The 2015/16 shooting season report
By Mathew Latchford
The post-season report often reads like a weather report and I am afraid this is true again of 2015/16. The weather affects our sport in a huge way, not only on the days that you are shooting but the weeks and months before the day.
After four-five years of excellent seasons, with high bags being shot on most moors and records being broken, this season saw a big change. There was optimism at the start of the season, despite an increase in diseases such as Bulgy eye in the grouse. Some believe these diseases were becoming more evident in the grouse due to the lack of traditional worm and tick problems.
The introduction of wormer and medicated grit along with modern tick management programs meant that grouse have stood a better chance of survival and we saw consistently high populations in many areas, however, the harsh weather during the nesting period meant that the populations in some areas were disappointing.
When the late sleet and snow came the brooding hens were unable to keep their eggs warm and the ones that had hatched struggled to get under the hen, they were therefore left out and unfortunately many were unable to survive the weather.
The western and higher moors suffered substantially more than the lower and eastern ones. Two of the most eastern moors, Westerdale and Bransdale, both saw excellent brood sizes which allowed them to shoot good bags which broke The North York Moors day record. On the whole, the North York Moors area saw good numbers and enjoyed many excellent days.
The Peak District moors didn’t fare so well. The late cold and snow killed the chicks at a few days old and there was not enough of a stock for many of the moors to shoot.
The northern and eastern Pennines estates such as Allenheads and Muggleswick had excellent days. The western side of Pennines managed to shoot a few days and did have to cut back their programs.
Scotland reported the same scenario with the east being best. The western moors in Dumfriesshire were hit hard by the bad weather and therefore few days at bigger moors were able to be held.
Eastern Scotland fared better with expectations being exceeded in a few places and exciting days reported from Aberdeenshire and the Angus Glens.
All this said, prospects for next season look interesting and more optimistic. Many estates are reporting a good stock of birds which are strong and have come through the winter well. We now just have to hope for a mild spring and an early summer to allow for good breeding. This is the key; the unpredictable UK weather patterns remain the controlling factor to the success of grouse shooting.
Partridge and Pheasant
The classic vision of “short sleeve shooting” in September and warm wrapped up guns treading through fresh crisp snow in December is not one that the photographs from this season would tell.
The unpredictable climate during the later stages of the summer lead to some issues on rearing fields but across the country the birds going to wood were fit and well. In the south this continued with the fine weather but in northern areas there were some shoots which experienced a few problems.
This was mainly due to the variation in weather from day to day. Poults can withstand small periods of rain or varying temperatures but the estates were experiencing great fluctuations. Birds can usually cope with one type of weather-related stress but not two or more. This stress often allows a disease to develop and at this stage can be vital to the survival of birds.
Once the shooting season had commenced we experienced unusually high rainfall during September, but the cool air allowed the early birds to fly well and superb days were had at Miltons, Drumlanrig and other shoots which specialise in the high early partridge shooting. There was also an influx in demand due to some of the cancellations from the grouse moors, hence providing a good reason to book early.
As October developed we started to see more pheasants in the bags. The pheasants had “feathered up” well and the cover crops had seen a good growing season enabling thick covers compared to recent years and the prospects looked good.
As the first proper frosts didn’t show until January the leaves fell from the trees relatively early. However, due to the warm weather birds did not retreat back to feeders and game crops as you would normally expect in November. Thankfully we did not see a shortage of birds for the guns at any point during the season but the birds did give the keepers a hard time as the warm weather meant they were not always feeding where expected.
The strong winds and gales throughout November, December and January meant the birds were not only high, fast and curling, therefore proving testing for even the strongest of teams. These winds were so strong on some days that a number of days were cancelled, this is another reason to ensure that your days are insured.
New shoot lodges at Great Durnford and Eastridge amongst others show the hospitality on shoot days has improved in recent years.
We were delighted to have shoots mentioned in the shooting press such as Wellshead, Miltons and Drumlanrig.
As always, we have access to exclusive shoots across the UK and also some new shoots for those who want a change so please do contact us for some suggestions of the best venues for the coming 2016/17 season.
At the time of writing, teams are enjoying great sport in Spain, Majorca and Argentina so the season does not have to stop on 1st February. For those who wish to go further afield we have some excellent trips to Argentina to test and practice your shooting technique on the doves, ducks and perdiz.
We look forward to hearing from you with your requirements for 2016/17 and roll on the 12th August!