Prospects for the shooting season

When I first started asking contacts in the shooting industry about the prospects for shooting and how it would be affected by coronavirus they all sounded surprised to be asked and expressed no doubt that all would be much as normal. This round up on the William Powell site tells a very different story. Confidence is bleeding from the market in just the way that it seemed inevitable that it would (see this blog of 16 days ago).

Up until now the shooting industry has sounded like a government minister talking about PPE (that’s personal protective equipment, not politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, about which many of them know rather more) – saying everything is going to be fine isn’t believable, particularly from a source with ‘previous’, and reality catches up with you very quickly. It’s good to see some honesty from William Powell.

It’s not exactly a controlled experiment but if we see millions fewer gamebirds released into the countryside then we might well see some hungry Red Foxes and other ecological impacts.

The grouse shooting season is the first to open, three weeks ahead of partridge shooting and over 7 weeks ahead of Pheasant shooting.

If there is little grouse shooting then this has implications for the validity of any Hen Harrier brood management occurring this summer which is allegedly ‘research’ into criminals’ behaviour. Since those criminals are known to be closely associated with the grouse shooting industry then their motivation can be reliably expected to be very different in the year of a global pandemic, which hits grouse shooting for six, than in other years. Not worth doing is it, even if it’s allowed by government restrictions on travel and social behaviour by then? This will be a test of Natural England’s good faith in this matter.


17 Replies to “Prospects for the shooting season”

  1. “It’s good to see some honesty from William Powell”.

    How about some honesty from Mark Avery, who seeks to hold others to standards which he himself completely bypasses? Oh dear, Mark. Just remember, everything you put out is being noted, and will be contrasted with how you actually behave, and what you actually do, rather than your own vainglorious self-assessment.
    I want to see wildlife criminals in court Mark, as you know, so look out. You can delete my posts about cats killing breeding and rare UK wildlife species by the hundreds of millions, but that’s all you can do, and each time it will be logged.

    Mark writes: this is typical of the irrelevant and threatening comments that this person posts here. only about half a dozen of them have been deleted completely but others have been edited because they are always about cats and abusive to me rather than relevant to the post.

    1. I’d reply to his nonsense Mark but it might only encourage him, all I will say is there is No evidence for his diatribes against domestic cats.
      However as far as shooting is concerned this is interesting for many involved in campaigns to protect our protected wildlife from the excesses of the “shooting industry” ( prefer cabal) William Powell and J M Osborne are well known names, enough said. I have long been opposed to the canned hunting of released Pheasants and Red Legged Partridges in their hundreds, the only skill in which is pointing a gun successfully at a moving target. Driven shooting for grouse is little if any better but they are at least native. Both forms of such shooting are far removed from the real “skills” of outwitting a quarry and bring it to the table.
      I don’t think we should be importing eggs or chicks of these birds to be reared and released, indeed the alien Pheasant and Red leg have no real place in our countryside, certainly not in the numbers released, it completely skews our ecology. So a downturn in demand for shooting and the possibility of a much lower number of birds released is to be welcomed with open arms. The fact that some keepering is no longer taking place is also broadly welcome.
      The worry is that on our moorland and on some pheasant estates the keepers can carry on regardless, with little fear of what they do being seen. I believe that this will result in an upsurge in illegal persecution of our raptors and badgers, its what happened during FMD closure in 2001 and have things really improved, I rather doubt it. Trapit has stated elsewhere that this will not happen, I hope he is right but fear he is wrong.
      If I’m right Hen Harriers will have a bad year, especially on grouse moors and there will be little to meddle with. It will also be a bad year for upland and game shoot Peregrines, Goshawks, Short-eared Owls and Eagles. There are no professional monitors out there currently and almost no amateurs either.
      Grouse shooting has had a bad press recently because of burning, this I think will come back to bite them hard once this virus crisis is over, a bad year for raptors will undoubtedly reinforce that. Then the “grouse botherers” are so arrogant they’ll carry on regardless blinkered to the consequences (why in the end they will loose).
      A reduction in shooting and a demand for shooting is great but not the be all and end all. If organisations like William Powell went out of business I for one would be Cock-a-hoop.

