THE sound of gunshot and the dull thud of plummeting birds on the Lammermuir Hills has been replaced by the cheers of the shooting industry and rural tourism groups celebrating one of the most successful grouse shooting seasons in living memory.
Across Scotland drams are being raised to toast lagopus lagopus scoticus – to give the red grouse its formal name – for one of the fastest, most agile birds in the world has helped to generate more than £30 million for the rural economy since the Glorious 12th of August.
The season officially ended on December 10 and some estates have been reporting their best shooting seasons since the heydays of the 1930s, when Nancy Mitford captured the Scottish shooting scene in her first novel, Highland Fling.
Sarah Troughton, chair of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group, said: “Everyone involved in shooting is delighted, and what’s even better is that the Scottish rural economy has been given a tremendous boost.
“All too often, the grouse shooting industry does not get the credit it deserves. There are poor seasons, but in general there is a major contribution to Scottish tourism from a genuinely world-class Scottish industry.”
The 2011 grouse season will be looked upon as one of the best in living memory, and in many instances a distinct improvement on the 2010 season, in itself regarded as one of the best seasons for a decade or more. A measure of the success is recorded by the number of brace (a pair) of grouse shot on each shooting day, with many estates reporting more than 200 brace, some reporting 300 brace.
The popularity of grouse shooting began when Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral in 1852 and her son, the Prince of Wales, took up the sport, with high society quick to follow in his muddy footsteps. The shooting records of the 19th century still stand. The Maharajah Duleep Singh bagged 220 brace with one gun on 12 August, 1871, while the sixth Lord Walsingham topped this feat with an all-time record of 535 brace on Blubberhouses Moor in Yorkshire in 1888, including three birds killed with a single shot. The red grouse can be shot only in Scotland, which has 450 grouse moors, and England, which has 160.
Robert Rattray of CKD Galbraith, Scotland’s leading sporting agency, said: “The two areas that have really performed this season have been the Angus glens and the Lammermuirs.
“We were booking grouse teams well into November and have hosted guns from the US, Central and South America, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy.
“Despite the economic uncertainties, demand for grouse shooting has been strong, but is still very much UK-led, with driven grouse shooting for 200 birds (100 brace) costing £16,000 to £20,000 per day.
Lord Hopetoun, chairman of the Scottish Moorland Group, added: “We are seeing the result of years of substantial investment by landowners in Scottish moorland. It is a great asset to this country and when managed to its full potential delivers real benefit to the economy.
“There is also evidence that the recent hard winters have benefited shooting conditions.”