Deer stalking
Deer stalking is a British
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 term for the stealthy pursuit of deer for sporting purposes, historically with dogs such as Scottish Deerhounds, or in modern times typically with a high powered rifle fitted with a telescopic sight to hunt them.

While the expression "deer stalking" is widely used among British and Irish sportsmen to signify almost all forms of sporting
deer shooting, the term is replaced in North American sporting usage by "deer hunting", a term that in Britain and Ireland has historically been reserved exclusively for the sporting pursuit of deer with scent hound
Scent hound
Scent hounds are a type of hound that primarily hunts by scent rather than sight. The Scenthound breeds are generally regarded as having some of the most sensitive noses among canines....

s, with unarmed followers typically on horseback. The practice of hunting with hounds, other than using two hounds to flush deer to be shot by waiting marksmen, has been banned in the UK since 2005. Prior to that there were three packs of staghounds hunting wild red deer of both sexes on or around Exmoor
Exmoor is an area of hilly open moorland in west Somerset and north Devon in South West England, named after the main river that flows out of the district, the River Exe. The moor has given its name to a National Park, which includes the Brendon Hills, the East Lyn Valley, the Vale of Porlock and ...

, and until 1997, when they were disbanded, the New Forest Buckhounds hunting fallow deer
Fallow Deer
The Fallow Deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. This common species is native to western Eurasia, but has been introduced widely elsewhere. It often includes the rarer Persian Fallow Deer as a subspecies , while others treat it as an entirely different species The Fallow...

 bucks in the New Forest
New Forest
The New Forest is an area of southern England which includes the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest in the heavily-populated south east of England. It covers south-west Hampshire and extends into south-east Wiltshire....



Earlier than the 20th century there were several packs of staghounds hunting "carted deer" in England and Ireland. Carted deer were red deer kept in captivity for the sole purpose of being hunted and recaptured without harm. Carted deer that escaped recapture sometimes became the source of wild populations, for example the red deer of Thetford Chase
Thetford is a market town and civil parish in the Breckland district of Norfolk, England. It is on the A11 road between Norwich and London, just south of Thetford Forest. The civil parish, covering an area of , has a population of 21,588.-History:...

 originated with deer left out by the Norwich Staghounds.

The way in which the red deer were hunted was for a game keeper called the "harbourer" to follow the intended quarry to the wood where it lay up for the night. In the morning before the meet the harbourer would carefully examine the perimeter of the wood to ensure that the stag had not left. He then reported to the Master and the Huntsman would take about six hounds called the "tufters" into the wood and rouse the intended quarry and start it running, separating it from any other deer that might be in the wood.

This having been achieved the tufters were taken back, their work being done for the day, and the main pack were brought out and laid on the scent of the stag which by now had a good start. After a sometimes very long chase the stag would become exhausted and come to bay to face the hounds, often in water, where it would be shot at close range by one of the hunt servants.

The use of the term "stalking" serves to denote the extreme stealth and wariness which are often necessary when approaching wild deer in their natural habitats. Scottish deer stalking is often done under the guidance of a stalker or a gillie
Ghillie or gillie is a Scots term that refers to a man or a boy who acts as an attendant on a fishing, fly fishing, hunting, or deer stalking expedition, primarily in the Highlands or on a river such as the River Spey...

, a resident expert. Deer stalking is virtually the only form of control, or culling
Culling is the process of removing animals from a group based on specific criteria. This is done either to reinforce certain desirable characteristics or to remove certain undesirable characteristics from the group...

, for the six wild or feral species of deer at large in the UK. The six species are Red Deer
Red Deer
The red deer is one of the largest deer species. Depending on taxonomy, the red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being...

, Roe Deer
Roe Deer
The European Roe Deer , also known as the Western Roe Deer, chevreuil or just Roe Deer, is a Eurasian species of deer. It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe Deer are widespread in Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from...

, Fallow Deer
Fallow Deer
The Fallow Deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. This common species is native to western Eurasia, but has been introduced widely elsewhere. It often includes the rarer Persian Fallow Deer as a subspecies , while others treat it as an entirely different species The Fallow...

, Sika Deer
Sika Deer
The Sika Deer, Cervus nippon, also known as the Spotted Deer or the Japanese Deer, is a species of deer native to much of East Asia and introduced to various other parts of the world...

