Glenesk is divided up into three privately owned estates whose main interests are sporting - grouse and pheasant shooting and deer stalking. Consequently game keeping employs more permanent and seasonal staff than any other business in the Glen and the reduction in grouse numbers has brought serious concern to Glenesk.
The hills may look empty and bare to the casual visitor but they are very carefully managed. Heather burning and vermin control play important roles in a well run estate and the resulting beautiful countryside is a testament to how well farmers and keepers look after Glenesk. Tourists, whether walking, cycling or driving are very welcome and bring much needed cash into the area, but they must remember that the Glen is a working environment to the majority of Glen folk and not just a playground.
Alongside hill farming, the mainstay of the Glen economy is the management of the land for shooting, stalking and fishing, for which it is well suited in view of its rich natural habitat and diverse flora and fauna. Indeed the traditional field sports are one of the few economic activities possible in the Scottish Highlands owing to the altitude and exposure. In other areas, where shooting has ceased to be a viable land use, moorland has been converted to coniferous forestry but this has not happened in Glenesk where the rolling moorlands still support the high quality environment which is necessary to maintain grouse and other bird populations and support large numbers of red deer.
Shooting, stalking and fishing have been carried out in the same manner since the mid 19th century and represent a valuable form of tourism which supports the community through employment and injects substantial income into the local economy. If grouse shooting in particular were to cease it is unlikely that the community could survive in it's present form. The key economic species, grouse, salmon and red deer are all wild creatures and, despite careful management, they are subject to natural cycles which means that the income which they generate for the estates is unpredictable and in most years insufficient to cover the running costs.
As there is no public subsidy for sporting management, regular reinvestment is required by the owners, which is typical of highland estates throughout Scotland. Indeed it has been a feature of all traditional land uses in upland Scotland throughout the 20th century that regular inward investment from private sources, as well as the public subsidy of agriculture and forestry, has been necessary to ensure that the environment continues to be managed and that communities remain in the Glens and Straths.