      1. The message about the grouse moor botherers is certainly one we need to keep pushing once the virus is over. We must not be complacent about it and hope that the general public and the message will sell itself. That is often where a lot of environmental, and general leftist, campaigns fail; the people who care assume the message will sell itself and the general public will automatically care. We need to keep pushing, and also anticipate hard pushback from the moor owners and their parliamentary friends.

    2. I don’t abuse you Mark, [over 250 words about cats deleted as this post is about the shooting season]

      Mark writes: yes, you do. And you also send me emails on the subject which I immediately delete.

  2. I am delighted confidence is draining from the shooting industry. How the industry can describe itself as “sport” defies belief when it totally involves killing wild creatures for fun. It is altogether a very nasty and environmentally very damaging business. It should be banned completely. Really it is only sustained by a very right wing Government and Party many members and associates of which are much involved in the cruel blood “sport”..

    1. Although I personally think there will be driven grouse shooting as usual this year – the only casualties will be some margins on the Agents profits (those who usually speculatively hold some Let days where forecast supply/demand intersect, and sell again later). On the densely grouse-populated english moors, the grouse will have to be be shot anyway. A high population of un-shot “surplus” grouse could not be sustained into a typically wet winter, where the worm burden would increase and bulgey-eye would spike. A sickly stock would overwinter to breed poorly next year. The keepers and helpers would in fact not let this happen, and be obliged to shoot a lot of grouse themselves to bring the numbers down…even driving round doing it with the .22. This has all happened before on several estates under extraordinary circumstances. Thus the cycle of deadly futility would be complete.

    2. Considering it has been around for a very long time It must have been sustained by several left wing governments as well, I think you will find the majority of the party are normal people who don’t know and aren’t bothered about shooting. The problem arises from the lack of political opposition as was blatantly apparent when the subject was brought up in parliament by Mark

  3. I was wondering about this Mark. We know large numbers of pheasants and partridges are bred in France (and elsewhere in Continental Europe?) and imported into the UK each Spring.

    Did the shipments get through before lockdown?

  4. I don’t entirely agree with these statements, the individual people who by and large own these vast estates, are impervious to financial extremities, I don’t think you go into owning any of these estates with the idea you’ll make your fortune out of grouse.
    It is the complete opposite of any logical business strategy, where your business plan is under the extremes of weather and stock availability. There are other more elaborate reasons for owning this land be it old money or new money. Managing these estates has similarities with say owning a championship football club or even rewilding – it’s a financial black hole.
    I feel the country wants to get back to some side of normality, I know I do. I’ve never shot a thing in my life, so the very thought is abhorrent, so the mindset of any shooter is completely foreign to me, but I would think they would be inching to get back to their sport as football or horse racing supporters are.
    I agree with spaghnum, if there is a surplus then disease will spread and if those carcasses are left then predators will be attracted to the moors, so we could witness more predator carnage this winter.

    1. Thomas – it’s not clear what you don’t agree with but you clearly don’t agree with something.

    2. Thomas I think I understand, but you could have been clearer, but then I’m hardly one to talk.

    3. Agreed, they like cosplaying Downton Abbey too much to give up their staff, estates, and Edwardian Era practices. Downton is Tory propaganda in the first place of course, written by a Tory peer. Them living that life, with gamekeepers and driven grouse moors, is an integral part of their self image and they will not give it up until they are absolutely forced to. Without them they are nothing, to their own egos anyway. It is impervious to market forces, and they’ll actually spend a lot of money in spite of market forces to maintain it. The killings on the moors will continue as normal, sadly.

      Still, we have to push the message though. We have to fight, perhaps harder now than ever because with public hostility to shooting and market forces threating their egos, they really will throw everything behind defending that lifestyle.

