Has the Scottish Gov' lost its mind on deer control?
- Friday, 26 January 2024
Perhaps I am getting a bit soft and lazy, but I have to say, that after such a wet winter I am really looking forward to a bit of spring sunshine.
Above: Scottish Parliament at Holyrood - Has the Scottish Government lost its mind on deer control?
February is too early to realistically expect that, in fact I recall a dump of snow a few years back, that the press dramatically referred to as ‘The Beast from the East’, arriving as late as March! But nonetheless, I am excited about the months ahead.
Weather aside, I also reckon that deer start to become a bit more visible by February, by which time nutritional stress and marginally longer hours of daylight, result in more sightings than during the depths of winter in December and January.
Currently in Scotland, the opportunity to take advantage of this before the end of the season for Red, Sika & Fallow females, on 15th February, is fleeting, something that may soon be set to change, with proposals made by the Scottish Government, via its deer working group, to extend the season, potentially beyond that of the open season in England & Wales, to as late as mid-April!
My thoughts on that, another time, because there is a more pressing concern that the Nature.Scot consultation raises, and that is their recommendation, that there should be mandatory qualifications necessary to stalk deer in Scotland unaccompanied. Moreover, that these qualifications, once gained, must be renewed every few years via compulsory registration.
Beware the tide of increasing legislation and bureaucracy! Indeed, it is my lingering concern that by the time I am an old man, I will need to complete a form before I can leave the house each day!
One thing is for sure, if the Deer Working Group’s recommendations become enshrined in law, we will all be in for some extra paperwork! Notwithstanding, there are thousands of competent deer stalkers who safely and effectively manage deer in Scotland and elsewhere, who do not have a deer management qualification. Many have done so their whole lives.
I believe that rarely, has there been a more serious threat to those of us who manage deer and I am appalled at the proposals. Here’s why.
Firstly, there are thousands of competent deer stalkers who safely and effectively manage deer in Scotland and elsewhere, who do not have a deer management qualification. If the Scottish Government proposals become law, it will become mandatory that those individuals be required to attend and complete a course, at great personal expense and inconvenience – and it is unnecessary. I am sure you know people, many of whom are highly experienced deer managers, who have not completed a deer stalking course. I don’t believe that these individuals should be required to complete a course, just so that they can carry on doing, what they are already doing perfectly well?
Indeed, here is an actual response that we got to our campaign: “In my seventies and still enjoying my stalking, I hasten to add, no paperwork… I was hoping it would be my decision when to stop, when my body says enough, I hope that will remain the case, I was mentored for my open ticket, which again, I hope will see me through. Let’s hope common sense will prevail”
Secondly, I believe in consumer choice and fair competition, including in the delivery of deer stalker training.
If the requirement to have a deer stalking certificate becomes enshrined in law. The inevitable result will be overwhelming demand, spiralling costs, and time delays. But with the consumer having no alternative but to fork out.
Finaly, by insisting on mandatory training, I believe that the Scottish Government runs the risk of implementing policy that is counterproductive because, countless deer managers who are currently responsible for controlling deer numbers stand to be lost, if training becomes compulsory.
This doesn’t affect me. I’ve got the necessary qualifications and, as a training provider, I only stand to gain. It’s a question of personal freedom. I don’t want to see the renewing and updating of qualifications to stalk in Scotland, enshrined in law.
Some training providers, such as the British Deer Society, support these proposals. I do not. And others such as BASC are already moving toward registration, in their recently announced ‘Register of Deer Stalkers’ which looks like it seeks to exclude everyone without a DSC1 and DSC2.
These are dangerous times for thousands of deer stalkers up and down the UK, who stand the risk of being excluded from managing deer. We do not support mandatory qualifications and that is because we believe that training should be advisable not mandatory.
We do not, because we want to see healthy herds of deer across the UK, managed by people who live near them and care about them, not by tick-box bureaucrats in distant cities who will have to spend public money on the wholesale slaughter of deer because they have got rid of the local interest in the animals.
We are appalled by these proposed amendments and concerned about other proposals which include the use of shotguns to shoot deer, a relaxation on the closed season to shoot females and greater powers to carry out mandatory culls on private land.
We urge you to respond to the consultation. The proposals can be found in ‘The Scottish Governments Managing Deer for Climate and Nature Consultation’ dated 5 January 2024, under Theme 3: ‘Deer Welfare’, Recommendations 13 & 15 – ‘Fit and Competent’.
Respond before it’s too late. A bit of form filling now, could save you having to fill out a lot more forms in the future!
The consultation ends on the 29th March. Follow this link to take part, and please be sure to object to mandatory qualifications, compulsory registration, and increased bureaucracy!
To take part in the consultation follow this link: managing-deer-for-climate-and-nature-consultation
To watch a short film about this, please follow this link: youtube.com/watch
UK Statutory Closed Seasons for February
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: Red Stag, Sika Stag, Fallow Buck, Roebuck, Sika Hind, Red Hind and Fallow Doe until 15th Feb only. Red Stag, Sika Stag, Fallow Buck, Roebuck & Roe Doe remain in season throughout February.
Off Season in Scotland: Red & Sika Hind and Fallow Doe from 16th February.
(Peter Jones - Editor)