With the latest grouse shooting season now officially complete (December 10th), the local North Yorkshire community is reflecting on what was a successful year with most estates having witnessed a full shooting programme due to favourable weather conditions and shoot days being let right the way through the season.

Managing moorland for grouse shooting is vitally important to remote rural communities in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits and is a life line for many local businesses in North Yorkshire. A full season is significantly more beneficial and is dependent on how well the wild red grouse breed in the spring.

Grouse moor managers in the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation (NYMMO) report that, 200 driven shoot days were hosted throughout the four-month season on estates across the North Yorkshire region, up 23% on last year.

45 full time keepers are employed on estates across the North Yorkshire Moors and on average each grouse moor employs around 23 extra people per shoot day, including local youngsters. An estimated 1,000 workdays of additional employment have been provided this season, twice as many as last year for those who assisted on shoot days, including beaters, flankers, loaders, pickers-up and caterers.

This year there has been a strong level of repeat bookings particularly from the UK market as well as a high-level of international groups visiting, with parties from across Europe including Sweden and France.

This year’s improved harvest also increased the availability of fresh grouse being supplied to local butchers, farm shops and game dealers, and as a result, greatly enhancing the awareness of grouse as a sustainable food source. Hoteliers, top chefs and home-cooks are now readily choosing grouse as a delicious, healthy and affordable game meat alternative.

Local North Yorkshire butchers have been selling more grouse this year, sourced locally from estates within the region. One such retail butcher is S Waind & Sons Ltd in Kirkbymoorside.

Richard Waind, of S Waind & Sons, said: “We have been receiving dressed grouse from local estates in North Yorkshire this season and have developed grouse sausages and burgers which have been a real hit with the public, along with whole grouse birds which have also sold well. Grouse is a low-fat healthy meat offering a rich flavour and it is fantastic that consumers are now eating far more consciously by choosing game produce in season.”

Tina Brough, of the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation, said: “We have witnessed a good year with most of our estate members welcoming both domestic and international visitors right into the final weeks of the season. The grouse industry is a life line for many in our rural community offering employment opportunities and supporting many local businesses, with shooting-related tourism bolstering trade during the winter ‘off-season’.

“This successful season is testament to the hard-work and dedication of our gamekeepers and grouse moor managers year-round as well as the private investment by estate owners and sporting tenants in managing moors for red grouse, which also supports vital conservation efforts in the North Yorkshire region.

“Grouse is a sustainable and nutritious food source and it has been greatly encouraging to see more grouse being offered on menus of local restaurants and hotels this season. Its reputation as a flavourful and healthy source of protein is growing year on year.”

Moorland owners and gamekeepers of the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation carry out vital conservation work on precious heather moorland across the area, much of which is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Healthy moorlands managed for seasonal red grouse, found nowhere else in the world, support up to five times as many other birds such as the curlew and lapwing compared to moorland that is not keepered. They also offer an important source of drinking water and can lock up carbon in the peaty soils mitigating climate change. Heather honey and hardy hill sheep are also unique products of these remote and treasured landscapes enjoyed by millions. It is thus imperative that the year-round management of grouse moors continues as it plays a big part in shaping the countryside and its offerings.