BASC member Ian Rummens is the shoot captain for a syndicate in the West Midlands. They still plan to shoot this year, but they have made several changes: “There are two key factors at play: one is the significant increase in cost of everything; the other, which we can’t get around, is only being able to source half our usual number of birds.
“We normally get our pheasants from two suppliers – one is a big, national supplier; the other is a much smaller, local business. The big supplier sources birds from France – they couldn’t guarantee the provision of any poults this year. The local game farm can supply us with 75 per cent of our order.
“Normally we’d shoot 14 days: 12 for the syndicate, a let day to make income for the shoot, and a beaters’ day. This year we have nine shoot days in the diary, plus the beaters’ day, but no let day.
“We’ve had to make some tricky decisions. Instead of one AGM in March, we ended up having four meetings to discuss how we’d move forward. We decided that to keep it all affordable, we would have to dispense of the services of our keeper and run the shoot ourselves this year. We’ll have to see how that works out.
“It was clear when we discussed other areas where we might save money, that the social budget was to be left alone. On a shoot day morning, we meet at a local hotel for coffee, and after shooting we go back there for a sit-down meal. This is an integral part of the day for most Guns – something that they enjoy and don’t want to give up.
“It may be a slightly quieter season than normal, but we’re all still very much looking forward to it.”
Another member, who is an experienced gamekeeper and owner of an established commercial shoot in Angus, Scotland, but wished to remain anonymous, said:
“I used to have two shoots but had to give one up last year after we were hit pretty hard by the storms. A lot of smaller shoots aren’t getting any birds and some of the bigger ones have only a limited supply.
“This year I have tried 18 suppliers from America to Eastern Europe – I heard of some game farmers who were bringing in stock from the US – but without success. I eventually managed to get 1,000 birds from a supplier near Edinburgh. We are also putting down 1,000 ducks but the shooting will be cut back to eight let days. Normally we would have 3,000 pheasants and 600 ducks.
“It’s a tough choice for shoots – do they shoot as much as they can to try and get the money in this year, or do they hold back and leave some stock to catch up for next season, when things might be even worse?
“We run a few clay shoots in the summer, but we don’t have the topography to put on simulated drives in the season.
“I know of some shoots that are looking at raising their own birds from eggs, but we can’t do that here, the weather is too harsh. For those who can’t shoot this season, it’s a time to look at maybe rearranging your drives, doing some maintenance and coming down hard on pests and predators.”