Game managers in the U.K. may be taking the gloves off in an attempt to knock back an out-of-control deer herd. According to a story in the Daily Mail, for the first time in history, the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has proposed allowing nighttime deer culling to trim a herd estimated at 2 million animals. The proposal also includes a rule permitting the country’s game managers to shoot bucks throughout the year. Previously, they were protected in a closed season to allow for antler growth. Does would remain protected when they are “caring for their young,” according to the story.
Only 50 years ago, England’s deer population hovered around the 450,000 mark. In the decades since, the country’s deer herd has ballooned with limited public hunting opportunities in the country. Officials cite a concern for damage to native tree and plant species as one of the main reasons for the recent proposal. Red and roe deer are native to Great Britain, but four other species—fallow, sitka, muntjac, and Chinese water deer—were introduced and have multiplied exponentially. In addition to relaxing the regulations for those tasked with managing deer populations, the U.K. government is also encouraging the public to eat more wild deer meat and will be offering small grants to “help businesses supply venison.”
England isn’t facing anything new when it comes to controlling a prolific deer herd. When allowed, American hunters have typically stepped up to the plate and killed more whitetails when asked to do so. In areas where hunting is a less viable option, such as the nation’s suburbs and metro areas, officials have had to resort to culling deer through the use of paid sharpshooters.
I’ve talked to some of these sharpshooters and, to a man, they agree that if you’re serious about killing a pile of deer you: A) use baited sites; B) shoot them at night. So the Brits have at least part of that equation right. By letting game managers kill deer when they’re most active, they’re absolutely going to up the cull—especially with some of the infrared and night vision equipment available these days. There’s no mention of baiting deer in the story, but if they’re really serious about shooting a bunch, and they’re already considering culling animals after dark, why not take the gloves off completely?
The emphasis on getting people to eat more venison is similarly encouraging. With a broad and global push to “eat local,” it would seem like a campaign to put more pure, home-grown protein in front of consumers would be successful.
I do spot one red flag in DERFA’s proposal. Officials are assuring the public that does wouldn’t be harmed while tending to “dependent young.” That’s a huge mistake, folks. You can kill all the bucks you want, but at the end of the day, each buck you kill takes only one hungry mouth off of the landscape. But shoot a single doe and you’ve erased multiple generations of future vegetation-destroyers. I get that the non- and anti-hunting public might not be as accepting when people are killing does, and I sensed an attempt to appease this camp with the no-does stipulation. But it’s far better to educate them and deal with the harsh reality that an aggressive doe harvest is the most effective—and perhaps only—solution when it comes to knocking down a deer population.