The sport of shooting incentivises Estate Owners to both set aside farm land to provide habitat for game and also to plant up and manage woodland for shooting. This is beneficial to all wildlife. However, when numbers of any animal or bird come under pressure, the shooting fraternity must act to implement and action a rigorous and widespread protection plan, in order to correct such imbalance and maintain a sustainable equilibrium between sport and conservation. If we shoot, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the nature we enjoy is not only sustainable but thriving.
The most recent data from The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust demonstrates a substantial drop in numbers of the native Woodcock from some 78,350 breeding males in 2003 to some 55,000 today; a rate of decline which potentially threatens their long term sustainability.Many persons in the UK are already aware of the Woodcock problems and do not shoot them currently, for which they and we are most grateful! Sadly, there are many who continue to do so and thus The Woodcock Trust has been established to help promote the Woodcock Conservation Message in the UK, with a special focus on the native bird.
Our Mission Statement
Our mission is to ensure the shooting fraternity understand and appreciate the significance of the decline in native woodcock numbers.
Reasons For Decline
It is clear that there may be several different factors impacting on the decline of our native bird, including changing habitat, disturbance, increased predation and a change in climate and farming techniques, not necessarily just shooting; but clearly shooting is not helping a population already in steep decline.
There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that over shooting European (migratory) birds in December and January (and/or possibly a warming climate) means the migratory lines are broken and such parts of the population become unsustainable and do not return and may, in any event, be significantly lower than indicated by GWCT, so please have respect for these birds if you are out shooting them! We advise no more than one bird should be shot per Gun if out shooting in an area with plenty of migrant birds and only after December 15th!
Our objectives are four-fold:
To encourage people to refrain from shooting this special little bird until populations recover.
To inspire all of us to “tread” more lightly on our environment and wildlife, appreciating and respecting our Woodcock and other wild species as a special and rare sight and doffing our caps as they pass, with a warmer feeling in our hearts!
To support the research currently being undertaken by GWCT; and lobby GWCT to produce a Guide as to what numbers per (say) 100 acres constitute a sustainable population of natives and a directive on how many may be shot as a percentage of that population per annum.
To commission and fund research into the optimum habitat for Woodcock and to work with and sponsor supportive Landowners to manage such woodland requirements.
Additionally, please be aware that shooting jeopardises the lives of a number of native and migratory Woodcock, which are tagged, providing valuable research information. Please be aware that the cost of tagging and (satellite) monitoring is some £7,000 per bird and as such any “tagged” bird shot is a great loss to both the population and the research project it is helping to inform!
If individuals must shoot Woodcock, then please consider doing so only after 15th December when the migrant birds start to arrive and only in a responsible manner.
Please observe the existing rule to refrain shooting birds in periods of hard weather!
Specialist Woodcock “shoots”, demonstrating on-line pictures with daily bags of 25-50 birds, would seem inappropriate currently and should cease, as should the “sport” of flighting woodcock and “targeted hunting” to provide game dealers with stock.
The Woodcock Trust is raising funds to promote this Conservation Message throughout the UK and support the valuable Woodcock Research being undertaken by The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, so that we may better understand the reasons behind the decline in Woodcock Population.
We are also lobbying GWCT to produce a Guide as basis on what numbers per (say) 100 acres constitute a “sustainable population” and a directive on how many may be shot as a percentage of that population in order to achieve a sustainable position going forwards, which should apply to all shoots in the UK.
We are promoting this Message by getting people to wear our badges and putting our stickers in their car windscreens. In addition, we are giving away FREE GIN (subject to terms and conditions) to any Member who, on a formal day’s shooting, is witnessed to “doffing” his or her cap to a pair of Woodcock seen over their peg, rather than shooting them!
What better way to fully enjoy your day’s sport, the Woodcock and your G&T at lunchtime!
There are some 5,000 shoots in the UK and only (est) 55,000 breeding male resident Woodcock. If each shoot “bags” just 1 or 2 birds a year, numbers are likely to continue to decline at a rate of 10% per annum. Positive action by the Shooting Fraternity is now required to get the message out to please refrain from shooting Woodcock across the Country – at least in the short term, to hopefully halt and reverse the decline in numbers.
Estate Owners and Shoot Managers may also try and manage scrub and woodland areas in a more pro-active manner to provide a better habitat resource and seek to limit disturbance in woodland, especially during the breeding season.
Please see our Further information link for more material on Woodcock and Habitat Management and what YOU CAN DO TO HELP!
If our Conservation Message is not heeded and numbers continue to fall, it is likely that some organisations may ultimately call for a complete ban on Woodcock shooting.
Such a ban may remove the “sporting” incentive for landowners and shoot managers to leave pockets of boggy ground and scrub woodland on Estates and shoots, so favoured by Woodcock, possibly further compounding their demise.
The Woodcock Trust has been set up in 2017 as a Club. At this point in time we are not a charity, but aim to become one if we get reasonable traction in our membership numbers.
Our hope is for YOU to help US help THEM; so that we may all still enjoy the sight of these excellent little birds in their melancholy flight, on a crisp winter day!
You Can Help
Please join as a Member today for just £10.00 per annum and receive a free badge and car sticker.