HUNTERS on the “Glorious Twelfth” may struggle to find grouse next week – with experts saying the “dreadful” Scottish weather has ruined prospects for the shooting season.
Following four bumper seasons with high numbers of grouse, experts this year are predicting that some shoots may have to be called off owing to shortages.
The cold, wet and windy spring and summer are being blamed for the reduced numbers, with smaller number of hatches and birds not growing big enough to be shot.
The grim Scottish weather has already had a knock-on effect for many other outdoor industries.
Last week Scots beekeepers said their hives were on the “verge of starvation” while Scotland’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU Scotland) has warned that the wet summer may affect crops and livestock.
August 12, known as the “Glorious Twelfth”, is the first day of shooting season for red grouse across the UK.
Traditionally it is one of the busiest days of the season, with large numbers of birds being shot in celebration.
But this year experts have warned that the opening shoot may be somewhat muted – with insufficient numbers of birds for a fully-fledged hunt.
And some of the smaller estates have cancelled their hunts altogether.
Colin Sheddon, country director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) in Scotland, said: “We’re coming off of two or three years where the number of grouse has been very high.”
He explained that this season shooters could expect a seriously reduced hunt.
“There will be some grouse shooting taking place”, he said, “but nothing like the record numbers in previous years.”
In addition to the poor weather, it is thought that low numbers of insects hatching have meant the birds are struggling to feed.
Ralph Peters, of the property consultancy Bidwells, also confirmed that hunters are expecting a poor season as optimism from last year begins to fade.
He said: “Excellent stocks of grouse, both in terms of health and numbers, survived the relatively mild winter and were in good condition heading towards the 2015 breeding season.
“Although counts are still ongoing, the dreadful spring and summer has resulted in major losses of juvenile birds on many of Scotland’s moors.”
He also confirmed that “one or two” smaller estates had called off their shooting, while others would go forward on a reduced scale.
But he went on to say: “This only adds to the mystique of this wild, iconic game bird.”
Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association also confirmed the forecast, saying: “This year looks to be a different picture, largely due to the cold and wet weather.”