With the Glorious Twelfth falling on a Sunday this year, the shooting season got under way on August 13, causing a countrywide rub of lucky rabbit’s feet. Following one of the wettest rearing seasons on record, fear among shooters that 2012 will be a damp squib has escalated beyond superstition, as worrying numbers of both pheasant and grouse were lost to the weeks of torrential rain during June and July. Mike Appleby, who runs the Honeycombe shoot by Sherborne Castle in Dorset, is both a game farmer and keeper, and he spent long hours of the summer growling at the weatherman. ‘We were some of the lucky ones, with enough ground to keep moving our sheds,’ he explains. ‘Some keepers had their fields swept away in the deluge.

There was a huge demand for day-old chicks after the losses. We were all on a knife edge. Ideally, poults go to wood after seven weeks, but our first batch stayed in for 10. On the plus side, our birds are now bigger and stronger.’ Together with the rest of Dorset, Mr Appleby willed Peter Wilson to his gold at London 2012, gripped by the tension. ‘I was so pleased for him. It was an amazing display of concentration. Of course, if he really wants to experience pressure, he should stand at peg five on our Laurels Drive during the beaters’ day. That would test his nerves.’

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The grouse industry has enjoyed several years of boom in northern England and recovery in Scotland, but the cold and wet have brought chilly predictions. Moorland keepers are also concerned about European legislation to protect spinach farmers that will outlaw the use of Asulox, the only licensed bracken control herbicide (COUNTRY LIFE, August 8, 2012). ‘There will certainly be pain this season for the shooting sector and for the economy as a whole,’ comments Roddy Willis of Savills’ Rural Department in Brechin. ‘The appalling summer weather has taken its toll. However, hen birds who were put off their nests in May have laid again. This may well allow for late shooting on some moors towards the end of September and into October.’

So despite the doom and gloom, shoots are still offering plenty of opportunities for excellent sport. Book now to avoid future envy. And remember, 13 is unlucky for some, not everyone.

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