Where Have All the Deer Gone?
- Thursday, 26 October 2023
Professional deer stalker Peter S Jones reveals why deer appear to vanish the moment that the ‘open season’ gets underway.
After seven long months of seeing nothing but females during their statutory closed season, at last the moment comes when you can start shooting them. Regrettably, things may not be that simple.
Studies have long revealed that animals that exhibit group or herding behavioural traits, may possess a collective thought process and group dynamic that aids survival.
This has long been witnessed in migratory birds, African plains game and other species. I have long witnessed this to also be true of deer, whom I believe have a collective thought process that enables them to appreciate that they need to be more vigilant during hunting, or ‘open’ season, than at other times of year.
Perhaps you yourself, have found yourself observing Fallow buck stood out in the open fields during May, June, and July, only for them to apparently vanish from the start of the season in August. Or Fallow, Red or Sika females in plain view during late summer, before disappearing in November.
Don’t take my word for it, studies such as that of the ‘Institute of Zoo & Wildlife Research’ reveal that we are not imagining things. In one such study in 2008 the UK’s native Roe deer (Capreolus Capreolus) were observed to be more vigilant during hunting season than at other times of year.
Common sense really. If we are to believe in collective thought processes in group animals, as we must, we must appreciate that, as the leaves begin to fall and as the shadows lengthen, vigilance, night feeding and alertness will be engrained in collective deer behaviour.
Frustrating as it is, when you step out on the 01st November, at the beginning of the season for females, don’t be too surprised therefore, that all the females will have apparently vanished from plain sight.
You may have to work a little harder than expected, but ‘hey’, that’s why it’s called hunting and that’s why we have such begrudging admiration for our quarry!
Finally, in a first this November 2023 I have had to amend the details at the bottom of this almanac which detail what is IN/OUT of season. The required amendment is in relation to Scotland and comes as a result of a legislative change to the Statutory Closed season in Scotland which means that all deer in Scotland this November will become shootable.
To find out more and listen to my thoughts on this, you may wish to watch the following short film: youtube.com/watch
If you would like to learn how to hunt deer and harvest your own venison, a great place to start is by taking the PDS1 Deer Stalking Certificate. You can get started and enrol here, via the UK Shooting & Hunting Academy: deer-stalking-course
IN 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: All deer.
(Peter Jones - Editor)