Game over for grouse as UK shooting season begins

Fri Aug 12, 2011 12:17pm EDT
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By Alice Baghdjian

LONDON (Reuters) - Hunters grab their guns and tweeds, and fancy restaurant fare turns to fowl as the "Glorious Twelfth" of August marks the start of the red grouse shooting season in Britain.

The red grouse, a sub-Arctic bird unique to the British Isles, is notoriously difficult to shoot due to its speed, earning it the nickname "King of Gamebirds".

Grouse shooting, denounced as cruel by animal rights campaigners, attracts visitors to Britain from around the globe and is generally considered a preserve for the wealthy -- a shooting expedition on a moorland estate can cost up to several thousand pounds (dollars) at the start of the season.

"Managing a moor is the best way to lose money - the cost of looking after moorland year round to maintain a healthy population of the birds means hunting grouse really is at the premium end of shooting," Simon Clarke, spokesman for British Association for Shooting and Conservation, told Reuters.

"Grouse can fly at speeds of up to 70 to 80 miles per hour so it really is king of the gamebirds. The birds are truly wild and it's not a shoot for a beginner," he said.

The terminology of grouse shooting is similarly alienating to the uninitiated - "beaters", "butts" and "bag" are terms bandied about by shooters, which in common usage refer to the people who flush out the birds, the designated areas where shooters stand and the total number of birds shot in one day.

Strict hunting regulations limit the time of year during which grouse can be shot in order to conserve the population and ensure the viability of future hunts.

In England, Wales and Scotland, this period lasts from Aug 12 to Dec 10.   Continued...