Dalesport Mid-Season Grouse Report 2018
The whole of the UK has suffered this year with arguably the worst season across the board in over 15 years. Therefore we must take a moment to think about the loss of business not only to the moorland owners but the local economies that thrive off a busy grouse shooting season and not forgetting the Game Keepers who work tirelessly everyday trying to maintain a healthy population of wild birds.
Although a number of our clients have been cancelled this year Dalesport have still gone ahead with over 50% of our schedule, which is an amazing feat given the year we have experienced across the UK. We have had some amazing days and what has encouraged us immensely this year is people understanding the position the Moors are in in a year like this. We are dealing with a wild bird, people must not get complacent and our clients whether they have shot reduced bags, smaller days have all been extremely happy to be out on a moor and enjoying this special sport with friends.
As mentioned in our Spring and Summer Reports, the cold winter snow that pushed through until spring, followed by a very wet and late spring meant the Hen Grouse were actually in terrible physical shape when they came to lay. On top of these awful conditions when the chicks finally hatched we were hit by the longest sustained heatwave since 1976. Moors are generally very wet places, but throughout the summer months there wasn’t even a drop of water on them. We all know that some animals, mammals and birds can survive a long time without food, but without water anything will die very quickly.
This severe weather also meant that the Heather was in terrible condition with no nutrition within the plant. Hot weather has been perfect for Heather Beetle which can decimate areas of heather leaving them barren of grouse. This meant that the young grouse by the time the season came round were hugely underconditioned and weak due to the lack of nutrition which they would normally get from healthy managed heather. Even now half way through September, young birds are not in good shape and you can hear young “Cheapers” calling in the heather just yards away from the butts whilst shooting drives.
The outcome we think is around 75%+ of all driven grouse shooting across the UK has been cancelled.
We know of a handful of Moors shooting in the North Pennines and have a good show of grouse, but they are shooting a very high average of Old/Young Grouse which they will need to be careful with as with weak young birds not being able to survive another winter like we just had, they may be shooting well into their stock…
There are only a handful of Moors shooting in the Dales and they have a nice stock of grouse, but the rest of them have cancelled their entire schedules.
North York Moors
Central North York Moors have had a good season so far and are going ahead with full schedules, which is encouraging. We must remember that these moors do tend to be more productive due to the low altitude that they are at, they are not as susceptible to the harsh conditions of the Dales, Peaks, Pennines and Scottish Moors. Having said this the far Eastern Coast Moors on the North York Moors have struggled and cancelled entire schedules and there are moors within this central area that are well down on last years numbers and might be cutting their programmes short.
The Derbyshire Moors have had another bad year with most cancelling entire schedules.
Patchy as always, but mostly poor with schedules being cancelled on 90% of Moors up above the border.
What is interesting for Management purposes moving forward is that the handful of Moors still shooting certainly in the Dales/Pennines all have one thing in common. They watered their grouse every day through that blisteringly hot 3/4 month period… They put Dew Trays and Scrapes all over their estates and filled them with water daily, so that the young grouse did not have to travel long distances and loose condition for their water.
Let’s hope for a better season next year and hope that our grouse survive the winter in good condition for breeding next Spring!