29 September 2021

New survey highlights positive outlook for the 2021/22 shooting season

Woodland Ride Honeysuckle RotherfieldThe latest Savills and Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) game and conservation benchmarking survey shows that Covid hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for fieldsports, with 80% of shoot owners expressing optimism for this season – the highest in three years.

Despite this positivity, long-term prospects were lower, with only 45% of shoot managers expressing optimism for driven shooting longer term. Conservation and sustainability are the key to a successful future say respondents, with self-regulation and unified stakeholders also important. There was clear support for understanding more about good shoot management, with those taking the GWCT’s shoot operator test up by over 50% on last year and Big Farmland Bird Count participation up from 20 to 33%.

The amount of conservation work already taken across the participating shoots is on an impressive scale. More than two thirds of shoots undertake self-funded environmental work, including 93% who have established wild bird seed mixes, 64% establishing insect-friendly pollen and nectar mixes, and almost half implementing conservation headlands. Before the survey, researchers feared that the pandemic might have impacted this vital habitat management, but more shoots reported an increase in activity (11%) than a decrease (4%).

One area in which Covid restrictions had a clear impact was in the numbers of birds released. 11% of shoots opted to release no birds for the 2020/21 season. A reduction in releasing was more apparent among bigger shoots, with more than a third of them releasing fewer birds and just 7% releasing more than they had the previous year.

Paul Hutchinson, Savills director comments: “It’s clear following the disruption last year, shoots have taken confidence from the rollout of the vaccination programme when planning for the 2021/22 season. Importantly, there is now wholesale acknowledgement that conservation and sustainability are key components for successful shoot management and actions to deliver are now high up the agenda.”

With a voluntary phasing out of lead shot agreed by all leading sporting organisations, 85% of participating shoots stated that they had a plan in place to phase out the use of lead by 2025, with the majority looking to do so by 2023. This is in addition to the 3% who have already done so. Action has also been taken on the use of plastic wads, with 83% already not allowing their use and all but 2% of respondents planning to phase them out.

Roger Draycott, GWCT Director of Advisory and Education, said: “In this survey, we were keen to understand the impact of the Covid pandemic on the environmental aspects of running a shoot. It is heartening to see that, despite many shoots scaling back on shoot days and numbers released last year, shoots continued to provide and manage habitats for gamebirds with knock-on benefits for other wildlife.”

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Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ more than 60 post-doctoral scientists and other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from government and private bodies.

For information, contact:
Eleanor Williams
Telephone: 07592 025476
Email: press@gwct.org.uk