Scotland could be in line for one of the best grouse shooting seasons in years, but in England its not looking too good.

The season gets under way today, the Glorious Twelfth, and experts believe the recent heatwave has helped game birds recover from a series of icy winters and wet summers. That could provide a “vital” economic boost for the UK and rural communities, they say.

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Freezing conditions during winter and last summer’s heavy rain have blighted the birds with many chicks dying of cold. The insects on which they feed also died in large numbers.

But this summer’s sunshine and record temperatures have revived populations, prompting hopes that the multi-millionpound shooting business will see a bumper year in Scotland.

Robert Rattray, of rural property and sporting letting agents CKD Galbraith, said: “Although Scotland endured a cold and long winter, in recent weeks this has made way for sunshine and almost unprecedented warm weather.

“Careful assessment of grouse stocks is revealing potential for one of the best seasons for many years, with some unusually large broods being seen.

In northern England Grouse moor owners are telling a different story.

Having experienced similar weather patterns as seen in Scotland here in Lancashire, the grouse shooting season is reported as being in chaos after this year’s freak weather devastated numbers of the birds.

A spokesperson for the local raptor group are however highlighting a different story. Raptor workers who visted most regions of moorland in Bowland  this spring and during the summer are telling Raptor Politic they have never seen as many flying broods of healthy grouse chicks this season; many broods seen comprising of up to a dozen or even more recently fledged chicks. Our observations just don’t match the information we have been reading recently in the press the spokesperson said.

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Grouse Moor Forest of Bowland: not a single hen harrier, only one successfull peregrine eyrie. This is the sacrifice being made to support this sport.

Back to Scotland

Huge moorland fires and water shortages caused by the heatwave followed torrential downpours in May which washed eggs and chicks from the nests.

Those that did survive were hit, first by water shortages as parent birds tried desperately to raise their broods, and then by devastating moorland and grass fires, sparked by weeks of record heat. Some stretches of moor will be barren for up to 15 years.

“Grouse shooting on average generates around £30 million for the Scottish economy but I would imagine figures this year will be much higher, with all the knock-on benefits of seasonal employment in local communities.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “There were concerns in the early part of the year that the lateness and length of the winter was slowing everything down … but the broad viewpoint now is that the warming weather has made a real difference, combined with the insect hatch, and that the birds are growing quicker.

“They are also not standing around shivering in the wet like last year because the recent weather has been drier. The overview seems to be there are good prospects for the season.”

He added: “Many rural communities rely on the grouse season and the flush of new visitors it brings to give them the injection they need to keep going or to invest in their businesses. It is, without doubt, vital.”

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Moorland shooting party in the Northern Pennines where only a single peregrine eyrie has been  recorded this year.

The Moorland Association agreed that a good grouse season was “massively important” to the uplands economy, bringing a further estimated £67m to England and supporting hundreds of jobs.

Association chairman Robert Benson added: “With the prospects of a better season ahead, associated spin-offs will be in excess of £15m, essential earnings in these challenging economic times.”

A recent report stated that in addition to direct financial benefits, shooting estates in Scotland spend £43m a year on improving habitat and controlling predators which helps endangered wild birds such as the curlew to survive. (we note with interest the report does not mention anything about endangered or threatened protected birds of prey, we wonder why?)

Meanwhile, animal welfare groups branded gamekeepers’ claims that the sector helped to protect wild creatures a “joke”.

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This is the true price England is paying in support of grouse shooting: Hen Harrier chicks bludgeoned to death.

Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The hidden reality is that … protected species such as birds of prey are routinely persecuted to protect the shooters’ stock of grouse … I fail to interpret this as ‘glorious’.”

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