    4. On the whole Thomas you are right, most moors and most owners are not in it for profit, just the “passion” and “pleasure” – and “prestige” among their “elite” peer group, be that in London, America or Middle East.

      However, modern driven grouse shooting there has an important (and well established) profit orientated business model deployed by the Agents. This is what has seen the intensifying of moor management for grouse in the last 25 years or so – and has accelerated the loss of all predatory species (be they protected or unprotected) in the english uplands.

      Many folk will this story it, but I will recap:
      1. The super-rich are having a good run in global terms, have some spare cash.

      2. A sharp-eyed and amoral Agent spots a neglected / weakly keepered moor, which is not producing as many grouse as it’s neighbours, possibly contains some over-grazed ground scarce of heather. Value? Lets us say about half a million to one million.

      3. Agent sweet-talks the Owner into taking him on as Manager / or selling out to a 3rd party he has in mind.

      4. Agent recruits a crack-team of new keepers who wipe out all predators and “regenerate heather”. So, over ten years the yearly bag average increases from say 300 – 400 brace, to over 1000 brace or even more.
      5. The value of the moor is now in the several millions. Job done.
      6. Agent repeats process in another locality.

      In case your wondering, I am certainly not a supporter of the above. I’m just explaining what happens – and how grouse shooting is in fact a highly profit orientated business, even though the end-user or Owner when stood in the Butt in August, merrily blasting away, genuinely does it for his peculiar passion and not for the profit.

  5. It was when Boris got the Corona the tweedys started worrying. Up until then it was all herd-immunity and killing the poors. They thought their social privilege would protect them, and they could keep on cosplaying Downton Abbey as normal. Then Boris caught it, and the penny that their privilege would not protect them dropped. Now they are worried and holing up. Although they are still pushing for the rest of the country to drop the lockdown, to protect their money, but are staying inside themselves.

    As long as the upper crust are scared, then prospects for grouse shooting are limited. Especially if the Chinese market and SE Asian markets are still closed, because that is where a lot of money comes from too.

    I’m not sure it will be positive for our wildlife, though, not until they start laying off their gamekeepers and ghillies, as they kill wildlife out of habit. And I don’t see those layoffs happening for a while, because the uppercrust really, really, really, like cosplaying Downton Abbey. Having a big house and lots of Edwardian Era staff is a key to their own self image after all.

    Still we can but hope.

    1. In reply to Paul Irving’s first comment, i cant find where I made the prediction, but i think i was trying to say that certain areas may not be as bad for raptor productivity as some fear.
      I will stick my neck out and say, Dark Peak, and Bowland, not perfect, but encouraging, for now.
      I agree with Spaghnum, as i said about ten days ago, whatever happens, if it is a productive spring for grouse they will have to be shot for the good of the stock.
      Thomas Bickerton has hit the nail on the head, most established landowners and tenants have endured regular years of little or no grouse shooting in the past ( a few less since medication),
      while still pumping hundreds of thousands of pounds into the local economy, little different this year, if that’s what happens.
      Random 22, you are only partly correct, the family estate with house, staff, tenants etc. plays a much smaller part in the grouse shooting world than formerly, many shooting parties now staying in hotels, if not actually just arriving on the day and driving home again,many not even
      wearing tweed anymore.

      1. Hi Trapit it is in the “Brood meddling-not much of an update” We may not always agree but your insight is always worth reading and must be taken into account.

  6. every year is going to be a bad year if you believe the shooting press then come December and they are all boasting how well they did, same about the bull they spout about there is no profit in running a grouse moor. the average agricultural payments received by Scottish Grouse moor owners exceeds £250k, paying seven keepers minimum wage does not even dent the benefits, you then have the income from the farming side plus the sale of shooting days and the sale of the shot birds and deer on top, strange there are wealthy hedge fund managers falling over themselves to buy grouse moors but apparently they aren’t profitable, oh and strangely some are owned by people with offshore bank accounts. mate if a grouse moor owner said “morning what a lovely day” I would check my watch and go outside to look before I believed them

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