Gamekeepers ask for late start to help woodcock

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is following the recommendation of conservationists in asking for restraint to be shown in the shooting of woodcock this year.

The woodcock is a wading game bird of field and wood which, today, is shot in season at low densities in Scotland and is also prized as a culinary delicacy.

However, the secretive long billed birds, known for their mating or ‘roding’ displays, are in decline in the UK overall with the Scottish population faring better than other parts of Britain.

Mindful of the wider conservation picture, Scotland’s gamekeeping body is asking local shoots to show restraint and schedule any shooting for as late in November as possible.

This will allow the resident breeders, which are under pressure, to make their migration to more temperate parts, with the more plentiful numbers of wintering woodcock migrating here from the Baltics, Russia and Scandinavia.

The most recent science by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and BTO stated there were 55,241 breeding males in the UK in 2013, a fall of 29 per cent from 2003.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg said: “GWCT has done a lot of scientific work regarding these birds and we agree with their guidance that shoots should leave it as late as possible in November before shooting woodcock.

“While it is legal to shoot woodcock from September 1st, the majority of estates offering it don’t start this early in the season.

“However, it is sensible to minimise the pressure on the birds as much as possible to ensure the resident breeders get the best chance for future years and we will be encouraging our members to take these steps going forward.

“Shooters have always been receptive to conservation guidance, as was shown with black grouse, and those we have spoken to are happy to support the later start to help the resident woodcock.”

Although black grouse is still on the quarry list in Scotland, few are shot, with many shooters and estates actively involved in habitat and predator management for black game conservation.