The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Woodcock season to be debated in Parliament

A Wild Justice petition to shorten the woodcock season has received over 100,000 votes, despite there being no evidence against shooting

There is already a voluntary measure in place not to shoot woodcock until 1 December

With 104,000 votes and counting, the Wild Justice petition to shorten the woodcock shooting season has reached the 100,000 threshold needed to trigger a parliamentary debate. At the time of writing, no date has been fixed, but Westminster must now consider whether it is right to delay the start of the woodcock season to 1 December, reducing it to just two months each winter.

The idea of not shooting woodcock before the end of November is not new; the GWCT began to suggest this in areas where there are breeding woodcock as a voluntary measure about five years ago. While there is no evidence that shooting is a problem, our home-breeding woodcock are in decline, so delaying the start until most of the migrants arrive seems a sensible precaution to avoid the risk that home-bred birds would come under more pressure than the migrants.

Commenting on the Wild Justice proposal, GWCT director of advisory and education Roger Draycott said: “We do not believe that a statutory change in the season will have any beneficial impact on our resident woodcock. There is already evidence, at a national scale, of a reduction in shooting pressure over the past 20 years. This suggests that other factors, such as change in habitat quality or increased predation pressure, are driving the decline. 

“Based on current evidence, conservation efforts would be better devoted to habitat restoration. GWCT and the British Trust for Ornithology will also be conducting a repeat national breeding woodcock survey this spring. This will provide an up-to-date population estimate, and it is our advice to wait for the results of this survey before any change to the season is considered.”

Meanwhile, Swansea-based woodcock enthusiast Tom Roderick said: “We have no breeding woodcock this far west, and I rarely shoot one before the end of November, so a change to the season would not bother me. However, I believe this petition from Wild Justice is a stalking horse towards a total ban.”