2018- Season Prospects

by Daniel Reynolds

Six months is a long time in the Natural World, and even more so in the heather-clad uplands of Northern England and Scotland. Most moors started the winter with good, healthy stocks of grouse, having had solid seasons last year. Who would have foreseen the effects of the long, challenging winter that was to come. The result of the extended hard weather with much snow and ice, took its toll on a lot of Britain’s fauna. Deer numbers were severely reduced and nesting grouse hugely tested by endless coverings of drifting snow.

This resulted in weak birds, laying late and producing smaller clutches of eggs. One ‘keeper reported finding a nest of highly polished eggs where the poor hen bird had turned and turned her eggs for a period way longer than the incubation period, in the vain hope that they would hatch and unaware of the damage the hard frosts had done weeks earlier! Such is mother natures dogged determination. April arrived, and with it, a dramatic change in temperature which has persisted and again challenged the broods. Low insect counts and struggling heather growth, diminished food for young chicks and the prolonged dry, rain-free weather has led to numbers being reduced further. Grouse have become concentrated in areas where water remains and the July counts have been difficult to conduct due to soaring temperatures and clouds of pollen.

The nett result of all this is very sad and depressing for those that have worked so hard to produce the wonderful sport as we know it. One can only hope that a kind Autumn will restore health in the stocks that are left and that the moors can bounce back to some degree for 2019.

However, the lowlands have fared rather better and despite the late spring, shoots are now well stocked with pheasants and partridges which have done well in the hot dry weather and the ‘keepers relentless task of ‘dogging in’ from dawn until dusk has started in earnest. I am always amazed and inspired by the commitment of the dedicated men and women, who work so hard in the summer to provide reliable sport. Cover crops were established in generally good seedbeds and maize and triticale have grown particularly well. Kale has suffered in places but the recent showers will hopefully, help it catch up.

So, the stage is set for another good season ahead and if you have been on the receiving end of the disheartening email or phone call asking you not to come north to shoot grouse then please think about a September or October day at partridges which we think will be particularly good this year – please contact us with your requirements