Deer stalking is becoming increasingly popular, according to stalking organisations and professional stalkers.
The news comes as the British Deer Society (BDS) reports record membership growth.
The BDS?s David Kenyon commented: ?The first four months of 2009 saw record numbers of people joining the BDS. Perhaps the biggest reason for the boost in stalking numbers is that magazines and websites have increasingly demonstrated it is not an elite sport but one which all individuals can enjoy.?
BASC?s deer projects officer Chris Brooks reported a similar upward trend in membership figures: ?Our stalking membership has grown by more than 20% in the past five years,? he said.
Evidence of stalking?s growing popularity has also been documented in the number of people taking stalking qualifications.
According to the Deer Initiative, more than 1,000 candidates a year now take the Deer Stalking Certificate (DSC) Level One and a significant number go on to take Level Two.
Andrew Hoon, from Deer Management Qualifications (DMQ), said there are now more than 13,000 holders of the DSC Level One and nearly 3,000 DSC Level Two holders: ?It is an astonishing success story. The DMQ never anticipated so many people taking the qualifications in the 10 years since the organisation was established.?
Professional stalkers have also reported a surge in newcomers to the sport.
Steve Pymm is the stalker at Greystoke Castle estate, in Penrith, Cumbria. He said: ?Over the past 12 months, around half of my guests have been new to the sport. In my opinion, stalking is more accessible compared with some other fieldsports, which probably accounts for these increased numbers.?
Jon Snowdon of Greenlee Deer Stalking Holidays in Northumberland, and Sporting Gun magazine, agreed: ?Stalking has certainly become more popular. In particular there has been an increase in people who have not stalked before. This can only be good for the shooting community, as there is a steady increase in stalkers protecting natural heritage while keeping the deer population at a healthy and sustainable level.?