The Glorious Twelfth or the 12th day of August traditionally marks the start of the shooting season for red grouse in Scotland. However, there are plenty of other game options available throughout the seasons as Andy Smith and Neil Gilmour from Castle Game are keen to explain.
This dynamic duo are keen to champion the very best produce from Scotland's wild larder, and by insisting on the highest standards from their shooters they count some of Edinburgh's top restaurants as regular customers including, The Kitchin, The Little Chartroom, Fhior.
They stock a full range of venison: Roe, Red, Sika and Fallow deer according to the season, which is tagged for full traceability and provide a range of cuts - including haunches, as well as mince, burgers, and handmade sausages.
From their small retail unit at Trinlaymire Farm, Linlithgow they also sell other Scotttish seasonal wild game including Woodpigeon, Rabbit, Hare and Wild Boar, as well as recently expanding to stock Scottish beef and local seafood.
On-site they are able to age and process the wild game to the customers' requirements, all of which are brought to them from a handpicked bunch of around 60 local highly qualified guns from Edinburgh, Lothians, Fife, and the Borders.
They are both passionate about Scotland's natural larder and about getting game meat enjoyed by a wider audience.
Neil explains that "when people say to me, that they don't like venison. You ask then when they had it, 90% of the time will have eaten meat tainted by hormones.
The flavour changes dramatically when the stags are in rutt so we just try to convince them just give it a go again." Andy always suggests to venison doubters that should replace venison mince into their usual chili recipe, before writing the meat off as not for them.
The countryside is in Andy's blood, he fondly remembers a childhood immersed in the great outdoors.
He said "I've been involved since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I spent every spare minute helping my grandfather who was a gamekeeper on the Dundas Estate for 40 years."
At that time there were two full-time gamekeepers tasked with rearing and looking after the game birds. Although Andy admits that, "pheasants, are off their heads, and the smallest brained bird in the world"
However, instead of a full-time career in the countryside, he joined the police force and spending the next 30 years working for Lothian Borders police, where he met his business partner Neil Gilmour (also in the police force) and they discovered that they shared a lifelong love of the great outdoors, shooting, gundogs and game.
When they retired they decided to give the business a go, and both admit they wish they had done it sooner.
In May this year, Castle Game was nominated in The UK Eat game awards, finishing in second place in the Best Game butcher award also securing third place for the value for money for a game product with their cajun spiced venison burgers.
Both are extremely proud and pleased that their customers mobilized to vote for them. Andy said, "it is a nice feeling, and means they like what we are doing."
Neil is from a fourth-generation farming background but has more than 30 years' of countryside experience beginning his a career working as a gamekeeper, before working at a trout fishery near Lockerbie and Moffat, he explains growing up " If you didn't fish or shoot, then there wasn't much to do."
He has also involved in game management and deer stalking before joining the police force initially in The Met before coming back to join the Scottish Police force.
Even whilst in the force Fishing was a major part of his life, he even managed to make the Scottish Police, as well as the National police, fly fishing teams. He chuckles admitting "always a wonderful experience to be paid to fish"
He's also a talented cook who is happy to share his recipes and pass on cooking tips. In the past, Neil said, "It broke my heart to see the best game from Scotland, being exported to Northern France and Spain. So our aim is to provide affordable quality game and venison to everyone in the Central Belt."
Just cook the black pudding in the shallow pan, set aside when done.
Then use the fat to cook the breasts, searing for around 45 seconds on either side before setting aside the meat to rest.
Wilt the wild rocket, and cook some wild berries in the remaining juice to make a sauce to pour over the meat.
Slice and serve pigeon with the crumbled black pudding over the top.
It only takes about five minutes but it tastes and looks amazing.
Lockdown saw the business having to adapt, focusing efforts on supplying a local market which now makes up 90% of their business.
They speedily provided game meat packs via their Facebook page that proved extremely popular although some packs even traveled as far as London.
As the restaurant work returns, they now see their local customers as a key part of their future, expanding their range to include 28-day aged beef products from Millers of Speyside and seafood sourced from local boats in Port Seaton and Cove.
They both love the fact that business is booming and they can supporting the local economy, employing a part-time butcher and shop worker to help them out.
The game products are prepared as simply as possible, they add spices to their burgers and sausages but they don't go overboard, they prefer instead to let the products speak for themselves. A key selling point for their local customers is that their products are gluten and additive-free.
Neil said; "good things have come out of the pandemic, our customer feedback has been great. The Scottish public has been getting to try high-quality game, at an affordable price, and to sample things they never had before."