The grouse shooting season has officially begun, although programmes on some Scottish estates are expected to be delayed or cancelled due to poor weather.
The 121-day season starts on August 12 each year, known as “The Glorious 12th”.
Perthshire and southern parts of the country are expecting good results, but areas of the Highlands suffered late snow and cold, wet weather in June.
Robert Rattray, h ead of Sporting Lets, a division of Galbraith, said that estates take decisions after assessing their bird populations.
He said: “Some estates have already made their decision and some have cancelled part or all of their programmes, some will not be shooting at all, some will have reduced the number of days they are going to shoot.
“But some may find that as the season goes on they have more grouse.
“No estate wants to overshoot so they are very careful about what they commit to shooting.”
The Alvie Estate near Aviemore in the Highlands was one of a number of estates where shooting began as scheduled on Saturday.
David Kinnear, factor of the estate, said: “The weather has lessened expectations on some moors. However, we are pleased to be shooting today on the 12th.
“The fact is that estates still have to invest and prepare for the season all year round. It’s quite a commitment but I think it pays off, not just in terms of tourism but also with conservation benefits.”
Even when scaled back, the economic contribution to national and local economies from grouse shooting is expected to be significant.
Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “The grouse industry is a lifeline for many young families and local businesses located in remote rural communities who rely on its employment opportunities both directly and indirectly.
“Continued moorland management is not only economically beneficial but is of huge benefit to many other moorland birds, some of which are endangered – including the curlew, which is on the red list for birds of conservation concern.”
Recent figures show more than £23 million flows directly into local businesses in trade generated by estate activity.
The Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group’s ‘Game for Growth’ strategy aims to increase the value of country sports to the Scottish economy by £30 million by 2020 – bringing the total to £185 million.
Although prospects for the season this year are something of a mixed bag, international interest in Scotland’s country sports has continued.
Andrew Grainger, of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group, said: “We are witnessing a continued level of enthusiasm this year from international tourists who are intent on sampling Scotland’s country pursuits.
“Scotland continues to attract a large number of European sports enthusiasts with increased interest this year from Scandinavia, Germany and France in particular, as well as North Americans who are particularly keen given the favourable exchange rates.”
While sporting estates hail the economic and conservation benefits of grouse shooting, many wildlife campaigners say the practice has a negative impact on the environment.
They say land is managed to maximise the number of grouse available to shoot, including practices such as the legal culling of animals such as mountain hares, and the illegal persecution of birds of prey such as hen harriers and golden eagles.
Harry Huyton, director of animal charity OneKind, said: “There is nothing glorious about a day famous only for marking the beginning of the killing of tens of thousands of birds across the Scottish countryside for fun.
“There is no place for bloodsports in a modern Scotland, and we believe driven grouse shooting should be banned outright on ethical, conservation and environmental protection grounds.”
Last week, RSPB Scotland said the decline in hen harrier numbers was down to “the increasingly intensive management of driven grouse moors”.
The charity wants a system of grouse moor licensing to be put in place to protect hen harriers and tackle wider “damaging grouse moor management practices”.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced an independent inquiry into licensing of game bird shooting and management of grouse moors.