Notebook: Hare today . . .

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The Independent Online
IT'S GRIM up on the grouse moors: no grouse. Disease and a cold snap just before hatching in May have meant that there just aren't enough to shoot at, 12 August or no 12 August. This is good news for the few, but not so good for the estates; one estimate is that 80 per cent of shoots have been cancelled on the Scottish and northern English moors.

Enterprise and vision, though, are not dead. Jamie Williamson, for example, on the Alvie estate, in Invernesshire, is down to two-and-a- bit days of grouse shooting, but is offering his paying guests clay pigeon shooting, fishing, archery and - very popular with Europeans - blue hare shooting.

It's difficult not to feel a bit of a twinge for the blue hare, a charming creature, formally known as Lepus timidus. After all, it normally doesn't get shot at until November. So, I hear you say, what's three months? A lot to a blue hare, especially when for the rest of the year everyone on the estate is hoping protected predators like peregrine falcons will eat you rather than the precious grouse. No wonder they turn white in winter.

A big part of the problem is that the blue hare can be driven on to the guns. Rabbits disappear down holes, but blue hares don't. They're not as tricky to shoot as grouse, so they are only a poor substitute. Start digging, timidi.

Williamson will also lay on microlight flying. Personally, with all those frustrated killers around, the last thing I would want to do is come in out of the sun low over the heather. Good luck, everyone.

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