We are now ten days into the black grouse shooting season, and although it will be a few years before I carry a shotgun to the birds on the Chayne, I am constantly reminded that they are classic “gamebirds”, flying strongly and with a will.
I have been doing some bits and pieces in the woodcock strip over the past few days, but walking up to the trees today, I spotted a familiar shape lurking in a patch of rushes down to my left. Thankfully, I had my camera at hand and I stalked the shady figure until I was just twenty feet away. He was totally invisible. Despite the fact that he is almost pitch black again, he had totally vanished into the rushes. As I stood up, the undergrowth exploded infront of me. I scarcely had time to take a couple of hurried pictures before his black bulk had slipped over the horizon.
If I was out to shoot blackcock and had known that he was there, I would probably have been able to drop him quite easily, but if he had appeared unannounced, the sheer shock value of a massive black bird rising out of the long grass could well have put me off.
Despite the fact that it seems illogical to think of shooting endangered birds, black grouse do make fantastic gamebirds and we shouldn’t forget it. If they ever become a “protected” charity case, they will lose a tremendous amount of private backing because there will be little financial incentive to keep and look after them. In addition, country sportsmen would never be able to look themselves in the eye again for failing to protect one of their own. Historically, black grouse respond well to being managed carefully and shot sensibly, and while I’m struggling with the former, I look forward to the latter…