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Ask BDS – Is it legal to shoot deer?

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Charles Smith-Jones, Technical Adviser, British Deer Society

Is it legal to shoot deer?

The British Deer Society is regularly contacted by concerned members of the public who have observed activity related to deer management taking place.  While fully appreciating their concerns, we recognise that provided it is carried out with the permission of the landowner or their representative, culling may be conducted, providing a comprehensive range of legal requirements are observed.  

Closed seasons where shooting is not permitted are specified by the law, though these vary between England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.  Importantly, they ensure that female deer with dependent young are not killed.  The only UK deer not protected by a close season is muntjac,  as this species can breed all year round.  Shooting any deer at night is not permitted without a specific licence.

Wherever culling is considered necessary,  the British Deer Society expects it to be conducted in a humane, efficient, and respectful manner. Appropriate attention must always be given to public safety. Otherwise, as long as those conducting the culling are properly authorised, possess relevant firearms licences and are acting within the law, they will probably be fully within their rights to do so.  There is more about the need to manage deer numbers at Why Manage Deer?

Anyone suspecting that illegal activity or dangerous shooting has been taking place should contact the police by calling the non-emergency number 101.  Most constabularies have dedicated Wildlife Crime Officers and provide further advice on their websites.  If you actually witness armed trespass or poaching in progress, or any activity which might pose an immediate danger to others, it would be appropriate to call 999 instead.  There is also a BDS website page offering advice on poaching at Poaching and Wildlife Crime  

Deer managers should try to be as discreet as possible when in the field, or when transporting or processing carcases, and take all reasonable steps to work out of sight of the wider public to avoid causing any unnecessary distress. If given the opportunity deer managers are in a fantastic position to help educate the public about the importance of deer management and the benefit this can bring to deer populations and their environment.

Every day BDS receives enquiries about deer and our team works hard to make sure that every query receives a response.

By being a BDS member, you are helping us to educate and support people and communities with questions about deer across the UK and beyond.

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