The UK’s grouse shooting season has officially begun, with mixed prospects as the industry recovers from a poor season last year.
Monday marks the “Glorious Twelfth”, as it is known by game hunting enthusiasts.
The season runs for 16 weeks to December, drawing visitors from Europe and North America.
But in Scotland, many grouse moor owners will not be shooting at all this year, according to rural property consultants Galbraith.
Late, heavy snow followed by very dry and hot conditions in 2018 reduced the number of the game birds successfully breeding.
Partner Robert Rattray said: “Those lucky enough to have a surplus of grouse will likely only be shooting a small number of days, mostly with family members and a core of regular clients.
“Grouse counts have shown better conditions prevailing in the east of Scotland than the west and in some areas there is a surplus which may enable some shoot days.
“The good news is that we are beginning the process of gradual restoration following last year’s wash-out.”
Environmental and animal welfare campaigners say driven grouse shooting, where the birds are driven towards the hunters by beaters, is cruel and want to see it banned.
They say predators such as foxes and stoats are killed to keep grouse numbers up, and have expressed concern over the disappearance of a number of birds of prey over grouse moors in recent months.
Moorland groups meanwhile cite a positive social and economic impact of shooting tours, and say managed grouse moors support many other wildlife including mountain hares.
A statement issued by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) and the Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) said: “Rural communities face a multitude of challenges and the impact of turning the screw on grouse moors should not be underestimated.
“As part of a mosaic of sustainable land uses supporting fragile rural economies, we believe there is a bright future for grouse moor management in Scotland and are committed to working with others to deliver these benefits for rural communities, the natural environment and Scotland as a whole.”
The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group said grouse shooting brings around £32 million to the Scottish economy and supports approximately 2,640 jobs.
But the Scottish Greens say research shows almost any other use of the land would be more economically active and provide more jobs.
The party’s land reform spokesman Andy Wightman said: “There’s nothing glorious about the 12th of August or about the intensive and damaging killing, burning, road construction and artificial medication that is associated with driven grouse shooting.
“That these barren Victorian hunting grounds remain a playground for the privileged few is a stark reminder of the inequality that still persists over so much of Scotland’s countryside.”