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How was the 2023 Grouse Season?

Moorland location leaves the season split between the good and the bad

Very definitely it was a picture in two parts. The first being Scotland, almost in its entirety being poor to very poor with the exception of the Moorfoots and parts of Perthshire. Indeed, this was a year when the majority of Scottish Moors hardly shot at all. Those that did found a hopeless old to young bird ratio. All of this in the year when we expected to see a significant improvement after the last two grisly Grouse shooting seasons in Scotland. The anticipated improvement was not to be. Explaining why parts of Perthshire and the Moorfoots were good to very good, whilst nearby Moors were awful (to include the Lammermuirs), is beyond our ken. We do think that the very dry early summer had a massive adverse effect including causing the hens not to be in good conditions when they went down to lay. In addition, there was a real shortage of insects for the chicks which are absolutely crucial in the first week of their life. Then added to this, a significant strongyle worm burden on many Moors, with overall a marked increase in Louping Ill, which led to infected broods dwindling before the Keepers’ eyes in July and August, and original expectations miles off the mark when it came to shooting time. We can only hope that 2024 is a lot better north of the Border. It would struggle to be worse! 

In terms of the North of England, that was a much more varied picture with some exceptional shooting. However, again there was massive variation with some Moors being poor to very poor. Generally (and generalisations always have exceptions!), the wetter and higher Moors did the best. As a result, the Northwest Pennines were in places awesome, and generally they were good to very good. The drier, shallower peat Moors performed less well (probably to be expected because of the very dry summer), but there again, some wet Moors over deep peat fared very badly and a few drier Moors did quite well. The difference in how Moors fared even when very close together was remarkable. What we have now found is a significant build-up of worm on many Moors, which is unsurprising given the number of Grouse that have been living in certain areas. We see this as potentially a very big problem going into the winter. Our very early predictions for the 2024 season (no-one should make predictions this early!), are that those Moors which had a lot of Grouse this last season are unlikely to fare well next, but those which decided not to shoot or to shoot very gently because of only modest stocks in August, could well see a significant improvement next summer. However, the age profile (young:old ratio) not being good this year on many Moors other than in the North Pennines, is generally likely to temper the size of the shootable surplus for next season. Therefore, please do not get too optimistic just yet! 

Our take on heather quality is that in the main it was good going into this Winter and the very wet weather has other than potentially being a real help in increasing worm numbers, not otherwise done any real harm. Our overriding concern remains the potential for many Moors to experience serious losses in their Grouse stocks over the winter months, due to the increasing number of Strongyle worm. 


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