The Glorious 12th

The Glorious 12th marks the start of the shooting season for red grouse and the end of long anticipation for many guns. Every August, grouse shooters head out for one of the busiest days of the shooting season.

The Glorious 12th doesn’t always occur on August 12th. UK law dictates that the start of the season cannot occur on a Sunday, and in that case the start of the season is delayed until the 13th.

Unlike other game birds, grouse cannot be reared to maturity, so these birds are truly wild. The environment is key in determining the success of any season. Moorkeepers can manage the land, but they can’t control the weather.

Mild winters followed by a good spring often result in the greatest number of grouse in time for the Glorious 12th. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen harsh winters followed by very wet springs, affecting breeding and survival. Studies by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust show that both in 2009 and 2010, less than half as many grouse were shot as in 2001.

Grouse shooting is renowned for being one of the most challenging sports. In contrast to the slower, purpose-reared pheasants, grouse fly fast and low, at speeds of up to 80mph, changing direction at the very last moment.

There are two main types of grouse shooting:

1. Driven grouse – this is more formal with up to 10 guns shooting from butts and hoping for a 50-60 brace day (a brace is 2 birds) in some of the most spectacular scenery. Usually very little walking is required.

2. Walked up grouse – hoping for a bag of 10 – 15 brace, 4 to 8 guns walk in line and flush the birds themselves as they walk along. Gun dogs will also work the line fairly close to the guns flushing out any birds sitting very tight. Travelling light is key on a walked up day!

There is usually a lot of hubbub surrounding who can get a grouse onto the menu first throughout the UK. Diners in restaurants like Harrods in London and The Kitchin in Edinburgh are often feasting on grouse for lunch on August 12th, just hours after the Glorious 12th commences. But get to the table early – quantities are likely to be limited!

Do you take part in the Glorious 12th? Let us know how by commenting on our Facebook page – Be sure to share any pictures or recipes you have!

Photo courtesy of Trish Steel.

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