Seemingly invigorated by its latest round of defeats, Wild Justice has launched a campaign to shorten the season for woodcock shooting.

Wild Justice is calling for the start of the woodcock season to be moved from the start of October (September in Scotland) to the first of December. In its members’ newsletter the campaign group said: “The rationale for such a change has been set out by the pro-shooting Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and rests on the fact that the UK woodcock population is swelled by large numbers of migrants from Europe and Asia in winter, and in mid winter the continental birds outnumber the UK birds by about 10:1.”

The GWCT has long pursued a policy of encouraging voluntary restraint in the shooting of woodcock before the first of December and this has been increasingly observed in recent years. Numbers of breeding woodcock have declined significantly in Britain in recent years, for reasons which are not entirely clear. However the much larger migrant population which arrives from Russia, the Baltic and Scandinavia is broadly stable.

Dr Roger Draycott, GWCT Director of Advisory and Education told Shooting Times: “We are aware of Wild Justice’s letter to the Secretary of State about woodcock shooting. The GWCT has undertaken more research into woodcock ecology and conservation than any other organisation in the UK and we will be writing to the Secretary of State with our views on this matter.

“Suffice to say, it would appear from the letter that Wild Justice may not fully understand the nuance of the factors driving woodcock populations and neither is it clear how their proposals for statutory changes to the shooting season would enhance the population status of our resident breeding woodcock”.

Keen woodcock shooter John Clark was typical of many. John said: “Keepers and rough shooters who know their ground well know when the migratory birds have arrived, it is very clear there is no need to put an arbitrary date on it.” John went on to suggest that woodcock conservation was not Wild Justice’s real goal. John said “It is clear that this is just another nick in the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ strategy”.