The start of the grouse shooting season today could herald one of the poorest years in the sport’s history because of weather extremes last year.
Companies organising shooting breaks say they have experienced a “significant” number of cancellations as news emerges of poor prospects on the moors.
Some estates have decided against organising any shoots at all, knocking a sizeable dent in the £35 million windfall which Scotland can expect from the sport in a good year.
Blame has been placed on the unique set of circumstances that took place last year, when the “Beast from the East” was followed by record temperatures in early summer.
Heavy snow falling in March 2018 left grouse in poor condition, made worse by the late flowering of the young heather so vital to their diet.
When nesting began in April, weakened hens produced a lower number of eggs and struggled to look after those that hatched.
A hot early summer led to a shortage of water on the hills and insect life for the young grouse to feed upon.
Colin Sneddon, Scottish director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said the past 12 months had provided insufficient time for stocks to recover.
He said: “We were reasonably hopeful after last year’s weather disaster that this year would be a bit better.
“This year started well, following a relatively mild winter. But May was a cold month above 1,000 feet and this may have set things back a bit.
“Recent wet weather has not been particularly helpful and we understand a number of estates will have no shooting for a second year in a row.”
It is estimated that, until recent setbacks, shooting grouse had begun to appeal to new markets in China and India. Around 60 per cent of shooters come from England, with the remaining 40 per cent hailing from Scotland and overseas countries, including the US, Belgium, Holland, France and Spain.”