Shooting Season- wild game bird

PUBLISHED: 12:26 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:28 20 February 2013

Phil Scott-Priestley of Grays Chartered Surveyors presents a review of the North East 2009/10 shooting season

The 'Glorious Twelfth' now seems a distant memory with many shoot days having passed since the iconic start to the shooting season last August.

With the end of January moving closer many gamekeepers will be reflecting on their hard work over the past year and how this work culminated in the shoot days, how they went and what, if anything they plan to change for the coming season.

Shoot owners and tenant will also be reflecting on the season, and what a challenging one it has been for many with the added pressure of the economic climate taking its toll.

As expected, reports from the moors were patchy both at a national level and more locally in the North East. Some estates were showing record days whilst others have experienced the downward cycle, following bumper years over the past couple of seasons, and have failed to shoot a single day.

This wild game bird does stand alone for many at the pinnacle of game shooting and it is perhaps this unpredictability that increases the appeal of grouse shooting. Human intervention cannot prevent the peaks and troughs naturally experienced in grouse shooting, although careful management can often negate against the severity of the cycle.

It is soul destroying for keepers who have worked tirelessly all year to manage the habitat in which these wild birds thrive for disease to then strike.

It is equally frustrating for owners who have paid the running costs of the moor over the past year with a view to shooting in August. It is vital that no shooting takes place if there is not a sufficient healthy stock, as this can have a huge impact on future seasons.

The tough economic climate has impacted on grouse shooting, but due to the unpredictability of wild game ensures supply and demand remains more consistent than that encountered on pheasant and partridge shoots where demand has fallen due to the failing economy.

Despite the pheasants and partridges getting off to a great start with generally warm, dry weather conditions enabling the birds to grow stronger and remain healthy the doom and gloom of the recession has impacted greatly on the shooting world. Generally commercial pheasant and partridge shoots have been badly affected by the recession with many coming under significant financial pressure.

For many, selling smaller and fewer days has been the norm this season, which has been particularly frustrating as the weather has provided a good opportunity for shoots to show some excellent quality birds, although a mild start to the season did cause a few headaches for keepers trying to keep hold of their birds.

Putting down fewer birds and having fewer days also impacts on rural communities. Not only does it provide a source of income for the usual shoot day helpers, but it also helps local businesses such as pubs and hotels, game dealers and retailers

Shooting is not only beneficial to these rural businesses but also the local environment as conservation is part of the job for a gamekeeper. It is very apparent that their work, with the backing of many landowners and shoot managers contributes hugely to the conservation and management of both wildlife and habitat.

However a knock-on effect of the current economic climate has also been a decrease in wildlife and conservation, with many shoots committing less to this area of management than they may have done in the past.

It has been a tough season for the industry but a survey undertaken before the current season (see the Key Links section of the BASC website) illustrated that shooting is crucial to the rural economy and that it supports the equivalent of 70,000 full-time jobs creating an estimated 2 billion each year on goods and services. The survey shows that shooting is a vital means of investment in the rural economy.

There is little doubt that shooting in the North East is a vital industry that contributes heavily to the rural economy and the local environment. The 2009/10 season has been a mixed bag with some good quality shoots thriving whilst others have fallen by the wayside.

The recession has brought with it an increase in popularity of rough shooting with its smaller price tag adding to its appeal. Despite these tough economic times shooting will continue to grow in popularity, contribute to the rural economy and the environment.

However, it is extremely important that shoots continue to strive for prosperity and they must approach the 2010/11 season in a professional and business-like manner. One must keep an eye on costs and perhaps look at new income streams, be it boundary days or pigeon and rabbit shooting.

Yet it is also vital that quality and standards are maintained to ensure the future appeal of the shoot.

Phil Scott-Priestley heads up the Durham office of Grays Chartered Surveyors and is involved in sporting management & consultancy. For further information, please contact 0191 370 8520 or visit

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