What does the future of shooting hold?
There are many issues on the horizon for shooting, but what should we now be doing to retain the future of our sport?
It is difficult for shooting people not to feel under a certain amount of “threat” at the current time with so many happenings; from major changes to the Licensing system in England for the control of certain predators, restrictions on burning of heather on deep peat on our Moors, the recent announcement of a requirement for Licences for “driven grouse businesses” in Scotland and then add in the antics of Packham, Avery and Wild Justice. We are also faced with the likely withdrawal of Lead Shot in the future and on and on it seems to go. However, whilst there are undoubtedly many issues on the horizon which we as shooting people have to contend with, we do not believe that these are so overwhelming as to mean the end for our sport is nigh or that we should get ourselves into a spiral of deep despair. It is easy to do that, but firstly things are definitely not that bad, and secondly what good does despair do? Instead what should we now be doing?
To ensure that we have a viable future, we have to be able to demonstrate that what we do is of real benefit to the environment and the economy, both of which are fortunately eminently provable. We have to make sure that where we do not currently adopt Best Practice, we make sure we do going forwards and we also need to relook at some of what we do in an objective light, to see whether that is sustainable for the future. It is no use assuming that everything we currently do is as good as it could be. Instead, we need to look at every facet of our sport, to make sure that what we are doing is justifiable and of benefit. Sadly, that is the World we now live in and if we want to continue to do what we love, we need to be able to defend its component parts, whether that be vermin control, habitat maintenance or improvement, release densities or the scale of the shoot and the effect on its neighbours. Blind belief that what we do now, we should always be able to do, is no very good defence and certainly no guarantee of continuance.
We have been concerned for some time at the trend in recent years of releasing more birds to not only increase the scale of a Shoot but also the size and number of days able to be shot on a Shoot. However, we believe that in many instances, the additional release numbers might only be compensating for less than ideal standards of management. Instead of striving for the best possible standard of husbandry, are we instead thinking that the release of more birds will make up for not doing the job as well as it could and should be done?
Recent GWCT research confirms that keeping large numbers of birds to shoot in January is an expensive model and we believe that most Shoots do need to relook at this and other aspects of what they have been doing, to see whether that can be improved on and changes made?
There will be constant challenges going forwards, but we are certain that if we as shooting people are properly organised, the organisations which defend shooting are well resourced (which means us giving more money!), and we really do have the necessary resolve to win the battles that we face, then shooting has a perfectly good future and should be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren. If we sit back and do little, then perhaps the end may be nigh. Many shooting people seem perfectly happy to shoot, but very unwilling to do anything to make sure that future generations can. This must change and soon. The Americans have an apposite saying when determining if things are that important to you being “do you have skin in the game?” If we shoot and really want it to continue, then we have skin in the game and therefore we need to do whatever it takes, to make sure it does continue.
Whilst 2021 will no doubt bring its own challenges, we must never give up the fight, nor believe that it is a battle we cannot win. We can and we must!
We at William Powell Sporting have been advising Landowners and Shoots over very many years on everything from Shoot rents, Shoot Management, leases, employment, disputes, Licencing, Shoot finances and much more besides, if we can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to be in touch.