Pondering some shooting issues

Photo from a blog reader from southern England, 28 August 2021.

The partridge shooting season opened on 1 September for both our native Grey Partridge and the non-native Red-legged Partridge. Nearly 12 million RLPs are released normally for recreational shooting puposes which is a phenomenal number and would attract far more attention if it weren’t a figure swamped and dwarfed by the 51 million Pheasants that are normally released into the countryside ahead of their date with death which starts on 1 October (release numbers from GWCT in DEFRA papers released as a result of Wild Justice’s legal challenge, and relate to 2018).

About 5 million RLPs are shot in the UK each year – there is a naturalised wild population as well as bred and released birds remember. This puts the RLP in second position after Pheasant in the big-bag species of the UK and ahead of numbers 3-5 added together: Woodpigeon, c2m: Mallard, c1million; Red Grouse , c0.7million. The ‘traditional’ shooting industry of the UK is dominated by the shooting of two non-native and captive-bred and relased species.

I was interested to hear from friends in eastern Scotland last week that some grouse shooting estates, some of which are quite notorious by reputation for their raptor killing, have so few Red Grouse these days that they are switching to releasing large numbers of RLPs. How very traditional – not!

I was pondering on the numbers of Red Grouse shot in the UK while speeding past a timber lorry on the A68 earlier this week. The GWCT say that c700,000 Red Grouse are shot in the UK (numbers vary from year to year – there hasn’t been a very good year for a while now). The Avian Population Estimates Panel (one of whose number is a distinguished GWCT scientist (no, I mean it)) say there are 265,000 pairs of Red Grouse. 530,000 adult Red Grouse in spring and 700,000 Red Grouse shot in a normal year? Now I know that Red Grouse lay a lot of eggs (6-9), and predators are ruthlessly, and sometimes illegally, killed on grouse moors, but that still seems an astonishingly high kill rate (particularly considering not all Red Grouse live on grouse moors). Or don’t you think so?

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16 Replies to “Pondering some shooting issues”

  1. Here we are on only the 11th of September and our local canned hunting shoot has shot RLPs on 7 days already all days use the same drives. Must have released hordes of birds as they shoot up on the hills but all the riverside fields, up 3 km away now contain groups of red legs. The grouse population estimate is too low! All released bird shoots should be called canned hunting although here it is more like live clay pigeons. These shoots must cater for the morally bankrupt.

    1. Hi Paul, I agree they cater for the morally bankrupt, those who are truly & pitifully ignorant / misguided and blind or just non-caring…and especially those who have issues with ‘size-matters’.

  2. When one tots all these numbers up it is just monstrous what the shooting industry gets up to. In my opinion the whole industry should be made illegal. At the very least, realistically, all these numbers should be one tenth of what they are at present.

  3. I think the GWCT’s grouse moor case-study type research on densities, worm counts / grit, old & young ratios and all that stuff is generally good and worth reading. But reports of Bag numbers – like talk about ‘prospects for the season’, are less reliable. Like any commodities market with buyers and sellers the truth is guarded closely by those dodgy folk who are making money in it. I don’t know what is meant by a ‘normal year’, and I think that number c0.7m is meaningless. Many people including GWCT might be shocked if (in good years) all reported Bags were 100% honest across the board, I know I usually am when I hear it from people who can be relied on.

    1. I was shocked by the honesty of the Faeroese in reporting their recent dolphin bag count. Shocked and appalled.

  4. Also just regards the reports of Redlegs being released on grouse moors – a “proper grousekeeper” of the old school (it’s their term, and yes by definition these are also die hard raptor killers) would throw in the towel and move on if asked to do that. They would feel this represented the Owners loss of faith and commitment to the grouse, and by instinct they can’t stand the things anyway – they know what damage they do displacing native birds and drawing in extra ‘vermin’ from miles away.

    1. Its been done for years on the moor above Grimwith Res in the Yorkshire Dales, this has been a red leg shoot for at least 20 years. One of the UU Bowland Moors, I believe the one tenanted by the Westminster estate is also a Red leg shoot.

      1. Thanks, I’ve personally not seen that on any of the big name moors I am familiar with although I can think of one (Cotherstone) that did so & likely still does it on the lower beat of mainly white / rough grassy ground. The upper end being good heather and strictly grouse. I can’t see a serious Owner who invests heavily in the grouse being shortsighted enough to fling Redlegs out onto hard-earned grouse beats just because of a lean couple of years. Maybe it is something the tenanted moors with pockets not so deep turn to when desperate for income or just desperate for ‘sport’ of any kind? I honestly don’t know. I wonder would it or does it ever occur with the well known southerly YD moors like Dallowgill, Middlesmoor, etc? But I suppose any moor anywhere in England (even if they just do a few pens of Redlegs on the white ground) should be aware much of this is also SSSI, etc and it shouldn’t be done any more at all on those designations – Bob Berzins commented on this (on here or RPUK) and I have been keeping my eyes open since then and faffing with Magic Maps.

        1. Not aware of Red Legs being released on either moor you mention and it is very unlikely. Middlesmoor used to have greys naturally on their lower ground but no longer I think.

  5. I often wonder about these strange people who shoot these birds; what goes on in their minds? ( perhaps one of them might read this and reply). Do they get out of bed in the morning and say ” It’s a lovely day! I think I’ll go out and kill something”

    I know Mark won’t agree with me here but I think shooting ought to be banned on moral grounds as well as for the harm it does to the environment. Ditto fox hunting. It’s surely a case of a further implementation of the Enlightenment; animal welfare played a role in that when it all started. Nev Jones

      1. Austringer – feeble point. There is a difference between people who go out and shoot for fun and those who kill animals as part of the human food chain. Obviously some of the moral issues overlap, but not all of them. It’s just a hopelessly weak point that you are making (IMHO). And it is akin to making the best be the enemy of the good, in any case.

        I doubt there are many vegetarian grouse shooters but that does not mean that all who oppose such shooting need, to be consistent to their own beliefs, to be vegetarian.

        1. My point, possibly weakly made, in your humble opinion, was that we shouldn’t condemn all those who kill game for their personal or others’ food chain and lump them in with those we may disapprove of. As you well know I am a hunter who eats everything or gives it to friends. I just resented, as always, being so branded that’s all.

          1. Hi Austringer, as you are a falconer I don’t think you should feel that you are branded or are in any way associated with driven game shooting – especially the ills of DGS. I still like my ferreting, whether with nets, dogs or guns (never tried hawks) but I feel no sympathy nor loyalty to defend some zillionaires whose lust for piles of grouse is causing so much damage to our wildlife, quite the opposite in fact. Let them continue to arrogantly dig their own graves, and I will help back fill with a smile.

          2. Do you think that many of the people who shoot partridges pheasants or grouse on intensive shooting estates do so because they want something to eat? You may but I suspect very few of the others do.

      2. Like most of us, I reckon the average abbatoir employee hauls ass out of bed at 6am or so simply because it is a worthwhile job and there are mortgages and bills to pay, and kids to raise. The average Gun on a driven grouse shoot is there knee deep in an unneccessary system of killing purely because he wants to. Be it for the love of the experience – the customs, the craic, the scenery or purely the fake ‘challenge’ of shooting at birds. And they have likely forked out a lot of money derived from their and / or other peoples work just to be there…perhaps a shooting team being driven up to the butts somwhere right now at this minute is made up of abbatoir owners or turkey farmers – less likely the bloke in the abbatoir with the bolt-gun and white wellies, instead of the purdeys and the aigles.

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