Close seasons are to remain in place, says the Deer Commission for Scotland (DCS). The recently released annual DCS report explains the work being done to determine whether seasons need to change and if shooters should undergo some form of competence exam before they stalk. In his foreword, DCS chairman John Milne says:

?The DCS advised the minister that the close seasons should remain in place for a further period, but that areas relating to a responsibility of care, competence to shoot, unified data collection systems and local sustainable deer management should be explored before further recommendations on the close seasons were made by the DCS to the minister. The minister responded, accepting these recommendations and instructing the DCS to undertake this work in full consultation with our key stakeholders.?

The four key areas mentioned by Mr Milne are now being investigated and researched before any decision on close seasons is made. The four individual studies aim to make the management of deer in Scotland a more measured, controlled and on-going project. One aspect of the research that could most affect individual shooters is the study into their competence to shoot. Last month, the 10,000th person completed the DSC1 course, the completion of which could potentially be used as a measure of competence.

The report states: The overall aim of this project is to develop a definition of competence within the framework of deer management, which can be used by the deer sector. The project will identify and evaluate the different ways those who shoot deer can demonstrate competence, or that those who accompany people shooting deer can demonstrate competence.

John Milne also told ST: ?One of the main reasons for doing the research is to ensure that stalking and deer management is seen to be acting in a responsible manner. One of the best ways to go about doing that is to demonstrate high levels of competence. We?ve been discussing the matter with all our stakeholders and there is general agreement that a DSC qualification will be a good way of measuring that competence. We?ve also got to look at grandfather?s rights and so on.

Amateur stalkers are also often keen to get their level 2 and that?s perhaps a level we will look at as the standard. It?s all got to be discussed and we won?t go ahead without the full support of our stakeholders. The other issue is that everyone who shoots won?t need these qualifications necessarily but, if they don?t, whoever they are with must be qualified. We will be looking into this over the next two or three years.?