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Changes to deer management legislation in Scotland

Sir Edward Mountain MSP recently submitted a motion to annul the negative SSI to remove the male close deer seasons in Scotland. On 27 September the motion was voted against, with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Green Party and SNP voting against, Labour abstaining and Conservatives voting for the annulment. This now means that there will be no close seasons for shooting male deer in Scotland with the change coming into effect on 21 October 2023, when the red, sika and roe male deer seasons traditionally end in Scotland.

Most rural stakeholder organisations were against the close season removal but were ignored following the Scottish Government consultation. It is expected that the majority of land managers undertaking deer management will most likely still adhere to the traditional close male deer seasons in Scotland, particularly in relation to red deer. This will allow stags to recover following the rut, which runs from the end of September to early November and will help them to put on a healthy weight to take them through the harsh Scottish winter. 

Allowing this recovery period will effectively maintain healthy stocks of male deer and help to ensure good quality venison is supplied to the market. With rising concerns over food security in Scotland and the UK, we need to ensure that the best quality meat is supplied to the market. Venison is a fantastic locally produced, organic and healthy source of meat, and game suppliers want to ensure only high quality products are provided for the UK market.

In addition to the changes to the male deer close season, the Deer (Firearms etc.) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2023 was approved, which allows a reduction in the minimum bullet weight required to shoot red, sika and fallow deer to 80 grains (5.3 grams). This amendment order will also allow the use of any ‘sight of any type including light-intensifying, heat-sensitive or other special sighting device for night shooting’ of deer in Scotland. These sights will also be able to be used in the daytime. This change is expected to come into effect by 3 November 2023.

You can find more information on the NatureScot website. For the latest information on Wild Deer Best Practice, follow this link to access the guides.

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