Pheasant shooting is a widespread winter activity in lowland Britain. Although there are wild pheasant populations in many areas, autumn stocks are commonly supplemented by the release of hand-reared birds in summer. Shooting takes place mainly between November and January when birds are driven over the guns from areas of cover. Woodland is the most important habitat for pheasants during winter, so releasing and shooting are centred here.
Woods where pheasant releasing and shooting takes place may also be important for nature conservation. Many are identified in English Nature’s Inventories of Ancient Woodland and some are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
Historically, pheasant shooting has been an important motivation for the planting of new woods and the retention and management of existing ones. It increasingly provides the incentive for some private owners to do habitat management. Much of this management can, if sensitively carried out, benefit both pheasants and other wildlife. There are concerns, however, about pheasant release pens, the treatment of woodland rides and open areas and the introduction of non-native shrubs for cover in semi-natural woods.
The purposes of this guide are to:
- Highlight conservation issues in relation to gamebird releasing.
- Explain the reasons for certain game management activities.
- Discuss areas of potential conflict and suggest how they can be avoided.
- Encourage integrated nature conservation and pheasant management in woodlands.