RED grouse shooting started today on northern moorland and there are rich pickings to be had, according to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Its annual count revealed populations of red grouse on upper heather moorland had increased by an average 23 per cent on last year’s numbers.
Shooting on the moors above Hebden Bridge will start later in the season.
Kevin Jaundrell is head gamekeeper for landowner Richard Bannister, who owns the Walshaw and Lancashire Moor Estate covering 16,000 acres.
Mr Jaundrell said the season runs through to December 10 but work continues throughout the year for the seven-strong staff on the moorland estate.
Vermin killing, heather burning and rejuvenating habitats are all part of the work which benefits several species of moorland birds. “The shooting side is a hobby but it’s done in a way that maintains the moors,” said Mr Jaundrell.
“If we didn’t shoot the grouse they are likely to get a natural disease anyway.
“It’s about harvesting the surplus of the moor and leaving a good stock for next year.
“Grouse are really challenging. They fly high, low, and are very canny birds.
“They are the hardest game bird to shoot and that is the attraction and the only place to shoot red grouse is the British Isles.”
The Moorland Association, which represents moorland estates, said grouse shooting contributed tens of millions of pounds to the economy each year, provided hundreds of jobs and helped to effectively manage the land.
Supporters say moorland management of grouse provides a huge contribution to nature conservation and is a highly sustainable form of land use.