What is ‘pheasant shooting’?

Put simply, pheasant shooting is the annual slaughter of millions of birds, which are shot as live targets between October and the end of January (the so-called ‘open season’ for pheasant shooting).

But just as with ‘grouse shooting’ this isn’t something that can or should be put simply. It is a major element of a horrifying industry that involves the destruction of millions of birds, thousands of foxes and native predators, raptor persecution, and the closure of huge areas of land to the general public.



Some key facts:



Poisoned Buzzards/RSPB

Pheasant shooting is also to blame for lowland raptor persecution, the illegal killing or taking of birds of prey. All birds of prey are protected by law, but gamekeepers are routinely charged with killing them to ‘protect pheasants’. One well known case in Wiltshire involved Archie Watson and the discovery of five dead Common Buzzards and three Red Kites in a well on the shooting estate he worked on.

Just how much land is used to raise and shoot pheasants isn’t known for sure, but research by Who Owns England discovered that in certain shooting-dominated areas like North Yorkshire a staggering million pheasants were released. This one area contains much of the North Yorks Moors National Park which to a large extent is little more than a privately-owned shooting club where enormous numbers of pheasants (and Red Grouse) are killed.

In 2023 a huge area of Dartmoor National Park was suddenly closed to the public when hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall banned ‘wild camping’ on his 4000 acre estate to ‘protect’ his pheasants.