Masked shooters will descend on rural estates across Scotland this week as a noticeably different grouse season gets under way.
The Glorious Twelfth will go ahead on Wednesday, under protocols developed and approved by the Scottish Government.
The grouse season runs for 16 weeks from August 12 to December 10, generating an estimated economic boost of around £155 million.
It is expected that this year’s launch will provide a much-needed boost to rural businesses at a time of great uncertainty.
However, the sector faces a drop in visitors from abroad, despite interest in Tayside shoots from as far afield as America, Scandinavia and mainland Europe.
It is hoped shooters from the UK will help make up the shortfall.
A new safety strategy has been put in place to ensure shoots are socially distanced, with guests asked to wear PPE.
There will also be new guidance on food hygiene and some travel restrictions.
The 2019 season ended on a high at Perthshire and Angus estates, despite gloomy weather earlier in the year.
Tim Baynes, moorland director for Scottish Land and Estates said: “Grouse shooting is by its very nature low risk, as participants are well spaced and it takes place on open moorlands.
“Estates planning to shoot early in the season have undertaken detailed risk assessments and adapted their procedures to comply with Covid-19 rules.”
He said: “After two poor grouse seasons, largely due to the weather, 2020 is looking better in many areas.
“This is the time of year when accurate counts are taken and decisions are made on whether it is sustainable to shoot.
“Some moors in the north of Scotland have decided not to shoot, but many have had a good breeding season and will be optimistic.”
He said grouse shooting only takes place when there is a good number of birds to provide a sustainable surplus for shooting.
Sporting shoots provides work for about 11,000 people in Scotland, of which 2,640 are in the grouse sector.
Mark Ewart, coordinator of the Southern Uplands Moorland Group added: “This year is different to any season we’ve experienced before, but the discussions held over the past few weeks have helped to ensure everyone knows what to do.
“This year there will be fewer guests coming to shoot from abroad, but we are hopeful that many people from within the UK will come and that will make up the shortfall.”