The ‘grey grouse' is a very fine pretender
Shooting Times & Country|September 29, 2021
Opportunities to take on the king of the gamebirds are few and far between, but the humble pigeon is a worthy stand-in for Blue Zulu
Blue Zulu

As Professor Higgins didn’t quite bemoan in My Fair Lady, “Why can’t a grouse be more like a pigeon?” The dear old woodpigeon may be accorded by its admirers the status of ‘grey grouse’, an accolade it surely deserves for its sporting and culinary qualities, but otherwise, its lot is pretty lowly compared with the king of the gamebirds.

The pigeon and its mate are under siege throughout the year, from corvids stealing their eggs and chicks, to aerial attack from peregrine and sparrowhawk. If his natural predators don’t get him, he has to avoid battalions of pigeon shooters lurking in hedgerows, spinney,s, and roost wood.

True entrepreneur

Despite all this, the pigeon thrives. It has adapted to change, a true entrepreneur, able to exploit the man-made landscape of arable crops and suburban garden and adjust to climatic change, whereas the true grouse, the famous grouse, remains dependent upon good heather and favorable weather conditions.

We almost forgot that a while ago. A rediscovered emphasis on the need for tight predator control, a series of kind winters and springs and the invention of medicated grit produced a string of vintage grouse years when moor records were continually being beaten, topping bags last made in the 1930s. We fooled ourselves into thinking the golden days were back and would last forever.

But no longer. A run of poor-to moderate seasons has been capped this year by what one seasoned grouse Shot labeled “the worst in his memory” — and he’s not young.

Some of the greatest grouse moors have cancelled pretty much every day this year. One might not shoot the following one. The accumulative effect of poor heather last year, due to heather beetle, a freezing spring chilling eggs and chicks, a drought in May and rainstorms in June have done for the poor grouse and those who rely on it.

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