With the start of the grouse season today comes a new start for shooting. A new normal, perhaps, at least for the foreseeable future.
Because of the pandemic, it almost goes without saying that it won’t quite be business as usual – but the very definite message is that shooting is well and truly open for business.
That’s the message BASC is delivering into the heart of our uplands today as we launch a significant advertising campaign in major regional newspapers across England and Scotland.
We’re telling the true story of shooting. Forget the myths and the misinformation – shooting is a massive force for good in the British countryside and we want the public to hear about it.
We want them to read about the conservation work, the value to the economy, the food it produces, the lifeline it provides in fragile rural communities.
For many guns, beaters and pickers up, the Glorious Twelfth is underlined in the diary as the long-awaited start of the grouse season. Today, though, is really about much more than that; it’s about sending a clear message that the countryside and the landscape you see in all its glory before you would not exist without shooting.
Despite the pandemic, the moors are once again carpeted in vibrant, purple heather, the skies alive with the flight and song of the skylark and meadow pipit.
Adapting to the specific challenges of the pandemic has not prevented gamekeepers and shoot managers from carrying out the hard work so crucial to maintaining the health of our moorlands. Our countryside, after all, does not wait for Covid-19.
They’ve also continued to be the eyes and ears of the moors, which is another story we are covering today on our website and also in the Yorkshire Post.
Of course, the world is different during this hiatus and so is the way many of us are having to live our lives.
We are about to experience the first of our game seasons to open under Covid-19 restrictions. The experience we gain under the ‘new normal’ during the next few weeks will prove invaluable once the lowland game seasons open.
The importance of shooting keeping calm and carrying on cannot be underestimated. People’s livelihoods depend on it – directly and indirectly.
Without grouse shooting, businesses that rely on the influx of visitors in the off-season would fold. Jobs would be lost, people would leave and communities would be broken. The invaluable conservation work carried out would stop, people would lose the social, health and wellbeing benefits a day on the moor brings and the future would look very bleak indeed.
But we have worked to adapt to the challenges the global pandemic has thrown our way, and we are ready to go. One of the ways BASC is adapting to the new normal, and helping others to, is through the Covid-19 guidance visits for shoots we launched in June.
The free visits help shoots form their own individual risk assessments and demonstrate how risks can be reduced in line with government guidance. First-hand advice from experts helps boost confidence that shooting can take place safely this coming season.
The visits and associated guidance document for shoots in England have been very well received. Being Covid-19 secure will boost confidence in the sector. This will not only benefit the shoots themselves, but the many businesses and suppliers in the wider rural economy who rely on shoot-related income during the winter ‘low season’.
So, let’s embrace this new start for shooting and look to the future with positivity. Above all, if you are out on the moors, savour each aspect of your day. Take enormous pride in these magnificent places and your role in keeping them special.
Eoghan Cameron, BASC chairman