GROUSE GUNS: Moorland managers will soon begin their counts of grouse ahead of the shooting season
GROUSE GUNS: Moorland managers will soon begin their counts of grouse ahead of the shooting season

GROUSE shooting estates are headed for a complicated season with uncertainty about Covid-19 restrictions and the impact of a dry spring on chick numbers.

However, gamekeepers are determined that shooting will go ahead. The grouse shooting seasons starts on August 12.

Mark Gallagher, head gamekeeper Cotherstone Moor, said information and advice was filtering down from gamekeeping groups but it was still too early to determine how it would work.

He added: “At the moment it will go ahead, but we are still working out how to keep safe distancing.”

However, shooting days should be relatively safe, he said, with shooting butts about 45 feet apart and beaters about 200 feet apart when on the moors.

Another issue that could impact on shoots is the availability of accommodation for people who are travelling great distances to attend a shoot with several hotels and establishments limiting the number of guests they take to adhere to social distancing rules. Grouse numbers are also a concern but the impact of a dry spring and a lack of insects will only be known when counts get underway towards the end of the month.

Mr Gallagher said: “I think they have suffered but I don’t like to predict. At the end of the day, it is a wild bird.”

The National Gamekeepers Association confirmed Covid-19 would have a relatively low impact on shooting season. Chairman Liam Bell said: “Something that could affect it is loaders. They are in the same butt and if they are a non-family member or not in the shooters’ social bubble, they would have to be more than a metre away and that wouldn’t work.”

He added, however, that in many cases the loader is a family member.

Mr Bell, who is based in Shropshire, confirmed beaters are covered by regulations for outdoor workers and would not be a problem.

He said: “There will be minor social impacts. Lunches will have to be different – you can’t have everyone sitting around a table.”

As for the outlook of the grouse season, Mr Bell said: “The reports I am getting is it could be better than average. It can vary on different moors so we won’t know for sure until they do a count.”