Summer is here at last! Lowland game keepers up and down the country have now released the majority of their birds into the woodland release pens. This is one of the busiest times of the year for game keepers, not only because there are still a few birds left on the rearing fields, but also they have to patrol their pens several times each day and night, making sure the birds are all fit and well, that they have ample food and water, and are predation free.
Harvest is well under way, with winter barley the first crop to be harvested. At least now the gamekeepers will be able to lamp the fields and catch up with any litters of foxes that have until now gone unnoticed. With the hopeful continuation of a good summer, this also means that the partridges can be released into the covers, without too much standing crop to get lost in. It is so important to release partridges well in advance of the start of the season, as this enables them to become fully familiar with their habitat and surroundings, resulting in a much fitter bird that is happy to leave its cover crop (home) when driven by the beaters. Sizeable healthy cover crops are also important for partridges, more so in modern times, when very few stubbles are left for any length of time and the ground is cultivated almost immediately after harvesting. This year the conditions have ensured that cover crops have had a very good start, as the ground is full of warmth and moisture, and now with the current hot summer weather, the crops should be off to a flying start- although I do believe given the humid conditions, flea beetle and slugs may have had an impact on the crops, especially kale.
It is less than 3 weeks to the start of the grouse season, so guns up and down the country will be getting more and more excited by the day. This is evident by the amount of people coming to the Shooting School for lessons, with all three of our grouse butts in constant use. On many upland moors it is looking like it could be a very fruitful grouse season, although I am starting to hear snippets of doom and gloom with some moorland keepers, witnessing very good brood sizes early on, but as a consequence of the prolonged and persistent rain and low night temperatures experienced a couple of weeks ago, some brood sizes have been significantly reduced. Whilst some moors are reporting good summer counts others have been forced to cancel. As always with grouse, we will never fully know until after 12th August.
Leo is busy preparing the balance accounts to ensure all the estates receive full payment well in advance of the days, as cash flow is crucial to the shoot owners at this time of year, when there are so many outgoings. We are also applying for a record number of Visitors’ Permits, indicating that there are perhaps more guns travelling from overseas to shoot in the UK. Many may be unaware but the procedure for issuing visitors permits has now changed and Thames Valley Firearms and Licencing Office, who deal with our permits, will now only issue individuals with a permit that lasts for the duration of their visit. This means that if individuals are travelling to the UK to shoot multiple times throughout the season, they will require a new permit for each visit. However, this is at the discretion of the Licensing Authority and it is sometimes possible to extend the validity, but I can only advise that if you require a permit then you apply as soon as possible to avoid the backlog of applications.
We still have several dates available on estates throughout the UK for whole teams as well as some individual guns available, therefore if you are still looking for that special experience, please pick up the phone to myself or Ben, and we will be happy to help.
I will look forward to seeing you either at the School or in the field over the next few months.