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Ireland extends deer season for both sexes

Concerns about overgrazing has prompted the Irish government to extend the season — but more notice would have been welcomed.

The hunting season in Ireland has been extended by three months for mature male deer and by one month for female and antlerless males. The Irish government’s extension is with immediate effect. 

Overgrazing by deer puts serious pressure on native woodlands and peatland habitats in the Republic of Ireland. Now hunting of female and antlerless deer can continue until the end of the March and of males until 30 April. In addition, the 2024-25 male deer hunting season will start a month earlier on 1 August. 

Minister of State for Nature Malcolm Noonan from the Green Party, and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the move signalled the implementation of a “key recommendation” from the report of the Irish Deer Management Strategy Group (IDMSG). 

The IDMSG was established in 2022 by Mr McConalogue to develop initiatives to ensure sustainable deer numbers, while achieving the objectives of landowners relating to biodiversity, forestry and agriculture. In November, the IDMSG delivered a comprehensive report with several recommendations regarding deer management in Ireland. 

Mr McConalogue said: “It has become clear that deer densities in areas across the country are above a sustainable level for land management activities and are impacting on farming, forestry and nature conservation. Extending the deer hunting season is one of the priority actions identified to combat this increasing problem.” 

Stalker and Shooting Times contributor Will O’Meara, who lives in Wicklow, said: “The season extension for male and female deer is a positive step and it’s very relieving news that the government is enacting some of the recommendations from the Irish Deer Management Strategy Group. However, the industry could have done with more warning. 

“Coillte, the state-run forestry organisation, found out about the changes with the public and thus its online hunting permit system has not yet been updated for the extended season; no hunting can take place in its forests until this situation is sorted,” he cautioned. 

“That said, the government making the hunter a central part of the solution to the deer overpopulation problem is a very pleasant surprise. When the Green Party is telling you to hunt more, this must be seen as a good position.”