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TBS talks to Ed Darbishire ahead of the Grouse Season

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Knight Frank
London and Country specialist property buying agents
09 Aug 2019  |   Harry Gladwin

With the official grouse season starting on 12th August, The Buying Solution interviews sporting consultant, Ed Darbishire of Ian Coley Sporting Ltd on what this special season for sport entails.

How long is the grouse season? What makes grouse shooting special / different?

The red grouse shooting season starts on the 12th August or the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ – the day after if 12th starts on a Sunday  – and the season closes on the 10th December although in reality it’s all wrapped up by mid-November.

Grouse is particularly special as it is unlike any other game bird shot in the UK; it is a truly wild bird that is harvested each year and they can only be found on UK moorland and nowhere else in the world.

Their flight and speed makes them unrivalled as a sporting bird, they are a unique challenge and people will pay handsomely to take part in the ‘sport of kings’. Shooting grouse is not just about the shoot however, it’s the history of the different locations, the people involved and the magic of the whole event which involves people from all walks of life.

The best part is that anyone shooting knows its special and as such it is not taken for granted – however wealthy and successful people are, they are always humbled. It’s a unique sustainable product that only we have – it supports so much of the local rural areas economically that many places would be lost without it. It’s also incredible for conversation – with some of the highest concentrations or rare or at risk animals and plants.

How difficult is it to secure the best days if you are looking to shoot?

Very difficult unless you own one! We are uniquely placed to secure the best days on the best moors. With our 50 years in the business we can advice on where and when and if its for sale we will be able to get it. This takes years of building relationships and rapport with owners and keepers and sending them safe, experienced and friendly teams.

Which parts of the country have the best grouse moors? What makes a great grouse moor?

Grouse can be found on most of the uplands in the UK – but only the well managed moors contain enough surplus stock in order for them to be shot. The moorland areas vary hugely on height, topography, heather coverage etc etc – some of the best moors have little heather and are wet but produce grouse and the moors with good coverage and dry also produce grouse. The work really lies with the keepers and management who work tirelessly to maintain the moor which is a haven for birds, insects and mammals – there is an abundance of wildlife on all managed moors and that’s down to the keepers.

Why do people want to own grouse moors?

A grouse moor is a very special asset, not only do you potentially have access to some amazing sport, you also have the chance to be involved in a living breathing conservation project – a chance for many to put back into something for future generations.

Grouse moors rarely come to the market – a lot of families hold them in trust and the ones that do come up for sale go very quickly! Grouse shooting is available to buy so for many that’s easier than having their own moorland, those that do buy grouse moors are not only interested in the shooting, but also the surrounding area and the community because the moors tend to play a crucial part of life in these areas.

Asset wise as long as the popularity of shooting sports continues then these are valuable investments – especially if the average bags can be increased the estate will always be in high demand – after all they are in such short supply.

A rough guide to a days shoot?

A typical day will be run in the same way as a traditional pheasant and partridge shoot – we will meet in the morning and sort the loaders for the day, prepare everything we need and listen diligently to the safety briefing and draw pegs before heading off onto the moor around 9:15/9:30am.

Normally we would shoot a single drive followed by a second drive with refreshments, and then a return drive – so three in the morning then lunch and then two in the afternoon usually a back to back drive.

If a typical day of 100 brace was taken for 9 guns you would be looking to pay upwards of £20,000 inc vat. However this can vary slightly on the time in the season and the bag sizes which can be bigger and smaller – the earlier part of the season will typically cost more than the latter part.

Which nationalities is grouse shooting popular with?

The biggest contingent of overseas clients we have to shoot grouse is the Americans – they really embrace it and in fact know a lot more about what goes into making a day possible than a lot of UK clients, they are really interested in all the elements and not just pulling the trigger. The second largest group of travelling sportsmen would be Europeans – especially Scandinavians and Spanish.

A magical sport…in a nutshell

The length in which people will go to get here to shoot grouse from anywhere in the world – its something we should be really proud of. All the money gets injected straight into the local areas, keepers, pubs, hotels – all possible because of grouse shooting.

For most it’s something they have looked forward to all year, in fact many years in some cases when days are cancelled – therefore sometimes people get caught up in the excitement of being with friends on the eve of a shoot so there are always a few sore heads.

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