William Powell Country

Thoughts of next grouse season!


Article written by 13 December 2012

It might seem quite strange to be thinking of the next grouse season, when the current one has only just finished.  However, we are already taking bookings for grouse shooting for next year and literally as one season finishes, the next one starts again – at least in the formalitive stage.  2012 has been a very mixed grouse season.  At its best, it has been fantastic and some moors, often very well distanced from each other, have broken all time records.  This despite almost certainly the worst spring and summer weather-wise, that most of us have ever experienced.  Quite how the red grouse in many areas were unaffected by the long periods of high rainfall and cold weather during critical times is a mystery, but the proof of their amazing reproductive capabilities, even under dreadful conditions, has been made abundantly clear this year.

How the subsequent grouse season pans out is usually down to four main factors;

i) The first is the stock of grouse left at the end of the preceding season.  In many cases this year, that will be extremely good.

ii) The second is the level of the strongyle worm which is within the grouse population on any moor and although there are reports of high worm burdens on a number of moors (and again these are often geographically apart), in the main, the worm burden appears to be very low to modest over most of the north of England and the same in Scotland.  This despite high stocks of grouse over the last four or five years, which seems to fairly conclusively lead to the conclusion that modern medicated grit is so far at least, working well.

iii) The third factor is over winter and spring weather and at this stage that is all in the lap of the Gods.

iv) Finally, the effectiveness of the keepering on the moor has a massive impact.  That will obviously vary from moor to moor, but overall the standard of keepering in the north of England and on moors in the main grouse areas in Scotland, is now at a very very high standard; probably better than it has every been.

I think therefore that we could well see significant numbers of grouse on many moors in 2013 (but clearly the weather could still have a major impact, although surely it cannot be worse than this spring and summer!).  There will almost certainly be areas of the country and possibly more so than over the last three or four years, where productivity is down, sometimes well down.  This will reflect the increase in worm burdens over the autumn of 2012 on certain moors and also the fact that grouse fertility tends to drop after several years of high grouse reproduction.  This probably will be no bad thing as there are definitely signs in 2012 of too much supply and too little demand, particularly for grouse in the Highlands or for big days later on in the season.   The demand for driven grouse shooting remains generally constant, and never more so than when the world economy is far from buoyant.  There seems little likelihood of many more buyers of expensive shooting coming into the market in the foreseeable future. Although there is still significant demand for grouse shooting, many guns have had to cut back on their shooting expenditure in recent years and at a time when grouse production has been very high, this is definitely led to a softening of some (but not all) parts of the market.

When looking to buy shooting, the old adage is that if you know what you want and you want certainty and consistency, then book early.  Yes you may well be able to get cheaper grouse shooting later on if there are a lot of grouse about.  But if there are not, there will be little or no late grouse and you will have missed the boat.  Good shooting sells well in any market.

Mark Osborne - FRICS, FAAV, MBAE

Mark Osborne is founder and Managing Director of JM Osborne & Co. and has been a qualified Chartered Surveyor and Land Agent for over 30 years. He trained on two large traditional landed estates (Chatsworth and Castle Ashby), before s.. Read more.

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