Forest of Bowland gamekeepers dealing with hangover from last year's ‘perfect storm’

A shooting party enjoy the start of the grouse shooting season
A shooting party enjoy the start of the grouse shooting season

Rural communities in the Forest of Bowland were at the heart of the Glorious 12th this week – the start of the grouse shooting season – and are preparing for a challenging season.

Prospects for this season are mixed and gamekeepers are having to deal with the hangover from last year’s awful conditions.

Last year was the ‘perfect storm’ for poor productivity with the ‘beast from the east’ followed by a drought and then an attack of heather beetle resulting in very low grouse numbers.

This year has also seen further outbreaks of heather beetle on the moors, which make them appear more orange and brown rather than purple. The insect larvae kills off the renowned purple heather bloom and deprives grouse of their food.

Helen Foster, regional co-ordinator for the Forest of Bowland Moorland Group, said: “2019 has been a tricky year with the heather not recovering well from the beetle damage until mid-summer or later.

“There are some areas of reasonable productivity, notably where the beetle affected young heather last year, it managed to recover well and brood sizes are similar to normal.”

“Some family estates are hoping to have one or two shoot days later this year so we will just have to see how the season goes.”

“Shooting days are very important to the local community, bringing both young and old together.

"The estates themselves invest a significant amount into local infrastructure and attract notable business to the area. Without managed shooting the moors would just be overgrown bracken, devoid of the diverse wildlife we currently have today. ”

Red grouse are wild and are unique to Britain – found nowhere else in the world. They eat heather and cannot be reared so moorland estates can only conserve their habitat leading to glorious and celebrated landscapes.