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A place to make your bank account nervous

The Stalking Show at Stafford is bigger and better than ever and if you believe in deer management, it’s the place to be, says James Sutcliffe.

As I write, I am in between bouts of unloading a van following the annual Stalking Show held at the Staffordshire County Showground. I can genuinely say that it was the best one yet, with a bigger presence and far more to see and do than in previous years. Three halls were chock-full of the latest clothing, rifles, ammunition, knives and new gadgets and gizmos, all targeted directly at the deer management world. The amount of gorgeous, carbon-fibre-clad rifles had my heart rate climbing and my bank account nervous. 

A key focus of the show was venison and its production and promotion. This is a hugely important aspect of deer management and one that frequently encounters hurdles that can threaten to disrupt our management plans. I’m sure many of us have encountered game dealers who have too much deer to take any more. 

So it is fantastic to see and hear that so many of us are identifying ways around these stumbling blocks, finding gaps in the market and getting locally sourced venison on to the plates of local people. I spoke to a good number of people who were either in the process of setting up their own venison businesses or telling me how well they were doing in this area. 

All the major shooting organisations were there as well, providing something for all members. BASC had a fantastic butchery area which proved to be a constant draw. Watching the next generation of deerstalkers get stuck in and learn how to break down a carcass and turn it into all manner of delicious products was a genuine pleasure. 

The head-measuring service was kept busy all weekend, kicking off the year with a bang after what’s been a fairly quiet winter for us. I’m in the process of compiling all the data, so look out for a full report soon. 

What stood out for me at the show was the sheer variety of people I got to speak to. Everyone from those just starting out in their deerstalking journeys, through aspiring recreational stalkers right up to full-time professional deer managers — all present in one place and for the same reasons. I spoke to people from the highest of the Scottish Highlands and from all the way down to the Cornish coast. 

It’s a staggering demonstration of the surging popularity in the stalking world and the commonalities between the issues and experiences encountered when managing deer in the UK. Plain to see too was the huge admiration and respect for deer clearly shown by every single person I spoke to. 

In today’s world, where shooting is under ever-constant scrutiny, having such passionate individuals engaged in a hugely important and vital management role is a massive reason why deerstalking and the management of our wild deer is being viewed so favourably by government. 

Grant money 

I’m sure by now most deer managers will be fully aware of the grant money being made available for deer management activities and equipment, as part of the various woodland creation schemes across the country. Likewise, the recent grant money now accessible for those looking to acquire a deer chiller is a real step in the right direction. 

The Stalking Show is a fantastic event, and a huge shoutout must go out to the organisers for putting it on so professionally. The show has cemented itself in the world of shooting events and game fairs and deserves its place in the calendar of anyone with an interest in this world.