GROUSE hunters gearing up for the shooting season in Lancashire are set for a bumper season, despite the stagnant economy and tough breeding conditions earlier this year.

Today is The Glorious Twelfth, which heralds the beginning of the four-month grouse-shooting period.

People from all over the country head for the Lancashire moors, paying thousands of pounds to join exclusive shoots of wild red grouse.

But this year the breeding season for the bird, found high up on the exposed heather moorlands, has been a rollercoaster with fluctuating temperatures and a hot, dry spring causing crucial insects to hatch too early to feed the chicks.

Edward Bromet, chairman of the Moorland Association, said shooting parties would be out in the Forest of Bowland and the Pennine Moors.

He said: “As always, the weather this year has played a huge role in the success of breeding for the wild red grouse and other important ground nesting birds.

"Despite another very harsh winter, the grouse have come through it in healthy condition helped by strong populations left from the very good 2010 breeding season.”

In Lancashire, there are concerns that there will be low populations of grouse because of the harsh winter and unpredictable weather this year.

Mr Bromet said: "Spring pair counts were generally very good, but the dreadful weather from May 12 until mid-June seems to have greatly reduced or wiped out many broods.

"The moors in this region are at very high altitude and being in the west catch most of the wet weather.

"There are exceptions with pockets that look good, even very good, but generally an average season for most and poor for others.

"In the North Pennines there are generally good populations of grouse across the area with a few localised patches that report brood sizes have been reduced."

Meanwhile Charles Bowman, who organises shoots at the Inn at Whitewell, said he was looking forward to a good shooting season with grouse numbers up in pockets of the Trough of Bowland.