you. Subscribe here.