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International deer expert retires

Last month, roe deer expert Richard Prior, 83, decided that the time had come to retire as CIC senior judge “before I start to make mistakes”. To mark the occasion, the three senior CIC judges — Tony Dalby-Welsh, Charles Fenn and Barry Martin — presented Richard with an engraved glass goblet as a token of gratitude for the many years of work he has put into developing the CIC measuring system in this country and, in addition, his major contribution to deer management and conservation.

On Thursday, 12 December, glasses were raised, not only to Richard but also to his wife, Sally, who has always supported him. Sally was responsible for typing the full manuscript of Richard’s first book on roe, which was published in the Shooting Times Library series. “It was,” she admitted, “the first and last one I ever typed!”

Richard may have retired from the prestigious role of senior judge and expert of the CIC UK Delegation, but as he told Shooting Times, “I may no longer be measuring heads, but I shall always keep an interest in deer and all that goes with them.”

Richard’s association with Shooting Times has spanned 60 years — his first article was published in 1953.

Iain Watson has been appointed senior judge and expert of the CIC UK Delegation. Recently, both Iain and Tony Dalby- Welsh were named as senior international trophy judges of the CIC.

How did it all begin?

In 1951, Richard joined the Forestry Commission as a trapper with a remit to control deer for £9.10s a week. By 1970, he had been promoted to ranger, before rising to head ranger. His final posting with the Forestry Commission was as conservancy wildlife adviser.

He moved on to what was then known as the Game Conservancy, where he was information officer and deer consultant, a post he held for five years before becoming a freelance deer consultant.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, deer were still being treated as vermin, and it is no exaggeration to suggest that Richard’s efforts, in conjunction with other like-minded enthusiasts, to promote and legitimise stalking and deer management are among his finest achievements.

Though he and another deer expert, Edgar Barclay, published annual reports of notable roe heads, measured in inches, the CIC Continental measurement system was still a closed book. But Richard, with G. Kenneth Whitehead, got to grips with the requirements and attended Saint Hubert Club meetings, where they measured heads from 1956 onwards, using the CIC formula.

Today, the CIC trophy measuring system is now recognised worldwide. However, as far as the UK is concerned, without Richard’s enormous input and involvement, there can be little doubt that the CIC Trophy Commission in this country would not exist in its current form.

The highly professional and experienced CIC measurers now provide an outstanding service to deerstalkers in this country, assessing literally hundreds of heads on an annual basis and the results, in terms of medal heads, are published in the Shooting Times annual review, which appears in the New Year.