The Glorious 12th and why it SHOULD be in your calendar
This is not a once upon a time kind of story, no. The glorious twelfth is an annual event marking the twelfth day of August every year, it is rather important within the British shooting calendar, because it marks the start of the new shooting season. The twelfth kicks the game season off with grouse shooting, as other birds such as pheasant and partridge don’t come out to play until later in the season, taking an overall much more laid-back sporting approach. I don’t blame them, it’s never cool to be first at the party.
Grouse are seen as the trophy game bird, out of all the birds they are generally more difficult to shoot with the ability to reach speeds of around seventy miles per hour and have a canny habit of switching direction at the last second, making them the ultimate Sporting challenge. Grouse shooting is also steeped in tradition, that sees wonderful examples of fine old shotguns, the type that are handed down from generation to generation, return to the field for their annual outing. In the wake of changes to the policies and general of acceptance of lead in the food chain, lead-free cartridge alternatives are not always suitable for these Grand Dames of the Sport, so be sure to check your barrels are properly proofed for any new loads before the season kicks-off.
The grouse season goes all the way through to the tenth of December allowing around four good months for some heavy cartridge usage and barrel cleaning. Unfortunately, as if 2020 was not bad enough, 2021 is not looking to start on the best foot. Hard frosts when the birds were laying meant less were born and then at the beginning of summer during the hatching period, we experienced sleet and lots of cold rain which further resulted in the loss of entire broods. Many sporting estates across the country have sadly, had to postpone the start of their season.
The grouse reside on Moorland alongside numerous other wildlife and management of these eco-systems is a huge part of the Gamekeepers duty. The UK’s extensive heather uplands are unlike anywhere else, not only popular with many other species of birds but also roe deer and even otters in places, due to its wet nature. The heathered peatlands are also the UK’s largest store of carbon, storing up to eight years of the UK’s emission output in the substance alone. The wet and acidic conditions in the peat prevent decomposition essentially keeping the carbon trapped, this has resulted in keeping the peatlands wet as an environmental priority. You might be thinking if keeping the land wet is the priority, why do we also burn the heather?
Burning of the heather also known as, rotational burning, muirburn or prescribed burning is the process of planned burning small areas of older heather with the aim of a low intensity, fast burn which removes the top layer but does not affect any of the peat laying underneath. This is done because as the heather gets older it becomes much less tasty and less nutritious for surrounding wildlife, burning the older heather gives it a new lease of life as it regenerates and re-grows alongside new grass shoots and flushes of plants such as bilberries and blueberry’s, plants that are very important in sustaining the wildlife. It is also an important moorland management strategy that ensures run away summer fires from an ill-placed bbq are not possible. Effectively providing strategic fire breaks much the same as well-managed woodland. The clever thing is, that all the while the peat underneath is never affected.
After doing some research about what grouse shooting provides the economy it really is rather outstanding and emphasis yet another reason to keep this wonderful day alive. Over 2,500 full time jobs are supported by grouse shooting putting it at an estimated value of £100,000,000 in England, Wales and Scotland. It is an important and unique contributor to the UK economy.
So, as you read this the Glorious 12th is underway and the grouse are flying high (well actually quite low but high sounded better). It’s the start of a new season and we wish you a good one.