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Caroline Moyes reports
"Some gamekeepers believe that country pursuits like grouse shooting could soon disappear"
 real 56k

Saturday, 12 August, 2000, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Lines drawn for 'Glorious 12th'
Glorious 12th
Grouse and other game can be shot from 12 August
Hunters and anti-blood sports protestors are preparing for the start of the grouse shooting season.

Sharp-shooters will be dusting down their shotguns and chequebooks and heading for the moors as the grouse shooting season gets under way.

Sports enthusiasts from around the world have booked up estates in Scotland, Yorkshire and Cumbria to celebrate the start of the season, the "Glorious 12th", with some paying up to 1,000 a day.

But, as last year, the shooting may be scarce as grouse numbers have dwindled on the moors and highlands.

shooting
Grouse numbers are down for another year
More noise may come from anti-blood sports campaigners organising protests against the grouse shooting season.

They blame the hunters for the decline in grouse numbers, who in turn have blamed the weather.

Alex Hogg, the Scottish chairman of the Scottish Grouse Keepers Association, admitted this year would be "patchy".

He said: "Some areas will be better than others. This is a thing that people do not understand, if a man spends a lot of money on his grouse moors he might not be able to shoot for up to five years later. The reason being, we only shoot the surplus, we do not shoot stock."

Prestige

But the prospect of another poor season has failed to dampen enthusiasm for the blood sport.

Demand to savour the prestige and social status of grouse shooting continues to outstrip supply with most estates fully booked.

Some estates charge as much as 10,000 a day for a ten-gun party targeting 100 brace of grouse.

The Duke of Westminster's Littledale and Abbeystead estates hold the British record for the largest numbers of grouse shot on a single day.

On the 12 August 1915, eight guns shot 2,929 grouse.

But many estates are having to limit the number of shooting days to preserve grouse stocks for future years.

The hunters say the drop in grouse populations during the past two years was mainly due to an unusually wet summer in 1998 and a mild winter in 1999.

Protest

But protesters such as the Hunt Saboteurs Association are planning protests against the annual bloodlust.

Their website offers tactics to disrupt shoots by frightening the grouse away from the guns.

Using "reflective shiny surfaces for reflecting light into the eyes of shooters to disrupt their aim" is also recommended.

Police in Cambridgeshire are expecting animal rights activists to be involved in a major protest rally in the county 19 August.

It follows animal rights demonstrations over the controversial animal testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences but ties in with the start of the grouse shooting season.

A police spokesman said the protest could involve a range of action groups - from Reclaim the Streets to hunt saboteurs and animal rights activists.

"All we can do is warn the public, traders and commuters, to expect disruption as has been seen before," he said.

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See also:

11 Aug 00 | Scotland
Field sports 'crucial' to Highlands
26 Jul 00 | Scotland
Gun ownership at record low
07 Nov 98 | Background
Shooting factfile
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