Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes: Today marks an important day in the countryside calendar: the start of the pheasant shooting season. Very few of us are lucky enough to shoot grouse on or after the ‘glorious twelfth’, the 1st September used to be a much bigger event before the decline in the grey partridge population, but now it is the 1st October when pheasants come into season that marks the beginning of most people’s shooting season.

It is also a good day to remind ourselves why we should be rightly proud of our unique game shooting culture. Game management and conservation have helped shape and enhance our landscapes for generations, and that management is now involved in some two thirds of the rural land mass of the UK. Nearly two million hectares are actively managed for conservation, which is more than 10 times the total area of all national and local nature reserves, and, as a result, all wildlife thrives where land is properly managed for shooting.

Shooting, including clays and targets, is worth £2 billion to the UK economy and involves more than a million people.  The contribution that it makes to the rural economy is therefore enormous, and frequently in places where other sources of income are few and far between.

There are also real health benefits to eating game. Pheasant and partridge contain a high level of iron, protein and vitamin B(6) and venison is high in protein, low in saturated fatty acids and contains higher levels of iron than any other red meat . The fact that game is also a wild, free-range alternative to farmed meat, just adds to its attraction, and its popularity just keeps increasing. Visit our Game to Eat campaign website for recipes.

So whether you enjoy crisp, winter days out in the field with your dog and friends, young and old, or if you want to once again enjoy fresh free-range game at its best, rejoice! The shooting season is here again.

Follow Tim on Twitter @CA_TimB