Deer Stalking or Shooting Deer is a very emotive subject, that many don't understand or feel nessessary.
For years I had the same opinion. I to love to watch deer in the wild, as they are such beautiful creatures.
At the time I didn't understand the nessesity to cull deer. Culling deer in many areas of the UK is very important.
We only manage the deer, keeping them to sustainable levels in order to balance the ecosystem. Without culling, there would be little or no woodland regeneration. I've seen this with my own eyes. One of the foresters that I know well, had no new Ash Tree saplings, when his deer population got too high. He relies on Ash for his living, being a fast growing tree. Too many and the ecosystem is tipped the wrong way. The blue bells, Oxlips and Cowslips for example, begin to discapear.
As a meat eater, I thought it was important to be able to take the responsibility of my food from death to table and learn to butcher etc.
These days, I haven't got such an issue with things. I see them as a great source of meat. All the deer that I shoot are eaten either by my family or friends. We enjoy venison and know the deer have a much better life, than most farmed animals.
There are 2,000,000+ deer and the numbers are growing rapidly.
In areas that there is no culling, territories become limited. Come late spring, many of last years young are pushed off of their existing territories, to make way for next years young. The male deer push off any young bucks, so that the don't have to compete with them for mates. It is at this time of year, many young deer are run over on our roads, as they seek new territories.
Deer are very clever animals. Make too much noise, get the wind direction wrong or if they see you, they are gone. This makes them much more challenging to hunt, than most species in the UK.
You have to learn their behaviour. The time of year, availability of different food sources and the weather, can change their feeding behaviour significantly. You have to learn how they behave and then things are still highly unpredictable. Like wildfowling, deer stalking requires a huge amount of fieldcraft.
99% of the time when I am out stalking, I am just enjoying the beauty of our woodlands and countryside. Watching the wildlife, the trees, birds and other animals. You see and experience so much more than most other humans beings. It is very peaceful, there is often just the sounds of the birds and the countryside.
Occasionally I just watch the deer. Many are just not in a safe enough location to shoot. Occasionally I shoot one for the table.
If you shoot one. The hard work begins here. The deer, has to be gralloched (gutted), immediately, or the stomach ruins the meat. The carcuss and offal had to be inspected, to ensure that there are no signs of disease and that it is safe to eat. The deer then has to be carried back to the car, sometimes considerable distances. It has taken me hours to get a deer back to the vehicle.
The deer is then hung in a chiller. It is then butchered.
You have worked hard for this meat. And what great meat venison is. Especially fresh and wild.
There are 6 species of deer in the UK (7 as reindeer, have been reintroduced into the highlands of Scotland). Roe, Muntjac, Fallow, Red, Sike and Chinese Water Deer. They vary dramatically in size and behaviour.
Fallow, Sika and Red being hearding deer. They have many eyes and ears to watch you.
Muntjac are only the size of a spaniel and they can move quietly through the bushes and hedgerows like a fox.
Many people don't get to see many deer, as they vary often only feed at dusk and dawn.
Once a deer, has been spotted, your approach has to be considered carefully, the wind if you are not careful will soon give you away.
The deer also has to be in a safe place to shoot. With ground behind it. So planning your position is critical.
Deer are shot in the heart and lung region of the body, to ensure instant and ethical kills.
So overall why do I enjoy Deer Stalking?
We enjoy eating fresh venison. They are are a hugely challenging quarry to shoot and you have to learn a lot about them to get much success.
Most of all, when you are moving around quietly in our beautiful countryside or woodlands. You get to know, see and understand so much about our British Natural History. I have learnt the sounds, signs and behaviour of so many of our British Animals. To some extend it feels almost primeval, hunting deer, as my achestors have done for tens of thousand years in the UK. It's one of the ultimate hunter and gatherer experiences that you can get in the UK.