Shooters out on Yorkshire Dales for Glorious Twelfth - despite coronavirus, hot weather and beetle plague

Grouse-shooters were out on the Yorkshire Dales for the Glorious Twelfth despite coronavirus regulations, unusual hot weather and a beetle which blights heather growth.

The first drive of the season saw one group bag 10 brace of the wild birds under bright sunshine and cloudless skies.

The opening outing of the season delighted locals who were brought in to act as beaters – driving the grouse towards the guns, high on the moors.

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Meeting up at a local farm before the shoot, retired assistant gamekeeper Vincent Lynch and his spaniel, Bolton, met old friends in the yard.

A grouse takes flight during a shooting party on the moor near Grinton in North Yorkshire

The 72-year-old beater – or more precisely the flanker – wore a mask for his day on the moor and had his temperature checked before starting out.

He said: “It’s an integral part of life in the Dales. We needed this, it is the life-blood to the economy. It’s bloody brilliant, a marvellous day like today, you can’t ask for anything nicer.”

D’Arcy Wyvill, who owns a country estate and runs a shooting business, said: “August 12 is the start of the UK shooting season. People come out on the grouse moors of North Yorkshire and the Pennines and it is a huge driver for the local economy.”

He estimated that his business normally employs 15 people but triples that number during the shooting season.

Vincent Lynch, 72, beating grouse with his dog during a shooting party on the moor near Grinton.

“That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and a lot of people rely on these estates.”

But lockdown has meant far fewer wealthy Americans or Europeans coming to the moors to shoot – and spending thousands of pounds for the privilege.

Grouse numbers have also been affected by heather beetle – an insect which destroys the heather that young grouse need to grow.

Weighing up the mounting issues against the shooting industry, Mr Wyvill said: “All in all, it is really nice to be out here in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a very special day to be out and I am absolutely thrilled.”

Vincent Lynch, 72, a retired game keeper, has his temperature taken prior to beating grouse during a shooting party on the moor near Grinton, North Yorkshire.

Gundog trainer Rebecca Avison was on the moor with nine of her dogs, picking up grouse.

In the yard before the shoot, she said: “We need this. I say to people on a regular basis, these chaps who come up and have a day’s shooting are giving us a job.

“Without the shooting community, I wouldn’t have a job through winter.”