Wednesday, August 12

the glorious 12th

Disclaimer: have only been on one grouse shoot in my life, yes in Scotland, but am no expert. The following is a primer on what has come to be known as The Glorious Twelfth, the opening day of grouse hunting season in the UK.

The twelfth of August, known in the UK as the Glorious Twelfth, this first day of grouse hunting season is enshrined in the Scotch Game Act of 1773. (Though in some previous years, it has been postponed until the 13th due to bad weather or disappointing stocks of grouse.) As with most hunting there are a several views on this; and not so glorious for the grouse either...

The season is reported to provide 13,000 full-time conservation and shooting jobs in Scotland and does attract tourist money to the country. Campaign groups like Advocates for Animals say the figures don't stack up and that hundreds of birds will be blasted out of the sky in the name of entertainment only.

Yes, thousands of birds will be driven towards waiting guns and blasted out of the sky over the coming months. True, that is how the hunt proceeds. Beaters (gamekeepers and teenage locals) walk towards the hunters, making noise (beating the heather) to scare up birds who them fly towards the guns who are laying in wait.

"Once more beaters in a semicircle drove toward the blinds; once more, amid smells of gunpowder and bog myrtle, the birds rose and were shot at. Most sportsmen who go to Scotland after Aug. 12 and before the end of September, go because they know, or want to learn, the rules of a peculiar, a social kind of shooting. No lone hunter with dog and gun can stroll into the brush. The grouse industry is so well organized that to shoot one must rent or own a moor or get invited by someone who does. Rents are based on the bags of grouse that gamekeepers estimate can be raised on the property." via Time (1930). Article says bags here, may have been referring to brace, the way grouse are counted, as pairs. A brace is 2 grouse.

The Glorious Twelfth is the start of the grouse hunting season and then the beginning of a race among certain publicity-conscious restaurants to be the first... Grouse will be flown from Scotland to London. When it existed they were loaded onto the Concord for the trip. Self titled London's Oldest Restaurant Rules has their own estate (in Teesdale, the Pennines, England) to ensure a steady supply.

So yes, these events pump some money into local economies (or the laird's estate's economy more likely), but it really is perceived as an expense-account, client-junket affair (often true admittedly) which does not help its image with the common man. Easy to romanticize this from afar but be assured few in Scotland get the chance to tramp the heather kitted out in tweed jacket and cap. Even without the hunting, you are pretty blessed if you get this chance. As I said, not a huge hunter myself but not anti -just going to put the rosy glasses back on and use this as an excuse to celebrate some British hunting scenes. BTW The Scotsman is reporting this is a huge year for grouse numbers, incase you care.

The below from Mig_R via flickr.

When grouse are shot for the table, they are often hung for a few days to increase the flavour. Classic Pops story, he left the grouse in the boot of the car, a little too long. Why are the feathers ruffling? someone asked. Oh just maggots, came the answer. Makes the meat gamey... Mmmmmm maybe a little high for my taste.