Other issues that frequently crop up are lack of roosting and flushing areas. In order to keep your birds on your shoot, it is best to try to provide them with a suitable place to stay, a Premier Inn if you like, where a good night’s rest is guaranteed. There is a trend in recent years to do away with conifer in favour of restoring native broadleaves, often taking advantage of the latest woodland grant. You might just be encouraging your expensive birds to leave your shoot, which is NOT covered by any grants! Does your shoot have enough roosting cover of the right age?
Flushing areas, whether they be permanent (something which I am very keen on) or temporary, should be seen as a vital part of any woodland drive. Not only should careful consideration be given to where and how big the flushing zone (s) should be, but also what shrubs or game crop should be grown. Just like in forestry, I have seen too many times, a shoot trying desperately hard to establish the wrong plants in the wrong areas for a flushing area.
Another consideration which plays an important part in the longevity of the shoot is the relationship between the land owner and the shoot tenant. In some lucky cases, this relationship is all ‘in house’ and long-term objectives of the shoot and the woodland management can, with some careful man management, be achieved. However, there are a great many shoots that only have relatively short leases; owners wishing to keep their options open and shoot captains not wishing to commit themselves to any longer-term financial commitment. Leases can be annual or if you are lucky, you might get a three-year deal. This does not really benefit anyone, not least the most important bit of your shoot, the trees and shrubs!
All these difficulties are well known to many; however, there is a way of ironing out some of these problems.
The starting point really should be for all shoots to have a ‘Woodland Management Plan’ (WMP). There is a grant-aided scheme administered by the Forestry Commission to help towards the cost of this. The aim is to produce a long term WMP lasting 10 – 20 years. One of the beauties of these plans is that once approved by the Forestry Commission, it gives the shoot or the land owner a 10-year thinning licence, so that when the keeper or the forester cuts some trees down to enlarge a gun stand, he is legally covered to do so. This is a great selling point over all other digital plans.