Although the official grouse season lasts from mid-August to early December, in reality, shooting may only take place on a limited number of days for the first four to six weeks of the season. These unsung keepers of the moors have been preparing for the start of this season day in day out for the last 12 months, as they have been doing each year for as long as they have been in employment.
Given the relentless cold and wet weather that has been endured in the Highlands over the last few months resulting in poor breeding and high chick mortality, a large number of moors have taken the painful but correct decision to curtail or cancel their grouse shooting programmes this year, resulting in a huge loss of revenue, according to Robert Rattray, partner at CKD Galbraith and head of the firm's Sporting Lets department.
Mr Rattray continues: "However it is certainly not doom and gloom everywhere. For other moors, relatively unaffected by the vagaries of the weather, it is business as usual. These moors can even take advantage of the situation if stocks allow, and book in additional parties displaced elsewhere."
Speaking at the Moy Game Fair, Robert said:
"Grouse shooting is a fragile industry at the mercy of nature and commands a serious level of investment both financially and in terms of commitment from moorland owners. If the grouse shooting has to be cancelled, owners must hold their nerve and continue to invest despite the lack of income coming in from the shooting. The long term viability of the industry is totally dependent on this long term view of grouse management. Spending must continue despite the uncertainty of any rent coming back in."
"In complete contrast to this year, 2014 was one of the best seasons in living memory, producing record bags on many moors right across Scotland's grouse moors. Unfortunately the scenario we find ourselves with this year is by no means uncommon, and demonstrates graphically the fickle nature of grouse shooting which can experience extreme highs and lows over very short time periods. Despite best efforts and huge investment, ultimately the weather is the master, and moor owners understand this uncertainty."
"The new Land Reform Bill, proposing an end to the exemption on rates for sporting land, would provide another unwelcome cost for many estate owners. Business rates have not been applied to sporting estates for over 20 years, and particularly in a year such as this, focuses the mind on the huge burden placed on estate owners managing Scotland's moorland areas."
"It's imperative to understand the importance of the grouse industry to rural Scotland. It operates 365 days of the year, and is often the only lifeline for small communities in Scotland's fragile rural areas, creating employment and business opportunities across a broad spectrum within the community from hotels, holiday houses, shops, schools, petrol stations as well as direct employment, both full and part time on the estates themselves."
An area of around 1 million hectares / 2.5 million acres is used for grouse shooting in Scotland (one seventh of Scotland's land mass) and it is a multi-million pound income generating industry supporting 2640 full time jobs and providing 30.1 million in wages.
According to the PACEC 2014 report entitled The Value of Shooting', the economic contribution of all types of shooting and stalking in Scotland was some 200 million per year, with grouse shooting directly contributing approximately 40 million plus in a good grouse year.
Conservation management is another important aspect of the industry. The management of grouse shooting directly benefits 57 bird species including Lapwing, Hen Harrier, Black grouse for example, all of which are protected species.
From estate owners to moorland keepers, beaters, local chefs, accommodation providers, to name but a few; they all play a huge part in ensuring Scottish grouse shooting remains an unrivalled world class sport for generations to come.