Published in support of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for black grouse

Shooting Guidelines

Black grouse is as a species of high conservation concern (see conservation status) and a quarry species protected by the Game Acts. The close season for shooting is 11th December to 19th August. 'Trophy-shooting' of males from leks has been reported from both private and public land. Not only is this illegal during the close season, but the disturbance may affect breeding success at the site.

Sustainable Harvesting
Healthy populations of black grouse can probably cope with moderate levels of shooting. However, most populations in the UK, and Europe, are declining and have a threatened conservation status. In most upland regions, it is now either absent or uncommon. Under these conditions, shooting is not advisable under any circumstances. The only exception is where sympathetic management has been instigated over a number of years resulting in a demonstrable shooting surplus. These situations are, however, very few.

Knowing the number of black grouse present is the minimum requirement before shooting. Therefore, careful monitoring through spring counts of displaying males and summer counts of hens and chicks are essential.

Accidental shooting through mistaken identity, especially of greyhens, may be important. Some estates fine guns who make such a mistake. For example, Peter de Vink from the Moorfoots in southern Scotland charges a fine to anyone who shoots a black grouse during red grouse shoots.

The guidance below, from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, enables moorland managers to assess whether it is sustainable to shoot black grouse; few sites have been able to meet these criteria in the 1990s.

Do not shoot black grouse unless...

(1) Spring lek counts reveal at least 15 displaying cocks and a density of at least two cocks per 250 acres (100 ha) over suitable hill edge and forest habitats across the whole estate.

(2) August pointer counts show an average breeding success of at least three chicks per hen (based on a sample of at least 10 hens, including hens without chicks). Unfortunately, taking the UK average, this has only happened in two years since 1989.

(3) Extensive surveys of neighbouring ground indicate similarly healthy numbers of birds.

(4) You have taken strong steps to conserve them through appropriate habitat management and legal control of predation.

If these conditions are met, a small harvest may be possible, although the following guidelines are recommended.

(a) Avoid shooting greyhens and concentrate on cocks only.

(b) Do not shoot before September, because walked-up guns can overshoot broods. The poults are still young and tend to get up individually rather than in coveys. It is best to delay shooting until October or November, to allow the cocks to finish moulting.

(c) Ensure that the guns can distinguish between greyhens, hen red grouse and hen pheasants.
Instigate informal shoot day 'fines' (enough to be a real deterrent) for shooting each greyhen.

(d) No more than 15% of cocks (calculated from spring stock) should be shot in any one season.

(e) Information on numbers of birds shot in relation to those counted in spring and summer should be sent to the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.