Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Glorious Twelfth (of August)

Why me? WHY ME?!?!?!?!
I did a half day tour of the Yorkshire area and one of the events the guide mentioned was "The Glorious Twelfth." This day begins the hunting season by allowing outdoor sportsmen (and sportswomen) the opportunity to hunt Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus, as the scientists say it).

The bird is only found on the British Isles. Its main breeding ground is the heather fields of northern England and Scotland. So the hunts are conducted there. Many shooting parties come up the night before, stay at a hotel or bed and breakfast, have a leisurely breakfast, and head out for the hunt.

The challenging part of the hunt is that the birds fly low and fast, sometimes as fast as 80 miles per hour. Also the birds are wild, so no one can predict the numbers or best locations each season. Skill and luck is required.

The unchallenging part is that the hunters hunker down in a line of butts (I kid you not, "butts" are like little ditches or mounds where they lie in wait, guns ready). Beaters go through the heather waving sticks or shouting or doing whatever they can to get the birds to fly off towards the butt line and their anticipated doom. The grouse are often shipped quickly to big towns and cities where people can pay extra to eat the first of the twelfth, or later on, the catch of the season.

So if you want to see the heather in bloom, pick a day before August 12. Or at least don't wear a hat with a feather in it if you go after the 11th.

We are definitely not participating in the hunting; we might eat some if the opportunity arises. Or, at least, I would try some. I'm not sure how adventurous my wife is. The children would eat it if it was made like chicken nuggets, which I don't think we'll be able to find.

Read more about the Glorious Twelfth here and here and here and grouse recipes here.

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