Even as I write this in the third week of October, grouse are being shot in big numbers in certain parts of the country. We had a day of just over 200 brace last week in West Northumberland and others of over 150 brace in North Yorkshire and Northumberland again. Good bags are still being shot throughout the North of England and in parts of Scotland, showing that there are still large quantities of grouse on a number of moors. The pressure now is on to get these numbers down to a sensible stocking level, but surprisingly reports so far in are that worm burdens are in the main still low although there are a few reports of building worm numbers, particularly on some of the wetter higher moors. In the main however, we do not think that the Strongyle Worm is going to be much of a problem this winter.
It is incredibly difficult reducing grouse numbers at this time of the year although it produces by far the best shooting of the whole season. However, not everyone wants to stand on a cold Moor (even during this mild autumn it gets pretty cold at high elevation on exposed hills!), and the recent rain and wind makes late season grouse shooting challenging in every conceivable way. The easiest late season grouse shooting to let is that on accessible moors in the North of England and it does get particularly hard to let these days the further north in the Scottish Highlands one goes. This is a shame because the sport up there is often the very best with stunning grouse being driven out of high corries, in good years like this in awesome packs.
Overall, 2014 will go down as a very good grouse year in pretty well every area. The Peak District has been good to very good for most moors, particularly on the eastern side. Whilst one of the higher wetter moors has broken its all time record, generally this type of moor has fared less well, but in the main there have still been lots of days over 100 brace and with good stocks being left. The long run of east winds in August and September have made it extremely difficult for many moors to get at their grouse as usually a moor is best set up to shoot grouse in the prevailing wind for that time of the year, being west or south-westerly and definitely not easterly.
The Trough of Bowland was good with some outstanding reports from Abbeystead. Nidderdale was variable with some days cancelled at Swinton, but generally it was a good season in that area and the same was true all through the main Pennine Chain with most moors having a good to very good season and a few having fantastic ones. The same pattern really runs all the way up to the Scottish Border, but for no particular reason there have been the odd disappointments, to include some early season cancellations. There doesn’t seem to be much logic in why the odd moor hasn’t performed and it is probably down to the perfidy of grouse rather than the particular on-moor management!
The Lammermuirs were again very good with some extraordinary bags reported particularly from Mayshield and Perthshire continued its improvement, but only on the well-managed moors where there has been consistent input and a high standard of keepering/management over the last few years. No surprises there, but it does show what can be done when all the necessary inputs are made. Angus was in the main very good, but again there are no shortcuts and those moors still trying to muddle along with one keeper doing the grouse, pheasants, partridges and deer have generally produced little or nothing substantive. Dee and Donside were in the main good to very good, but the grouse were rather more fragmented across in the Tomatin area with some good lots of grouse early on, but thinning out perhaps sooner than many people had thought. Whilst there was an improvement in the Dogging Moors of Caithness and Sutherland, this was sadly from a very low base and these moors remain under pressure. As yet, few owners of walking Moors seem interested in putting in the money needed to recover grouse numbers on these Moors which is a real shame.
Overall then, definitely a grouse year to remember!
William Powell Sporting