A record-breaking year
The 2014 grouse season is one to remember, says Robert Rattray.
By all accounts, Scotland has enjoyed one of its best grouse years in living memory, and hailed by some as the best in a generation.
Scotland's last winter was one of contrast. Below 1,000ft we enjoyed mild weather with hardly a frost. On the high ground, winter snows arrived with a vengeance, and the popular Highland ski resorts enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent years. Grouse seem to thrive in these conditions, often moving considerable distances as weather dictates.
The winter months were followed by a long and mild spring and equally favourable early summer, with some of the best breeding conditions one could hope for. Predictably, spring counts were generally good, although some moors did report a slight loss in brood size as July approached. Some estates sensibly adopted strict biosecurity measures in light of outbreaks of bulgy eye south of the border, and odd outbreaks in the south of Scotland have not had any material impact on shooting.
The season got off to a great start right from the Twelfth, with most estates reporting this year's birds to be well grown and in excellent condition. One Morayshire moor kicked off with a new estate record of 220 brace on their first day's shooting.
This was just the start of records being broken right across Scotland?
Generally higher ground moors with excellent grouse numbers reported. One estate had a best ever day of 316 brace on August 15 - certainly a record for the estate, and possibly a record for the Monadhliaths.
Days of 100 brace and upwards were relatively common in the first weeks of the season.
Excellent showing of grouse, with bags well up on previous years. One estate, usually producing bags of 40 - 60 brace, had two consecutive days of 130 and 140 brace, with a neighbour also enjoying a day of 178 brace on the opening day of the season.
Again, good numbers of grouse. One estate broke its own previous record of 230 brace with 248 brace in the second week of the season. Other estates had days of up to 300plus brace. We heard of one party of six Guns shooting 240 brace over three days walking-up, with the best day of 90 brace.
This has been one of the real success stories this year, with grouse numbers well up on those moors being actively managed for grouse. One mid-Perthshire estate had a best early season day of 277 brace in just four drives in a stiff wind. Another neighbor shot 168? brace from a piece of ground not shot previously for over 20 years! Otherwise, bags of 100plus brace were not uncommon.
On form. August 13 and 14 produced 300 brace over the two days, followed by 292 brace on August 18, to one of the main players, with 106 brace to a smaller neighbour on August 22.
We have reports of a day of 528 brace from one estate. Another estate with 1,500 brace over the first four days of the season.
All in all, a season to remember.
Read the 2014 salmon round-up?HERE