Out of Season Hind Culling in Scotland

There has been a lot of publicity recently, in the shooting and national press, about the intended Scottish National Heritage intervention on a Scottish estate to complete the hind cull. People are very upset that hinds will be culled out of season (Scottish closed season) and will have calves in tow (Bambi syndrome?!).

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I am on the Scottish National Heritage (SNH) Deer Stalkers list and have been called upon in the past to complete this sort of work. Although I don't enjoy doing it, we are directed to shoot all age groups and on some occasions, in desperation, to lamp shoot deer at night, in accordance with the "Best practice guidance". Why is this the case, you may ask.

I have been up to the Scottish Highlands, fishing in late February, early March in recent years, in the aftermath of some dreadful winters. I have seen literally hundreds of Red deer dead and dying of starvation on the hill. With many hundreds of these animals vying for small amounts of available food. Starvation is indiscriminate. In fact, the big stags which require most food are among the first to go.

It is quite pitiful to see these majestic creatures reduced to skin-and-bone, scraping around for scraps of grass and heather, eventually lying down to give up the ghost. Yes, some well-managed estates supplement the feed by providing hay for their herds and keep their high income stags going, for the season ahead.

Think also of the waste of venison income. Animals culled in season, provide a good source of income for the estate. Those which die of starvation are a complete, tragic waste of a valuable resource.

In Scotland, The Scottish National Heritage monitors the large estates and actually, in some cases, gives them their cull figures. If after a few years they do not come up with the numbers required, the SNH steps in and completes the cull for them and charges them for the privilege!

So, what is the answer? Do we let nature take its course, or as deer managers do we step in and try to address the balance in an ethical way as possible?

Scotland, I think, has unique wonderful numbers of Red and Sika deer. Some areas so remote that the deer are virtually unreachable and flourish to the point of overpopulation. We do not have that situation in England. There are very few places where extra steps are needed to complete our deer culls.

Personally, I was much against the increase to the doe open season, feeling that we were playing into the hands of unscrupulous gamekeepers, who wanted legitimate deer managers "off their ground" so that they could hurriedly try, and complete doe culls after the close of the pheasant season- but that's another story!

(Alan Shannahan is a professional Stalker and Approved witness for Deer Management Qualifications. Alan is contactable at. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

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