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Significant number of shoots cancelling days, according to reports

Shooting Times is beginning to receive reports of a significant number of shoots canceling days or simply writing off the entire season as the combined effects of low bird availability, high prices and general economic strain bite. 

small bore shotguns

The phasing out of lead means those who use smaller bores - such as youngsters and female shooters - may struggle to find a suitable alternative

An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in France has led to restrictions on the export of chicks and eggs to UK shoots and game farms, which has greatly reduced the number of birds available to UK shoots. Meanwhile prices of essential shoot supplies such as feed and fuel have increased dramatically as the war in Ukraine affects supplies.

According to a survey by shoot booking website, GunsOnPegs, up to a third of planned shoot days with partridge shooting are particularly hard hit. The website’s survey found that while around 70% of pheasant shooting was set to go ahead, only 30% of partridge shooting would take place as planned. However industry insiders continued to warn that the disruption could be much worse with some estimates placing the reduction in pheasant shooting at closer to 50%.

One gamekeeper whose shoot will not be going ahead this year explained to Shooting Times: “When we worked through the figures, the costs were just too high to be viable, we were booking at £80 a bird in order to break even. You have to be realistic, the number of people who are willing and able to buy a 200 bird day at that cost is very small. It is a very difficult situation to be in, after two seasons disrupted by Covid. To have this now is tragic.”

An auction of poults, chicks and ex-layers on a farm machinery website saw birds attracting multiple times their usual costs as buyers frantically sought stock to fill empty pens. The sale was condemned as ‘profiteering’ by some, however others said it was the result of a ‘sellers market’. 

In France, a small trickle of bird flu cases has continued in the Pays de Loire, with French Government figures showing a single figure increase in case numbers in the region this week. In better news wheat prices have continued to fall on hopes that Ukrainian exports may resume. Feed wheat is now available at under £300 a tonne in eastern England and a little over £300 a tonne elsewhere.