Grouse shooting – 12 facts about the grouse season
With the grouse season just around the corner, the Glorious Twelfth represents lots of things for many people. Here are Benedict & Hott, we believe this is the perfect moment to appreciate the amalgamation of sport, conservation and food, which is linked to everything we do with gun or rod in hand. The benefits of grouse shooting are no different. With preparation well under way up and down the country, from hotel bookings, last minute instructor visits, dogs prepped and cartridges ordered; and that’s just the guns!
Check out 12 grouse related facts below, to polish up on your knowledge…
1. The king of the game birds…Grouse are incredibly speedy
Grouse are incredibly speedy, and often humble the very best of shots. They are regarded as the “king” of game birds, red grouse represent the most supreme shooting challenge. They can fly at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, often fly low and have a habit of changing direction at the last minute. Think pigeons on steroids.
2. They have a sweet spot for heather.
As well as berries and seeds, a typical grouse eats up to 50g of heather a day. They eat the young, tender heather with green shoots but nest and shelter in the old heather. Heather moorland is now rarer than rainforest, according to the Moorland Association. The UK has 75 per cent of what is left worldwide.
3. Noisy buggers…. Grouse make an unusual noise
Red grouse make a very distinctive call that sounds like ‘Go back! Go back! Go back’ as they fly fast and low above the heather.
4. It has less fat than chicken
The perfect bird to help keep you nimble and lithe for the season ahead. Roast grouse has less than a third of the fat and twice the protein of roast chicken.
By early evening of the Glorious Twelfth first red grouse shot that day will already be on the menu of many top UK restaurants, including the brilliant Bell pub and restaurant at Langford. The annual “grouse run” creates a real buzz within the industry, as a celebration on this superb bird.
5. Red grouse are unique to Britain
Red grouse are unique to Britain, making them high-value birds. The red grouse’s closest relative, the willow grouse, is found throughout northern Europe, Asia, Canada and Alaska.
6. Wise up folks, its increasingly controversial
Environmentalists accuse landowners of killing natural predators which threaten grouse populations both legally (like foxes and stoats) and illegally (birds of prey like hen harriers). Conservationists also argue that burning heather leaves peat exposed to the air, threatening wildlife that make their home in the peatland.
However, gamekeepers that are responsible grouse moor management actually protect the environment. More than 60 per cent of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are managed as grouse moors, controlling bracken and controlling the grazing of livestock so heather and wildlife can thrive. This is merely the tip of the iceberg ad we will be covering how important moorland management throughout out “12 days of shooting:”.
7. History of Grouse shooting…
Grouse shooting can be traced back 160 years to 1853. It started to take off when the railways suddenly made it easier to get to the moors, and shotguns became breech-loading. Commonly associated with the Scottish Highlands, red grouse were, and still are, shot on moors in Wales, Northern Ireland and as far south as England’s Peak District.
8. Upland birds breed more successfully on moorland managed for Red grouse
Gamekeepers meticulously manage moors and millions are spent to give the grouse the best breeding habitat possible and in turn, this responsible management helps the local environment two-fold.
The GWCT says: “Moors managed for Red grouse are shown to be better than other land uses in maintaining heather dominated habitat, and both directly and indirectly support the species that depend on or thrive in it. This is important because 75% of the world’s heather moorland is found in Britain. In addition, many species of upland birds, including curlew, lapwing and golden plover, are more numerous and breed more successfully on moorland managed for Red grouse than on other moorland not managed in this way.”
9. It’s big business…
Grouse shooting is big businessGrouse shooting generates about £150 million for the economy every year. The industry also supports approximately 2,500 full time equivalent jobs – from gamekeepers and beaters to people in tourism and hospitality. This is not to be sniffed and often the only livelihoods for many people within the industry.
10. Grouse are wild
Red grouse (Lagopus lagopus) are not artificially reared for shooting, like other game birds. Teams of gamekeepers manage moors to maximise the number of birds available – hence why some years the numbers fluctuate according to the conditions.
Millions of pounds are spent every year carefully setting fire to heather when it reaches wellie-height to encourage regeneration. Different areas are burnt in rotation so there is always a patchwork of short and tall heather. Burning always happens in the winter and the early part of spring when there are no nesting birds on the ground and these events are highly managed and paned by estates.
Red grouse begin to form pairs in the autumn, with male becoming more territorial throughout winter. Mating and breeding happen during spring, with laying occurring in April and May. Up to nine eggs will be laid and are oval, pale yellow with dark brown blotches in appearance. Eggs will be incubated for up to 25 days; chicks can fly 12 days after hatching and are fully grown after 30 to 35 days. Males will attract females by erecting their neck feathers and using their wings to make a drumming sound.
12. Symbol of Scotland
Did you know the red grouse is Scotland’s national game bird? It was the former mascot of the Scottish rugby team (between 1990 and 2007) and is the emblem of the famous whisky.
Photo credits – @georgegunnphoto