If you could have imagined a huntsman’s or gamekeeper’s worst nightmare, the month-long lockdown in England starting today would be it. Kennels full of hounds which have been brought to a peak of fitness, jumping out of their skins and ready for the prime of the season, relegated to road work and walking for four weeks. Woods full of pheasants released and acclimatised to the wild which will have to be fed and protected until December while every shoot day has to be cancelled. The pinnacle of a year’s work brought to a sudden and complete halt. Their colleagues in Wales and Scotland have been wrestling with their own lockdowns and restrictions, but this is the most serious blow to the countryside since we were released from the first lockdown in the summer.
We have issued advice with our colleagues from other shooting organisations on the very limited wildlife management and outdoor recreation that can continue under lockdown. In all situations this will be limited to meeting outside with only your household or one other person. Hunting has obviously had to stop completely but it will still be possible to go fishing with your own household or one other person.
To be positive, and we must be that, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the government has been very clear that the lockdown will be lifted in 28 days and life should be able to return to some sort of normality by 3rd December. The Alliance will be working tirelessly, as we did in September, to ensure that game shooting, trail hunting and other rural activities can immediately restart in a safe manner as soon as the lockdown is over. For very good reasons both hunting and shooting have a pattern to their seasons which are reassuring in their consistency. This year, however, flexibility will be absolutely critical and we are going to have to make the best of windows of opportunity as they present themselves. If that means setting up days shooting at short notice or hunting as much as we can, when we can, then so be it. We cannot be rid of the virus in the short-term, but we can take our pleasure when its back is turned.
In the meantime, our thoughts are with hunt staff, gamekeepers and so many others as they face the challenge of keeping the show on the road when the show has been postponed for a month. When we are released in December it will be their work that means we can return to our sports.