Since the invention of the gun, birds of prey have been killed to protect game birds, especially as driven Red Grouse moors cannot survive without the removal of birds of prey. The shooting estates remove predators, which produces a higher density of Red Grouse, so there can be a higher numbers pushed over the guns. With the invention of the ‘camera gun’ shooters no longer have to kill the birds they are aiming at. Built like a proper shotgun with optional ear muffs worn by the gunmen and women, with built in speakers now triggering the sound of the shot, saving the rest of the countryside the pain of continuous gunfire spoiling the peace, especially on a Saturday during the open season.
There are so many advantages to this new design. Firstly shooting estates don’t have to raise so many game birds as the number on the estate would stay similar all through the shooting season. The price of a shoot comes down, allowing a wider number of people to take part and share the countryside.
The evening meal becomes a big show as each gun is fitted with a USB pen driver and every shot fired is recorded as a photograph. Points are given for the accuracy of each shot. Pictures showing a complete bird, either a Red Grouse, Pheasant, Partridge or wildfowl would be given the maximum. Parts of the birds in the frame produce fewer points and clear sky gets no marks. Blurred pictures represent shooting out of range and gain minus points. Even Black Grouse and Capercaillie were now easy to be shot at knowing the population levels would not be affected by the shooting pressure.
With the flow of the meal, good shots would often gain a cheer while a miss would produce laughter. Other minus points would be protected species like the birds of prey, especially the Hen Harrier as many still see this bird as evil after years of killing them illegally. Jack snipe and some wildfowl will also be a minus as they are supposed to be fully protected with many guns firing without knowing what will appear in the sky.
Any guns wanting game birds to take home to eat could be given birds reared in captivity like the Romans who first brought the Pheasant to Great Britain. No more big holes with the large scale burying of unwanted birds!
The pictures gained can also be used for identifying species found on the estates, allowing even the gunmen and women to learn about the local wildlife and contribute to sustainable conservation and research. The gamekeeper’s job has become one of creating wildlife habitat and biodiversity across the estate instead of the often mono-culture of heather moors, agriculture and woodland habitat. With fewer pheasants released, moths and butterflies have started to increase as their caterpillars and pupa especially are not being eaten by a large number of Pheasant released.
Less Pheasants has also meant less accidents on the roads with three million Pheasants a year being road fatalities, causing damage to cars and stress to the drivers, not to mention deaths.
It will take time for some estates to adjust, but thanks to the Scottish government, shot guns for sport would be banned once the value of the new gun was realised. England was very slow, as they were when banning lead in the shot, but the value of tourism was so great once the species were not being poisoned by the lead and with more birds of prey to enjoy watching. Money was saved with the old gun license, which tax payers had to subsidise. Even areas like the North Yorkshire Moors became a hot spot for wildlife tourism where normally you never saw a bird of prey!
Malta has become a great island to visit with the ban on the old shotguns. Now the gunmen can shoot everything that flies, even butterflies, knowing they won’t be fined and can go home with a great picture that they can share with the world, instead of just a room full of stuffed birds!
A more detailed plan and project coming soon...
A New Year
February 4, 2019
Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands by John Bowler