Ladies Who Stalk Deer
- Wednesday, 10 October 2018
Peter Jones looks at the history of women in Deer Stalking and the need to involve all people, regardless of gender, age and background in the joys of managing and stalking deer.
I recall speaking to a senior member of the Metropolitan Police mounted branch many years ago about the selection criteria that they applied to new recruits. I made the assumption that recruitment would come from members of the service who already had significant experience.
How wrong could I be, it seems that the mounted branch preferred to recruit from keen members of the service who had no prior experience of riding horses what so ever. The logic being that the new candidate had not had the opportunity to fall into bad habits, which would first have to be undone.
Why do I mention this? Well at County Deer Stalking we have also found that a little knowledge can be counterproductive.
In our experience most men come to us with experience of shooting, whether it be shooting vermin on the local farm as children, or experience of shooting in the cadets or armed forces. Men therefore often come to us with some ingrained perceptions and habits which need to be revised. This is something which is rarely true of the ladies.
Though women in deer stalking are 'few and far between', accounting for maybe less than 5% of new enquiries, when we do receive enquiries from women at County Deer Stalking, they are warmly welcomed. In part due to the fact that it is my experience, and that of my colleagues, that when women come to the sport fresh, their take up in terms of technique is faster than their male counterparts, further-more, it is not uncommon for female candidates on our PDS1 stalker training cource, to shoot better and more accurately. In terms of progression, a number of women have then continued their journey from shooting well at a target, to joining County Deer Stalking's official members club - the 'Capreolus Club' which provides an excellent, friendly environment in which many ladies can progress in their chosen sport. Indeed many go on to become exceptional stalkers.
Over the years many high-profile women have been involved in one format or another, with deer stalking. Amongst the Royals, Queen Victoria frequently accompanied her beloved Prince Albert for numerous jaunts onto the hill and Kate Middleton, quite wrongly, received much criticism in the national press for joining other Royals deer stalking. Even our current Queen Elizabeth II has ventured on to the hill in search of deer and at the queens private estate at Balmoral, deer stalking forms an important part of the day to day land management.
Amongst the aristocrats, Alma, wife of the seventh Earl of Breadalbane, who owned several huge sporting estates, including the 100,000-acre Black Mount on Rannoch Moor wrote of numerous trips onto the Scottish hills in her memoir ‘The High Tops of Black Mount’ and was said to be a fine shot, once dispatching six stags with six shots, and today one does not have to look far to find women taking an active role in deer management, with some women even acting as stalking guides.
However, whilst there are many women who take part in driven shoots, there are undoubtedly far fewer who involve themselves in deer stalking. Why this is so, is not clear. Deer Stalking can of course be a very physical pursuit, with the gralloching and extraction of large deer being an obstacle for those of a slighter frame, however I have seen elderly, frail men, employing the use of clever equipment, turn their minds to retrieving carcasses from some pretty remote locations. No, it is not this, I think it in fact simply comes down to accessibility, perception and education.
Educating all people regardless of age, sex and background, to the joys of observing, managing and stalking deer, is an obligation for all of us if we are to enhance and maintain our sports acceptance in wider society and introducing deer stalking to your wives, girlfriends and daughters is a great start. Thereafter, in order to combat the ‘Bambi effect’ I feel that it is important to adopt a confident non-apologetic tone when explaining what it is that we do, after all we have nothing to be apologetic about.
To often we are cowed into whispering about a subject that we should be shouting about. In short, deer need to be shot and as far as field sports go, setting out into the countryside to stalk wild, free ranging, sustainable animals that provide meat of the highest quality, is nothing to apologise for. So, speak confidently and openly about deer stalking and we can be assured that the reputation of deer stalking and popularity amongst men and women alike will be assured a secure future.
If you would like to try deer stalking, then contact us on: 01403 790244 / 0208 239 7311 or email: info@countydeerstalking We are the largest supplier of deer stalker outings and training in the south east of England.
Alternatively to read more about young people in deer stalking follow this link: young-blood