Times they are a changing

By this time of year, the majority of highland deer forests will be exiting one of our worst winters in more than a decade. Thinking about the annual cull to come, practical deer managers will over the next few weeks start to monitor what has died in the harsh conditions and the health of those remaining. Like the rest of Europe, we are acutely aware that the public at large looks over our shoulders with increasing interest and for many a mislead vision of a wilder Europe. To further bring pressure to managers in the Highlands, Scottish Natural Heritage is being pushed more and more by the Scottish Government to use its regulatory powers at its disposal. I, for one, am encouraged that the draw of Highland deer stalking continues to attract sportsmen and women from all over the world and this iconic resource not only fills hotels and self –catering accommodation throughout the deer range but has the knock on effect of employing a whole range of people in rural communities from butchers to hoteliers.

The spring months are a good time to reflect on why we hunt and the pleasure we get from sharing secret moments with the wonder that is nature. Few of us now can believe that the joy and responsibility of hunting isn’t under the microscope. To respond to this, I would urge everyone that hunts to take time to be as knowledgeable as you can about the quarry that they hunt, to make wise use of every morsel of it and to take the opportunity to educate those that are new to it to learn as much as possible and to push themselves to reach the highest ethical standards.

So maybe it’s now time when you’re out and about to think about the next challenge  that lies just around the corner and how important it is to maintain the freedoms to manage our natural resources at a local community level and protect the important local employment it generates.

These days, many folk draw a vision of Scotland from looking across the North Sea to our Scandinavian cousins and this I feel could more support our position rather than erosion of it in the Government reviews to come as they have strong opinion that communities must have involvement in the management of all natural resources on their doorstep and to them the social and economic elements rank as importantly as the environmental ones.

In the last Scottish review to many a lot of emphasis was placed on the cost of deer management particularly on public land which led us to conclude that perhaps this could be a good starting point, we are one of the few country’s I know of that spend vast sums of taxpayers money controlling a natural resource as problem rather than maximising it value at a local level.

With the vast swathes of land currently at the disposal of the Scottish Government and its agencies being managed at a cost perhaps this is where change can come easily and the wider European community be given access to harvest their on food along the lines of the North American and Scandinavian models.

This would allow government to demonstrate how to integrate all the land uses with its environmental objectives and create a focal point that we could all learn from.

Blaser – Blog – Times they are a changing
Young Highland Red stag

About the Author

Niall Rowantree

Niall leads West Highland Hunting’s sporting and land management services. As someone passionate about deer, he developed the concept of WHH after more than 20 years of providing wildlife and deer management services in both the public and private sector. He has over 35 years’ experience in the industry having led deer management for the Forestry Commission in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, across Argyll and Lochaber and has managed the renowned Ardnamurchan deer herd for over 20 years. A former board member of the Deer Commission for Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage Transitional Deer Panel, he consults and advises on deer management for a number of Scottish and European Estates.

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