British Moorlands

Grouse management

Constructing a management plan for grouse

New technology has brought huge increases in grouse production already. But that was 150 years ago when intensive keepering and heather management created the new sport of driven grouse shooting.

Today, too many Scottish grouse moors run at a loss and half of Scotland’s uplands are not managed at all. In Wales and Ireland it is even worse.

An effective modern plan has to address the current factors which can affect results negatively i.e.

  • Loss of good habitat
  • Proximity of conifer forests which harbour predators.
  • Legal restrictions on control of some predators.
  • Rising real costs of labour for keepering.
  • Climate change, affecting chick survival through extremes of heavy summer rains and hot dry spells and the increasing tick population.
  • Lack of new techniques, mechanisation and automation which have benefited the farming and forestry industries; Apart from vehicles, ATV’s, fox middens and medicated grit,  many 20th century techniques are now obsolete.

British Moorlands’ basic ingredients

Innovative techniques enable the keeper to get better results on his existing acreage, or to cope well with a larger acreage.

The usual 3 H’s remain paramount for the plan:

Husbandry

  • Parasite and disease control
  • Territory management
  • Grit and water provision

    Grouse drinker

    Grouse drinker made from sheep mineral lick tub. Lid to reduce evaporation.
    Stone inside to cool water and prevent movement by wind

  • Nutrition – over winter pre-lay
  • Nutrition – chick rearing to 3 weeks
  • Grouse population control.

Habitat (see notes on Cutting & Burning)

  • Mix of ages of heather.
  • Grid system for grit & water, set up according to features & needs of the moor.
  • Creation of shelter & longer heather on flat ground with short vegetation.
  • Precision cutting/ burning of strips for optimum micro climate for young chicks and insect production.

Hitting Predation (see notes on Remote Automatic Trap Checking)

  • Lethal control where the Law allows
  • Use of electronic checking systems to increase number of traps per keeper.
  • Preventing raptor and crow predation by precision cutting patterns and removal of scrub trees etc which can be used as look out posts by predators.
  • Fox control via: a) creating ‘runs’ at access points where snares can be set. b) use of recorded sounds to attract foxes to midden or shooter. c) Night vision equipment to avoid foxes becoming “lamp shy”

New techniques

These have been developed as solutions where traditional practice fails to cope with modem conditions.

Next section: The Narrow Strip Matrix System  to boost the % survival of grouse chicks

British Moorlands