Researching the sea eagle story below, I am increasingly coming up against stories and rumours that give cause for concern.
There are tales circulating of estates that will put up a massive deer fence, then set about eliminating every deer on the place. Hares too. It's all about defeating the ticks that hold down grouse numbers.
A recent story in Sporting Rifle magazine quoted Colin Shedden of BASC Scotland: "There is certainly concern about the move towards monoculture of grouse on areas that were traditional grouse and deer estates... A number of keepers and stalkers and others have already expressed their concern..."
Speaking anonymously to the same magazine, an Angus stalker said: "Economic considerations are of course vital to the successful running of all estates but for one or more species to suffer possible local extermination to benefit another raises serious concerns."
Tayside police wildlife officer Alan Stewart talked of visiting an estate where the deer had been fenced out with an electric fence; the hill was "silent, almost dead, a monoculture of grouse with hardly another vestige of wildlife to be seen". He says some estates are heading in the monoculture direction and finds it "a very worrying prospect indeed."
Damn right it is. That would effectively be intensively farming grouse on the open hill. It might be hugely profitable, but it goes against everything that real shooters stand for. And it would do terrible damage to the public perception of shooting.
Perhaps more worrying still are the rumours of threats and intimidation against keepers who don't toe the line.
I hope they're just that - rumours. But having those sort of rumours going round does shooting's image no favours. I'd welcome any suggestions about how they can be proved or scotched once and for all.