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Life on a Highland Estate in the Post-Close Season Era

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Article by:
Linda Mellor , Writer. Editor. Photographer. and Author., British Deer Society

Life on a Highland Estate in the Post-Close Season Era

BDS member Linda Mellor provides a firsthand account of the recent changes in deer policy and their profound impact on both the deer and the local community. As a resident of a highland estate intimately connected to the land and its traditions, Linda sheds light on the repercussions of the removal of the close season for male deer in Scotland, offering a glimpse into the intricate balance between tradition, wildlife management, and community feeling.

Days out on the hill amongst the wild deer are central to the beating hearts of many highland estates. I live on such an estate in highland Perthshire with my partner, a life-long deerstalker. We live and work connected to the land, aligned with the seasons and surrounded by wildlife, and here, the deer are valued, valuable and traditionally stalked.

As an industry, deer stalking is steeped in professionalism and rich in tradition, and boasts many experts with years of invaluable knowledge of both deer and their habitat. Working with deer is a multifaceted, rewarding role underpinned by strong ethics and an innate understanding of the species and its lifecycle. Public perception of deer is positive, and for the visitors to our shores, seeing our wild deer is a much sought-after and loved highlight of their trip.

On 21st October 2023, despite strong opposition, the close season for male deer in Scotland was removed. By removing the long-established male deer season, the gap between the countryside and the politicians increased, and folk felt ignored. If policymakers genuinely care about the wellbeing of deer and the countryside it becomes crucial to consider the knowledge and opinions of those who reside and work in these areas.


Deer need to be controlled, no one has disputed this but the approach needs to be balanced with a priority placed on animal welfare. Hardly a month goes by when upsetting images appear on social media of dumped deer carcasses, accompanied by reports of stags being shot, injured and left to die. The erosion of standards in deer management is devastating and prompts more questions about animal welfare, ethics, accountability and also public safety. People are attached to their local deer, and are concerned about the way deer are treated especially when there is a lack of consultation and information. For our iconic species to be shot and left to rot is a national disgrace.

When I hear politicians address the topic of deer, it often comes with a flourish of emotive language, frequently emphasising ‘spiralling deer numbers.’ It grabs attention and sensationalises the topic but people are owed the facts and not the spin. The reality is, deer populations vary significantly across Scotland, and year on year they fluctuate. On estates deer numbers are monitored and controlled. Regional deer groups meet to discuss management plans and set cull targets, and each season they are adjusted accordingly.

One of my favourite moments to be out in the remote hills is at dawn in the summer months. It is a time in the year when the hills are quiet, the deer are left to grow and nurture their young and feel the warmth of the sun on their backs. This peaceful time is crucial for the survival, health and wellbeing of the herd. Working and aligning with the natural cycles of deer will remain. Everyone I have spoken to will continue to manage deer within the traditional seasons, after all, sustainable and humane management of deer is all about conserving the species, and not annihilation.


See a glimpse into deer in the Highlands through more of Linda’s stunning photographs below.


Thank you to Linda Mellor for sharing her thoughts and experience as well as her beautiful photographs.


The British Deer Society is a charity working to improve awareness and understanding about deer, deer welfare and deer management. You can add your voice today by:

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