To shoot or not to shoot is the dilemma facing a game industry under lockdown. “No one knows whether to go ahead or to cancel,” says James Crowther of Upperwood Estate, talking about uncertainty among shoot organisers.
The 2020 shooting season starts with grouseshooting on the Glorious 12th August 2020. Grouse are wild birds and, apart from officials using the coronavirus lockdown to prevent moorland keepers from working (read our story here), grouse stocks and other moorland birds will be unaffected by the lockdown. Pheasants and partridge are released on shoots in July, with shooting underway in the autumn, and orders for poults usually placed in April. Uncertainty about the availability of birds and possibly the availablity of paying shooters are making shoot organisers reluctant to go ahead. It’s a crucial time for game suppliers. It’s past their deadline, but shoots are delaying orders amid the coronavirus lockdown.
“Our teams are asking for more time, perhaps until the end of the week when Boris makes his statement about the end of the first lockdown,” adds James, referring to the prime minister, at the time spending his second day in hospital with the virus.
“I’ve been speaking to the partridge supplier and obviously they wanted confirmation of the order on 4th April and a deposit. I just said we can’t send a deposit and we don’t want to cancel the order.”
James expects a few days to be knocked off his shoot’s calendar, but everything else should be business as usual.
The world famous Llechweddygarth Shoot in Wales says similar. While there have been layoffs at some places, it says it has managed to retain staff and will comply with social distancing rules if necessary when the season opens.
Shoot organiser Cambrian Shoots, which runs the equally famous Sweet Lamb shoot also said it was staying positive and carrying on as normal, and so does Bettws Hall in Wales and Chargot in Somerset
Some shoots and shooters have written off the season. “A couple that own big franchises won’t be getting bonuses because they had to lay people off,” says James. “They can’t justify being seen to be enjoying themselves when people are being furloughed.”
The season is still months away. Shoots that are placing orders for birds now are likely to do well if the season goes ahead. If it doesn’t, it will lead to the whole of shooting facing financial hardship.
For coronavirus advice for shooters, visit Fcha.nl/coronavirus
Here are our films about these shoots from previous seasons:
Brigands (run by Bettws Hall)