The Countryman's Weekly

Grouse Shooting

Grouse Shooting
January 22
08:00 2020

Whisky, grouse and black game

By Bill Beckett.

I WISH I could say I was a regular grouse shooter as opposed to a very infrequent one but the numbers of the birds, once as numerous as the fleas on an old red setter’s back, are sadly now lacking in my part of the world. Unattended heather moors, turf/peat digging, overgrazing and an unfortunate lack of moorland management has taken its toll over the last 50 years in many parts of upland Ireland.

The uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking a grouse is now mainly seen on a label of a well-known Scottish whisky. Its cousin, the black grouse, is a much rarer entity and one I doubt I will encounter on a shoot day again.

I understand from conversations, old publications and contemporary archives, some 150 years ago black grouse were numerous and quite widespread throughout mainland Britain and could even be found on many heaths of southern and eastern England.

Apparently the decline and contraction of range for this member of the grouse family began about a century ago following gradual ‘improvements’ in farming. This was, as is so often the case, detrimental to a number of species including the grey partridge.

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