What Is The Glorious Twelfth?

For a hunting photographer, one of the biggest days on the hunting calendar is the 12th August, also known to many hunters simply as the “Glorious Twelfth”.

The reason for this is that the 12th August is the day when the shooting season starts for red grouse and is often the busiest in the entire shooting season.

The date was first enshrined into law most recently in 1831 with the Game Act, although a previous law in 1773 retained the same starting date.

It determines when certain game can be hunted to ensure they are not driven to extinction by increasingly skilled hunters using breech-loaded shotguns and the ability to travel across the country to hunt thanks to the development of the railway.

As the red grouse is highly prized and hunters eagerly anticipate the start of the season, a lot of preparation goes into preparing the moorlands that grouse call home, with a degree of ritual and tradition that permeates throughout this day in particular.

This is especially true in the Scottish moorlands, with hunters wearing kilts and their finest hunting regalia whilst bagpipes serenade the moors ready for the start of the season.

On the day itself, beaters are trained and employed to drive out the grouse (it being illegal and deeply unethical to shoot a bird whilst it is roosting), and towards the gun-barrels of the hunters eagerly awaiting the start of the season.

The Glorious Twelfth can sometimes end up being the Glorious Thirteenth if the 12th August happens to fall on a Sunday, as game hunting is illegal on that day.

Exactly when the season ends can vary; officially the season ends on 10th December, but shooting can end as early as September if the grouse numbers are low, such as in cases of bad weather, flooding or an outbreak of disease that can quickly spread throughout the grouse population.