The Glorious Twelfth

The grouse shooting season begins today

It may not seem like much time has passed since snow lay in three foot drifts across the Chayne, but August 12th has arrived and the season has begun.

We won’t be shooting the Chayne this year for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I’m not sure what can be shot. I didn’t organise a grouse count as I had planned this year, so I haven’t been able to follow how well the red grouse have fared on the hill. It would be foolhardy to go in with the gun without having a fair idea of what is on the ground, so while I may try and shoot a couple of birds later in the season to check their condition and see if I can do a worm count, the Glorious Twelfth will come and go without a shot fired.

But that’s not to say that it’s not exciting to think of the big moors up north gearing up for the season ahead. I can’t say I don’t envy the lucky guns walking the heather as I type, but given that I’ve made a fairly major comittment to my beat, I’d feel a little traitorous heading elsewhere.

As always, the press has stuck its nose into the grouse shooting season, with the same cynical articles regurgitated year after year. The newspapers always make a show at presenting a balanced argument, and even the BBC Website includes opposing arguments from the Moorland Association and The League Against Cruel Sports. The same old childish misinformation runs through all of these articles, including the vague but loaded portrayal of grouse “hunters” taking “pot shots” at grouse with “rifles”.  The League Against Cruel Sports made some unusually ridiculous comments this year in relation to the opening of the shooting seasons, claiming that  they intend to see grouse protected, so that they can “stay where [they] belong, on moors and bottles of whisky”. We’re all used to seeing the LACS make fools of themselves, but this is a real cracker.

A strong vein of criticism runs through the articles this year which is based solely on finance. Some journalists seem to be appalled that sportsmen are willing to spend tens of thousands of pounds on a single day’s shooting. This is the same old argument which reared its head during the attempts to ban fox hunting ten years ago, and it comes back to the fact that some people just don’t like wealthy people. I’ll admit that for a financially decrepit freelance journalist, the idea that most grouse this year will be shot by the fat and infirm does stir some feelings of injustice, but if it wasn’t for the conservation funding that these “super-rich” pour into the wild every year, there would be no grouse, and there would certainly be no black grouse.

Britain’s privately funded moorland has no parallels in Europe or the wider world, and the fact that the rich spend millions of pounds on maintenance and management every year says as much about the nature of sport as it does about the grouse themselves. It’s easy to forget amongst all the political wrangling and social backbiting that the heart of the day centres around red grouse; one of the most endearing and delicious little birds in the world.


2 thoughts on “The Glorious Twelfth

  1. Nice article!
    I love the arrival of the 12th with all its significance but I don’t envy those beaters wading through waist high heather in the August sunshine! Us soft southerners are happy to wait until October before we start exerting ourselves in the undergrowth.

  2. Chris Land

    If people could see what the uplands would be like without traditional upland management, and i include farming in that then they would be less inclined to listen to the class warriors. Black Grouse for instance would disappear if upland keepering was to stop. If you want to see what the hills used to be like then go to any well run grouse moor, if you want to see what they will become if grouse moor investment were to stop then travel to a commercial forest or the Lake District, totally empty of upland birds. As long as the debate is stuck on the rights and wrongs of grouse moor management upland birds will suffer. What do the people who harp on about Hen Harriers think will happen to the heathland when they get their way and stop shooting presumably they think that the owners will keep on investing their money to maintain the very habitat that attracts Harriers in the first place. Grouse are the only reason that many moors are still here many others were planted with trees or allowed to become sheep walks with little heather present. I don’t think either of these places will satisfy the keen raptorite who demands Hen Harriers on every hill, although i expect they will become less shrill in their criticism of the managers of forests and shepherds when their pet birds are wiped out along with the grouse.

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