The UK grouse shooting season gets under way today, with predictions of a slow start to the “Glorious Twelfth” due to wet summer conditions.
Damp weather and some late snow is likely to have affected bird numbers on the country’s moorlands, according to experts, who say several estates have either curtailed their shooting programme or cancelled it altogether.
This is the case in the Lammermuirs of East Lothian and Berwickshire, while estates in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire are adopting a “cautious” policy, and breeding success in the Angus glens and Perthshire has been described as “patchy”, land agency firm Strutt and Parker said.
England’s North West and Bowland areas have meanwhile shown a mixed count in recent weeks.
Colin Shedden, Scottish director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), said: “Weather has been the critical factor, as always, and this has led to some areas being reliant on second broods and possibly having to delay the start of their shooting programme.
“It is clear that for many the season will start well while others will catch up a few weeks later.”
BASC’s northern director, Duncan Thomas, said: “Prolonged wet weather and some late snow have had a negative effect.
“Many moors have cancelled August dates, relying on some late broods for some restrained September shooting.
“The situation seems to improve further east, with some moors showing a strong population with big broods.”
Television chef Nick Nairn will mark the start of the season at Abercairny Estate in Crieff, Perthshire, where he will join a shooting party before preparing some grouse to offer to locals from a gourmet food van.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said that the economic contribution of shooting has never been more important, creating thousands of jobs in rural areas, and that industry regulations are tighter than ever.
Animal charity OneKind said there is “nothing glorious” about the “brutal slaughter” of tens of thousands of birds, however.
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Director Harry Huyton said: “Many will be maimed and injured rather than killed outright as novice and inexperienced shooters take to the moors for a corporate jolly.
“The effort which goes into maintaining a rich supply of game birds for shooting is huge and invariably involves some extremely controversial practices.
“It is not surprising the public is turning their back on this so-called sport and calling the Government to account on a cruel, unnecessary practice which is enjoyed by a very small minority of people in Scotland.”