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Scotland abolishes close season for male deer

From 21 October, there will be no close season for male deer of any species in Scotland, despite concerns from the British Deer Society


There are concerns over the welfare implications of the new legislation on Scotland's deer population

Last week, the Scottish parliament voted on government proposals to abolish the close season for male deer in Scotland. Despite having been rejected by the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, parliament voted to accept the government proposal. This means that from 21 October 2023, there will be no close season for male deer of any species in Scotland.

The British Deer Society (BDS) did not support the abolition of male deer close seasons as communicated in its government consultation, yet the Scottish government decided to press ahead regardless. The BDS expressed its fear at the possibility of “our most enigmatic mega-fauna being treated as pests”.

This measure is also not an effective one for deer population control, argued James Scott, head of policy and external affairs in Scotland for the BDS. “Effective management of the female deer population is the only thing that will produce meaningful population reduction,” he said.

In much of Scotland, this change is effectively unnecessary as those needing to control male deer out of season have already been able to do so under a general authorisation. Image intensifying and thermal sights have also now been legalised for controlling deer numbers at night.

UK professional stalker of the year and ST contributor Chris Dalton said: “Yet again the voice of reason, backed up by well-documented scientific fact and input from experienced deer managers, has been ignored by a Scottish government propped up by a Green Party that seems hell-bent on rushing through a raft of ill-thought-out legislation.

“The decision to declare an open season on male deer, particularly on the open hill, has serious welfare implications – not only for the stags but also for the breeding hinds, which have difficulties enough on open ranges in winter simply trying to survive the often extreme conditions.

“Allowing thermal sights to be used for stalking during daylight hours was inevitable and brings Scotland in line with the rest of the UK, but the use of such scopes in darkness is already abused – we are regrettably increasingly treating our deer species as vermin, which I find abhorrent.” FP Scotland abolishes close season for male deer “We are increasingly treating our deer species as vermin, which is abhorrent.”

This story first appeared in Shooting Times, Britain’s oldest and best-selling shooting magazine. Published every Wednesday, the 141-year-old title has long been at the coalface of the countryside, breaking the stories that matter to you. Subscribe here.