Early prospects for the 2017 grouse season were very encouraging with excellent spring counts and generally very good breeding conditions. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about this “King of Sports” is its unpredictable nature and yet again the encouraging spring did not translate to a glut of grouse in all parts of the UK.
The Yorkshire Dales had a generally slower than expected start to the season, which I think was due to the very warm conditions through August that impacted the numbers seen. As we went into September and temperatures dropped those with a good stock of birds produced some classic grouse days!
The North York Moors, as ever, were very stable and were firing on all cylinders right from the off! This region has consistently delivered for some years now and for teams travelling from abroad this should be a region worth considering for its reliability.
The Scottish moors were patchy, although I did host some superb sporting days in the Lammermuirs on the Roxburghe and Mayshiel Estates through September. Parts of Perthshire also seemed to do very well with a few records broken. Further North through Invernesshire, Aberdeenshire and parts of the Angus Glens, the news was not so good with many estates cancelling all or part of their shooting programmes. Many owners put this down to the late snow we had in May and heather beetle affecting some moors, which was particularly disappointing following the encouraging spring counts. As ever, mother nature can have the last word on any season!
Having invested considerable time and effort into improving the moor at Drumlanrig in southwest Scotland, the results are starting to bear out, and with stock being the highest its been for a few years, we are anticipating being able to let some additional 75 to 100 brace days in August 2018. Please contact us if you’d like any further information.
As we would expect, the partridge season kicked off to a cracking start with many estates having very strong cover crops, so they were all set for the season ahead! I was fortunate enough to cover the length of the country hosting partridge days this season, starting with my personal favourite up at Drynachan where Roddy Forbes and his team delivered some stunning days. I then stopped en-route south in Dumfriesshire to witness the ever-humbling partridges at Drumlanrig, which is another highlight in any season.
The mighty Exmoor season also started exceptionally well, and the often over looked partridge days were yet again superb, offering exceptionally challenging early season days!
Some of my more memorable days this year on the partridge were re-visiting a few of the smaller, more traditional and less commercial home counties shoots which I grew up with, often classic drives with partridges bursting over high hedges, a very different approach is required on these birds and I was reminded just how much fun these days can be!
We seemed to experience a relatively mild but wet season in the main, with Exmoor seeing much higher rainfall than usual for a historically damp region at the best of times. Not all bad news, as these conditions are perfect for keepers to hold their birds where they should be and consequently pretty much all the West Country shoots had one of the best seasons for several years, except for a few mid-January days, where still and bright conditions took the shine off. Two shoots of note for me this year on Exmoor were Challcombe, where keeper James Smith finished his second season on a high and the shoot continues to get better and better under his guidance. Also Miltons, one of the Exmoor greats, has had a brilliant season and I can’t remember the drives performing this well for a number of years. Paul Lugg and team really produced the goods!
In the home counties the wet weather seemed to affect some shoots in a more negative way and in December a few shoots were showing some sign of disease, although still managing deliver their programmes. This meant that 2017-18 wouldn’t go down as a vintage season for some.
To the North we were delighted to sign a new lease on the Arden Beat at Hawnby, where newly appointed head keeper Rob Easton has been extremely busy setting up the shoot for the coming season. There is a mammoth task ahead here, however we are all excited to be working with the estate.
Sadly, the Mulgrave shoot enjoyed its last season, as the shoot has now closed. This has been one of the outstanding shoots in Yorkshire over the last few years and this season was no exception, our clients enjoyed some simply epic days here again.
In Dumfriesshire, Rab Clark and his team produced another superb season from start to finish on the partridge and pheasant shoot. The team here are busy developing some new pheasant drives for next season and the shoot is full already for 2018/19, a great testament the quality of sport here.
Roxtons enjoyed a very successful season in Spain, we had clients from both the UK and around the world enjoy some fantastic shooting in Madrid Province, Castilla La Mancha and Majorca. We are extremely fortunate to have great relationships with all of our estates and we have been organising shooting in Spain for well over 20 years on most of them. This allows us to ensure that we can help our clients find exactly the right match for them to ensure that they enjoy their Spanish shooting, in fact we know some of the estate so well we can almost name all of drives on many of the estates and know which would suit each teams. We can cater for days from 300 birds upwards and the advice and help that we pass on to our clients comes at the same price as dealing directly with the estate, therefore you get all of our experience at no extra cost.
Talk of the Season – protecting the sport we love.
With rumours of the Panorama programme “Investigating the dead game market” rife, it has quite rightly focused our minds on ensuring that we have a sustainable market for all our dead game and that shoots are managed to the highest ethical standards whilst producing a quality food product.
With that in mind Roxtons is fully supporting the creation of The British Game Alliance, to help promote the consumption of game and secure the future of shooting. The British Game Alliance (BGA) has been formed to act as the official marketing board for game meat. A not-for-profit organisation, the BGA is set to be launched in late April and will act on behalf of the shooting community’s best interest. The website is not fully up and running yet but more information will be available here in due course.
In the West Country the Greater Exmoor Shoots Association are updating the financial study carried out in the early ‘noughties’, highlighting the benefits of shooting to the local community and we await the results with interest.
Cartridges and Plastic Wads
A hot topic of conversation in the mainstream media now and an increasing environmental concern. Roxtons has added to all shoot contracts that all cartridges used on our estates are to be fibre wad only and we would strongly encourage more estates to adopt this policy.
Finally, the team at Roxtons would like to thank all of our clients, both old and new, who chose to book their shooting through us. Your continued support is very much appreciated, and we thank you for the fun times we’ve all had over the last year. Of course, our thanks also goes out to all of the estates that we work with, whose teams work extremely hard to produce some of the best sport across the UK. Without the keepers, the beaters, pickers-up and everyone else involved throughout the year, guns wouldn’t be able to enjoy the countryside and sport we all love.