More shoots than in previous years charged per bird shot rather than a fixed fee for the day, with prices rising by £2 per bird for both pheasants and partridges.

David Steel, head of sporting at Smiths Gore, said that, though it is more costly for the Guns, the decision to charge per bird shot has significant implications on the profitability or otherwise of a shoot.

?A couple of years ago, shoots were facing an uncertain future, and many have worked hard to increase the net income per bird shot, while limiting the amount that is passed on to Guns,? he said.

The survey also revealed that more than 90% of let days were sold before the start of the season with repeat bookings holding up well.

The principal source of new clients was again via word of mouth and recommendations, closely followed by the Internet, reflecting the manner in which many shooters now access information online.

GunsOnPegs managing director, James Horne, commented: ?With the ever-increasing cost of shooting, Guns are now shopping around far more than they did before. Shoots have long since woken up to the fact that they can now channel their marketing in a cost-effective manner to a greater, targeted audience.?

Mr Steel said: ?Shoots have had to conduct a thorough financial examination of their activities and many have acted accordingly. This is good news for the sport ? a couple of years ago the picture looked worryingly unsustainable.?

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