, Muntjac
Muntjac, also known as Barking Deer and Mastreani Deer, are small deer of the genus Muntiacus. Muntjac are the oldest known deer, appearing 15–35 million years ago, with remains found in Miocene deposits in France, Germany and Poland....

 and Water Deer
Water Deer
The Water Deer is a small deer superficially more similar to a musk deer than a true deer but it is classified as a cervid despite having tusks instead of antlers and other anatomical anomalies. These unique characteristics have caused it to be classified in its own genus...

 and there have never been more deer at large or more widely distributed in the UK than there are now. The first two species are indigenous although new populations have appeared after deliberate releases and escapes from parks or farms. A result of this is that both Red Deer and Roe Deer are now present in several parts of Wales, a country from which both had been absent as wild animals for several centuries. Fallow Deer have been at large in many parts of the UK for at least 1,000 years, added to by more recent escapes, but the other three species have solely originated from ornamental collections and deer farms, principally from Woburn Abbey
Woburn Abbey
Woburn Abbey , near Woburn, Bedfordshire, England, is a country house, the seat of the Duke of Bedford and the location of the Woburn Safari Park.- Pre-20th century :...

, escaping through damaged fences or sometimes by deliberate release. A number of deer and wild boar escaped in southern England following damage to fences by the hurricane of 1987
Great Storm of 1987
The Great Storm of 1987 occurred on the night of 15/16 October 1987, when an unusually strong weather system caused winds to hit much of southern England and northern France...


Apart from the stalking of Red and Sika Deer on the open hillsides of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and the Lake District
Lake District
The Lake District, also commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes and its mountains but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth...

 which takes place in daylight, most deer stalking takes place in the first and last two hours of daylight and most people never come into contact with it although it occurs almost everywhere. The only English county
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

 without any wild deer is Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

 and in all other English and Scottish counties and most Welsh counties there are deer populations controlled by deer stalking. Antlers are measured by one of several scoring systems used to compare the relative merits of the heads. In Europe including the UK the Conseil International du Chasse (CIC) system is used, in America it is either the Boone & Crockett
Boone and Crockett Club
The Boone and Crockett Club conservationist organization, founded in the United States in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt. The club was named in honor of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, whom the club's founders viewed as ethical hunters and honest men who loved the outdoors and earthly pursuits...

 or Safari Club International
Safari Club International
Safari Club International is an international organization composed of hunters. SCI has more than 50,000 members and 180 local chapters. SCI's website displays the bannertext "Safari Club International is the Leader in Protecting the Freedom to Hunt and Promoting Wildlife Conservation...

 (SCI), and in Australasia it is the Douglas system.


Other than man, carnivorous predators of adult deer have long been hunted to extinction in Britain. In most cases the objective is to maintain a stable and healthy population of deer and to achieve this will require a cull of about 30% of the population each year. This is not random, and a population/age census will have been carried out each year to determine the age and sex profile of those to be culled. Injured (often caused by dog attacks, being caught in fences and car collisions) or sick animals are given priority, then barren or very old animals and after that selected animals resulting in a balanced pyramid profile with a few old animals of each sex at the top with increasing numbers of each sex down to the yearlings at the bottom. The males at the top of the pyramid are often trophy animals attracting wealthy sportsmen who pay large sums for shooting them. If population reduction is required, more females will be culled. If a population increase is required, only injured or sick animals will be culled.

A rifle is used that complies with the minimum requirements of the Deer Act in calibre and ballistic performance. There are differences in the law between Scotland and England & Wales and popular calibres are .243
.243 Winchester
The .243 Winchester is a popular sporting rifle cartridge. Initially designed as a varmint round, it is now more frequently used on medium to large game such as whitetail deer, mule deer, pronghorn, wild hogs, and even black bear and caribou...

, .270, .303
.303 British
.303 British, or 7.7x56mmR, is a .311 inch calibre rifle and machine gun cartridge first developed in Britain as a blackpowder round put into service in December 1888 for the Lee-Metford rifle, later adapted to use smokeless powders...

, .308, 6.5x55mm, and .30-06. In recent times the use of sound moderators ("silencers") has greatly increased.

See also

  • Deer hunting
    Deer hunting
    Deer hunting is survival hunting or sport hunting, harvesting deer, dating back to tens of thousands of years ago. Which occurred though out Europe Asia and North America There are numerous types of deer throughout the world that are hunted.- New Zealand :...

  • Deer stalker - hat synonymous with this pastime, and Sherlock Holmes
    Sherlock Holmes
    Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve...

Further reading

  • Scrope, William, Charles Landseer, & Edwin Henry Landseer, The Art of Deer-stalking: Illustrated by a Narrative of a Few Days' Sport in the Forest of Atholl, with Some Account of the Nature and Habits of Red Deer, and a Short Description of the Scottish Forests, Legends, Superstitions, Stories of Poachers and Freebooters, &c. &c‎ (1839)
  • MacRae, Alexander, A Handbook of Deer-stalking‎ (1880)
  • Whitehurst, Frederick Feild, On the Grampian Hills: Grouse and Ptarmigan Shooting, Deer Stalking, Salmon and Trout Fishing (1882)
  • Scrope, William, Days of Deer-stalking in the Scottish Highlands (1883)
  • Grimble, Augustus, Deer-stalking‎ (1886)
  • Brander, M., Deer Stalking in Britain (1986)
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