Deer close seasons and shooting regulations seem set to change if the proposals of DEFRA biodiversity minister Barry Gardiner become law. Currently no rifle below .240 can be used to shoot deer in England and Wales; in Scotland, nothing below a .222 can be used for shooting roe deer and nothing below .243 for red deer.

A spokesman for the National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO) told ST: ?It is important that stalkers and gamekeepers understand the law has not changed yet, but we hope by this time next year that the new rules for improved deer management will be in place.?

Hugh Rose, of the British Deer Society (BDS), welcomed the proposals on the whole, but said a number were difficult to understand he told ?ST?: ?The BDS believes the key to successful legislation is to get the infrastructure of deer management right. The deer season should be as long as possible without incurring humane and inane penalties.

Robert Gray, campaigns director for the Countryside Alliance (CA), told ST: ?The CA set out recommendations for new deer legislation two years ago, when DEFRA first consulted on this issue;, the Government is actually trying to speed up the legislative process by alleviating the need for primary legislation, for which we should be grateful. The CA supports the extension of the season for does and hinds, and agrees that licensed culling within the close season is sometimes necessary.?

To take part in the consultation, visit www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/deer-management

The proposals are as follows:

  • Allowing .22 centrefire rifles to be used for shooting smaller species of deer.
  • Allowing any reasonable means to be used humanely to despatch deer that are suffering due to injuries or disease.
  • Allowing dependent deer to be taken or killed, at any time of year and regardless of time or close seasons, if they have been or are about to be deprived of their mother.
  • Enabling the licensed taking or killing of deer during the close season to prevent deterioration of the natural heritage, or to preserve public health and safety.
  • Enabling the licensed taking or killing at night to prevent deterioration of the natural heritage, or to preserve public health and safety.
  • Enabling the licensed taking or killing of deer at night to prevent serious damage to property.
  • Where necessary, shortening the close season for female deer to allow for better population control, though without increasing the welfare risks for dependent young.
  • Introducing a close season for Chinese water deer from 15 March to 31 October inclusive.
  • Ensuring the close season applies to hybrids of a species as well as to parent species.
  • Amending the meaning of mechanically-propelled vehicle to permit the discharging of firearms or projectile missiles from a mechanically-propelled vehicle that is stationary.