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Shooting deer near houses. Is it legal?

There are more and more deer around. For Shooting Times Graham Downing advises a stalker who has been asked to carry out some culling.

deer in garden

Q: We’ve all heard of the proliferation of the deer population over the last few years. Where I live muntjac are starting to be a real nuisance in local gardens. My neighbours know that I go deer stalking and have asked me to come over to do something about controlling them. What’s the law on shooting deer near houses?

I would help the neighbours but I am not entirely sure of the legality here. Can I carry out a deer cull or should I turn them down, much as I would like to help. They have a very large garden.

Shooting deer near houses – where you stand

A: You are right to be cautious. 
You need to be extremely careful if you are going to be using a rifle in domestic gardens or close to houses. You’ll need to put a lot of planning, preparation and forethought into the issue.

Will other properties be able to see you shooting? If so, then I would advise you to decline the request. Otherwise you could provoke a major incident.

Conduct a risk assessment

On the other hand, you say that the garden in which you have been asked to cull the deer is very large. How secluded and private is it? Is it well screened by trees?

Take your time, walk around, look at the available cover and carry out a risk assessment. Take note of the following points.

  • Identify a place that offers a totally safe shot and use a high seat to prevent any risk of your bullet travelling beyond the property boundary.
  • Use a sound moderator to reduce the noise of your shot.
  • Telephone the police control room using the non-emergency number 101 before you go out. Explain who you are, what you are proposing to do and where you are doing it, give a start time and a stop time, along with your vehicle registration.
  • Give your mobile phone number to the police and carry your phone with you, along with your firearm certificate.


Muntjac stalking

Generally a 6 ft 6 in fence (2m) will keep deer out

Prevention could be better than cure

If you decide not to carry out the cull, then your neighbours could consider erecting a deer-proof fence. How deer-proof it is depends on the species of deer . Obviously, red deer can jump much higher than muntjac or roe, just as a 17-hand hunter can jump better than a Shetland pony. The actual height they can jump will also depend on the incentive – like boys scrumping apples, the prospect of a free meal can increase the level of effort.

I have heard that deer will test a fence by standing on their hind legs. If their chin reaches the top of the fence, over they go.

Generally, a fence six foot six inches (two metres) high will keep deer out. It must be fairly small mesh because they can wriggle through an astonishingly small hole and it must be tight against the ground to stop them pushing under.

Sometimes a wooden fence topped with trellis will also do the job.