When is the best time of year to count deer?

Deer management - We look at the optimum time of year to count the number of deer on your ground.

Almanac Image March 2023

I absolutely love March, perhaps second only to the autumn, it is my favourite time of year to be in the field.

Perhaps it is the lengthening days and warmth of the sun, or the hint of greenery that returns to the trees and hedgerows. Or perhaps, it is that deer can be seen at every turn. Probably, it is a combination of all these factors.  

In relation to the deer themselves, it is important to remember that whilst all of the females in England & Wales remain in season, (plus Roe doe in Scotland) most females will be heavily pregnant.

For this reason, traditionally the season for females would finish at the end of February, however, with the pressure on DEFRA to reduce the UK’s staggeringly high deer population, supposedly the highest in a thousand years, there is little chance this will be reinstated. Indeed, if there are legislative changes to be made, they will most likely be toward lengthening open seasons.

As deer managers we must be mindful not only of this, but also that deer during March are under considerable nutritional stress.

The lack of available browse and poorer quality grazing over a prolonged winter period, can cause an inability to fight infections and disease. This is particularly so in the young, who are often caught in a debilitating spiral of decline, resulting from a cycle of starvation and infection, which peaks by late winter, when mortality is at its highest. Adding further stress by hunting, should therefore, not be done so lightly. 

Personally, I use March to select a few animals, stock up the larder, and get a good impression of numbers, and in that regard, March is the perfect time of year to carry out a deer count.

Whether you are using traditional optics, or thermal imaging equipment, due to a lack of cover, deer are more visible at this time of year. Added to which, the deer’s inclination to break from the cover of the woods to seek a little warmth from the sun, and pressure to seek out the first new buds of spring, result in them being more visible than at any other time of year. For this reason, it is the optimum time to be on your ground counting. Remember though, that in just a month or two, the females will give birth to their young, so you can reckon on adding another 30% by late spring!

March is also the perfect opportunity to size up your Roebuck, who by this stage in their antler development, will be advanced in velvet and therefore able to provide an indication of their promise in the months ahead, when the thrill of the Roebuck season gets underway.

If you’d like to get out stalking during March then contact us: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 0203 981 0159.

If you are interested in becoming a ‘Trained Hunter’, then a great place to start is by taking the PDS1 Deer Stalking Certificate. You can learn more about this nationally recognised and accredited course, by following this link: deer-stalking-course

For more on Deer Management click here: deer-management

Peter Jones 150IN 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 S Jones)

 

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