Shooting and deer welfare groups were celebrating a victory for deer management last week with the announcement from DEFRA that the open seasons for hinds and does of all deer species in England and Wales are to be extended by four weeks. The extension is two weeks longer than that originally proposed and means that, from next year, the season for all female deer will end on 31 March.

The news was announced in the report from the House of Commons? Regulatory Reform Committee (RRC), which considered amendments to be made to the 1991 Deer Act using a Regulatory Reform Order. The extension is one of a raft of measures that the committee accepted, including the introduction of a close season for Chinese water deer, the allowance of any reasonable method for humane despatch and the use of .22 centrefire rifles for shooting smaller deer species but significantly not roe deer, as is the case in Scotland.

Shooting organisations were quick to claim the changes as a victory for consensus. British Deer Society (BDS) spokesman David Kenyon was delighted. He commented: ?The success of this initiative is an example of just what we can achieve when we all pull together, as well as being a positive step forward for deer management and welfare.?

In its report, the RRC highlighted a letter it had received from Mark Nicolson, chairman of the BDS, sent to them on behalf of the deer management coalition, advocating the longer extension of the season. It was the fact that the coalition represented the overwhelming majority of deer managers that swung the committee?s decision in favour of four weeks over two. The report stated: The BDS stated that those bodies which argued in favour of a close season starting on April 1 represented the majority of the deer management industry, though no weighting had been applied to their views [in the initial consultation]. It added: The point which the BDS makes about the consultation is well made and we have taken careful account of it.

Surprisingly, the RSPCA also conceded that a longer open season would be preferable, on the grounds that it would have the effect of minimising the need for night shooting during the close season. The RSPCA?s support was attributed by commentators to the fact that the society is a member of the Deer Initiative.