Yesterday was the ‘Glorious 12th’ and all grouse (lagopus lagopus scoticus ) in Scotland would have been finding themselves the target of many shooters had it not been a Sunday. No game may be shot on a Sunday. From today they may be shot and so pull in much needed income for those employed in the shoots on land owned in Scotland.
I saw two grouse as I walked down our lane yesterday to put our rubbish out. We have had a very, very wet year and so there are far fewer grouse successfully breeding.
The League Against Cruel Sports believes the sport is barbaric and should have been banned long ago. A representative has said:
“Each year, from August to December, picturesque moorlands are invaded by groups of men and even children armed with guns, having paid for the pleasure of shooting and injuring thousands of terrified birds.”
Many Estate Managers have had to cancel the shooting due to the low numbers of grouse. This happened last year too.
“Hens that had hatched were unable to look after their chicks. Many nested again and their nests were flooded out, and in July the chicks that had survived were too big to shelter under the hens when the rain came again.”
But Scottish Land & Estates, which represents over 2,500 landowners in Scotland, say “despite the mixed picture in terms of bird numbers, country sports enthusiasts have dusted off their guns and headed to the hills to try and bag a brace.”
Shooting on the large estates of Scotland was particularly popular with the Victorians who were inspired by the romantic imagery of the Scottish Highlands brought to life by painters
A Typical day day of a party of eight guns, with accommodation, commissions, tips, ammunition and refreshments, could well be £50,000 plus. The 2500 landowners in Scotland make every effort to attract self-made men – occasionally women – who express their career success with a day’s shooting. These people are likely to be high-achieving, networking-savvy go-getters treating themselves and their friends to a unique thrill.
The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) took up the sport when his mother, Queen Victoria, purchased Balmoral in 1852. Images of the romanticised man, with gun and dog on the moors became popular in paintings of the day and aristocrats flocked to take up the sport, particularly in Scotland.
Today there are nothing like as many birds as there were then, as the red grouse eats nothing else but heather. Global warming, the spread of parasitic ticks and the loss of moorland for forestry have come together as a perfect storm for the grouse.
Much of the money made from the sport is put into managing the land to improve conditions for grouse. In this way it is often claimed that without the millions of pounds income, conservation of the moors would not happen.