We have all seen the impact the snow and freezing conditions have particularly on waders and water birds both last winter and in this current spell. For many the thought of many of these species having to cope with the possibility of increased disturbance from shooting in the middle of this is abhorrent. There is a system in place that allows for the issue of a call for 'voluntary restraint' after a fixed period of temperatures reaching certain criteria. That call was issued in England today by The British Association of Shooting & Conservation (BASC).
BASC define voluntary restraint as follows: Voluntary restraint is showing respect for our quarry by not going shooting where birds are struggling under difficult conditions. Unusual movements of birds or birds in poor condition are signs of such difficulties and, regardless of any restraint call, an indication that shooting should be reduced or stopped to enable birds to recover and breed successfully the following spring. Restraint is a decision taken by shooters at a local level according to need.
If temperatures continue until Day 13 (nationally) then a statutory protection order can be issued by government making it illegal to shoot waterfowl and waders. During a statutory suspension, it is illegal to shoot any ducks (including reared mallard), geese, waders (including woodcock and snipe), coots or moorhen.
Whilst the system is far from perfect as a result of being applied nationally it does mean that shooters should now be refraining from shooting activities that cause disturbance to waterfowl and waders. It's worth noting that disturbance won't be restricted to shooters here either so it's well worth practising what we preach so wandering around still wet areas to deliberately flush Woodock and Jack Snipe should be avoided. Having inadvertently flushed one yesterday as well as a few Common Snipe I felt pretty shit, I'll be avoiding the areas they're feeding in going forward.
If you are out birding at the weekend and you come across anyone ignoring the call for voluntary restraint and continuing to shoot wildfowl or waders you can forward the details via the contact form on the BASC website.