March - A Look Ahead at Deer Stalking Across the UK

Peter Jones considers the dilema of stalking late winter females. 

Fallow Herd

During a ‘Talking Stalking’ evening hosted by BASC last year, I recall Jamie Cordery of the ‘Deer Initiative’ asking a question of a room of recreational and professional stalkers: “Do you think that the open season for shooting females should close at the end of February?” The unequivocal response, was ‘Yes’.

Sure, this was not the most scientific poll ever carried out, albeit it was probably better than many polls conducted on election night! But it did come as somewhat of a surprise to me, mainly because, as a deer manager I would rather have the choice.

Historically in England & Wales this was not so as the season for females drew to a close at the end of February, something which is still true of Scotland where the season closes even earlier, on the 15th February.

On the one hand, I can see the reasoning behind those advocating a shorter season, after all, deer experience a spiral of decline in the late winter months which results in higher rates of mortality than at any other time of the year. Added to which females at this time of year are heavily pregnant. However, on the other hand, with increasing calls, similar to those in the recent ‘Guardian’ article: ‘The Deer Cull Dilema’ (20th Feb 2018), demanding an increased cull, it must be appreciated that in some areas of the UK there is a strong case for an extended open season, ironically nowhere more so than in Scotland where the season is shortest.   

It appears evident, that the decision should be made at a local level, the reason being, that whilst in some areas deer numbers are too high there are equally as many areas where deer numbers are under control. Localised decision making rather than wide spread policy making must surely be the key. I say this with some degree of confidence, safe in the knowledge that most deer managers that I have met, are highly mindful of the balance between pressing their animals at times of stress, and the requirement of keeping numbers at healthy, sustainable levels. In order to accommodate this level of local decision making, I am keen to see the legislation in England & Wales remain as it stands and allow the ‘man on the ground’ to decide whether to refrain in March or press on with the cull.  

Whatever your position on stalking late winter females, whether it be reducing the population or restoring it, as the days lengthen and the UK begins to awaken to the promise of spring, March is a fine time to be out in the countryside.  

Open Sights film still

On to our latest film, in which we have something a bit special. In a climate in which many stalkers are seemingly being encouraged to take longer and longer shots at their quarry using high end optics, we’re getting back to basics as we get our hands on the new Highland Stalker Rifle from John Rigby & Co and try out the rifles ‘open sights’ in an attempt to reconnect with our quarry. To watch our latest film, follow this link ('Hunting with Open Sights' Feb '18): short-films

Editorpic150IN Season in England & Wales:  Roe Doe, Fallow Doe & Fallow Buck, Sika Stag & Sika Hind, Red Stag & Red Hind, CWD Buck & CWD Doe, Muntjac Buck & Muntjac Doe.

Off Season in England & Wales: Roebuck. 

In Season in Scotland:  Roe Doe, Fallow Buck

Off Season in Scotland: Red Stag & Red Hind, Sika Stag & Sika Hind, Roebuck and Fallow Doe. 

(Editor - Peter Jones) 


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