GAMEKEEPING

Man­ag­ing deer on land that is keep­ered for a game­bird shoot re­quires co-op­er­a­tion from both par­ties. Rod Greenwood of­fers ad­vice on over­com­ing com­mon prob­lems that arise

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Hope­fully all your cen­sus work will have been done for the deer species and num­bers on your piece of ground, or ‘per­mis­sion’ (a word that I strug­gle to use or like). How­ever im­pre­cise your meth­ods, given the nature of deal­ing with wild and pos­si­bly herd­ing an­i­mals, you will at least know the min­i­mum num­ber of deer that were seen at that time and you can con­jure up a cull plan.

March is the time of year many choose to do their cen­sus work. Gen­er­ally, the veg­e­ta­tion is low, so sight­ings are eas­ier, and dis­tur­bance by other fac­tors has re­duced so the deer are calmer. When look­ing at the pa­ram­e­ters that im­pact a deer man­age­ment plan and cull, the aims and ob­jec­tives of the landown­ers must be con­sid­ered, and these are of­ten multi-faceted.

If you are un­lucky, the es­tate may well have a shoot on it too. If this is a low­land wild bird shoot, the im­pact for you as a deer man­ager is likely to be rea­son­ably low, as the num­ber of shoot days will be re­stricted by the an­nual in­cre­ment be­ing only slight, thereby al­low­ing for a shootable sur­plus. If, how­ever, it is more com­mer­cial or the owner is a keen shot they may be shoot­ing partridge from the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber, thereby re­strict­ing ac­cess to some ar­eas. These re­stricted ar­eas will, of course, have in­ter­est­ing and suit­able cover for deer to use too.

Some keep­ers can get very jumpy about their poults and drives be­ing dis­turbed, but, in my view, a few mod­er­ated full-bore ri­fle shots can’t be any worse than trac­tors cul­ti­vat­ing nearby or even some­one crack­ing a flag and dog­ging-in ar­eas.

It’s un­der­stand­able that re­peated dis­tur­bance is un­de­sir­able, but the re­moval of a roe buck or doe from a partridge drive will cer­tainly de­crease hop­per dam­age and wheat loss as well as the po­ten­tial of un­wanted flushes on the shoot days them­selves.

Fal­low deer, or worse a herd of fal­low, can wreak havoc and are cer­tainly the vandals of the deer world, rolling feed­ers about to get at the wheat. And deer be­come even more par­tial to a hop­per raid if you’ve spiced your feed with hold-fast ad­di­tives in an at­tempt to keep your poults and birds around drives!

All the lus­cious growth of tall and ed­i­ble game crops will also im­pede one see­ing, and there­fore hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to cull, deer through­out the shoot­ing sea­son. De­pend­ing on the ex­tent and

num­ber of days you’re shoot­ing, the deer might well move to the less dis­turbed ar­eas thereby of­fer­ing a shot. Or, they will leave the es­tate en­tirely only to re­turn when it qui­etens down, leav­ing only two months to make the cull. If this is the case, team culls with mul­ti­ple ri­fles out on con­sec­u­tive evenings or morn­ings can be pro­duc­tive. If you can com­bine these with culls tak­ing place on neigh­bour­ing ground, par­tic­u­larly for fal­low deer, even greater re­sults can be had. The Deer Ini­tia­tive Best

Prac­tice Guides have some very help­ful chap­ters about how to suc­cess­fully count and cull in a co­op­er­a­tive way.

Re­cent fig­ures show that a shoot with only a mod­er­ate num­ber of days, 10 or so, could cause the man hours per deer shot to rise to eight, which is con­sid­er­able and not very ef­fi­cient. Once the shoot­ing sea­son is over, there are fewer peo­ple mov­ing around the es­tate in Fe­bru­ary/March time and it is no­tice­ably eas­ier to spy and shoot the deer, the av­er­age man hours dropping to a more re­spectable two per an­i­mal.

If the op­por­tu­nity arises to bet­ter the de­sired cull it should be taken as there will al­ways be im­mi­gra­tion onto an es­tate that has warm woods, ex­cess cover and good feed for game­birds. This can also be thought of as the ‘vac­uum ef­fect’ – as you take in­di­vid­u­als from the cen­tre (like suck­ing air out), oth­ers will be drawn (or ‘sucked’) in.

Of course, mun­t­jac can be a nui­sance in drives and along feed rides but due to their fe­cun­dity and non-na­tive stand­ing, the sea­son for culling them is all year. I would, how­ever, be wary of culling a thin-look­ing ma­ture doe as there may be a chance you will or­phan her off­spring which may have been left in un­der­growth nearby.

Ther­mal im­agers can be very use­ful in help­ing you to set your cull, ei­ther through night counts or by day. You can try scan­ning the deer’s pre­ferred habi­tats as their heat sig­na­ture will give them away.

A vis­ual count of roe deer by your­self, com­bined with known daily sight­ings as you move about the ground, will prob­a­bly give a num­ber ap­prox­i­mat­ing to 30% of your pop­u­la­tion. This num­ber can be im­proved by hav­ing mul­ti­ple coun­ters at prom­i­nent points.

You do need good teams who have ex­pe­ri­ence of dif­fer­ent species to help count and then cull your deer. It’s great if you can keep it all in-house and have the staff, time and en­thu­si­asm to use the data and time well, re­duc­ing the deer num­bers and meet­ing the owner’s aims and ob­jec­tives too.

While at col­lege, our stu­dents will have the op­por­tu­nity to hone their ID skills as well as be­ing able to par­take in counts on a num­ber of es­tates, all of which helps them to be­come com­pe­tent game­keep­ers and deer man­agers.

If your per­mis­sion is also home to a game shoot, car­ry­ing out the win­ter cull may not be sim­ple

Pheas­ant feed hop­pers can at­tract the lo­cal deer pop­u­la­tion

Fal­low can be very dis­rup­tive on a game shoot

Culling dur­ing the game shoot­ing sea­son can re­duce the ap­pear­ance of deer on shoot days

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