NOTES FROM IRE­LAND: Deer stalk­ing school

Ru­pert But­ler is a shot­gun man through and through, but it hasn’t stopped him tak­ing an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about deer stalk­ing... he may even ven­ture out for some veni­son

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Ihave just re­turned from the first of a two-day Hunter Com­pe­tence As­sess­ment Pro­gramme course (HCAP) for stalk­ers. Be­fore I go any fur­ther, I must stress that I am not a stalker and prob­a­bly never will be. Yes I have, on the odd oc­ca­sion over the years, bagged a deer or two, some by con­ven­tional means, others by rather more du­bi­ous ones.

So, why am I do­ing the above course, you may ask. Quite sim­ply, it be­came avail­able at half the usual price cour­tesy of IFA Coun­try­side and was very ably given by Liam Nolan of the Deer Al­liance. A bar­ris­ter of some note, or so I’m told, it be­came abun­dantly clear over the course of the day that his daily pro­fes­sion is of great ben­e­fit in de­liv­er­ing cour­ses such as this. His easy and re­laxed style, cou­pled with his ob­vi­ous knowl­edge of the sub­ject, made the day both in­for­ma­tive and en­joy­able.

My at­ten­tion span is not good, never was, and I thought that a full day in a ho­tel suite lis­ten­ing to some­body pon­tif­i­cate about deer would bore me to rib­bons. To tell you that I ac­tu­ally en­joyed it, cou­pled with the fact that I learned more in those few hours than I prob­a­bly have dur­ing the course of a life­time of hear­ing tit­bits re­gard­ing stalk­ing, is en­tirely down to Liam’s abun­dant knowl­edge. I also dis­cov­ered that stalk­ing is an af­flic­tion to Liam, just as game shoot­ing is to me.

To be hon­est, I never re­ally got to grips with why peo­ple would pur­sue deer in the same way that I would wood­cock, but now I know. It is a sci­ence of sorts, and if car­ried out in a pro­fes­sional man­ner can be of ben­e­fit to ev­ery­one in­volved.

Sur­pris­ingly for me, my in­take of knowl­edge on all mat­ters re­gard­ing our four-legged friends was rather good. I now know what a hum­mel is, I know where all the mark­ing glands are lo­cated, and I even know where to look for dis­ease in a slain an­i­mal. For the first time in my life, I’m ac­tu­ally think­ing I might en­joy a stalk some day.

This said, I am prob­a­bly also think­ing about the work in­volved, which is rather te­dious once the stalk has been com­pleted. But then again, I’m think­ing how lovely veni­son is, and how much I en­joy it.

In the course of the day’s events I ask a few ques­tions, some of which were rea­son­ably plau­si­ble, others not so. I ask if hum­mel char­ac­ter­is­tics can be trans­ferred to its prog­eny, which ap­par­ently in some cases it can.

And then I drop a clanger. I ask why red and sika will cross­breed with each other but not with fal­low. To be quite hon­est, I had a fair idea of the an­swer be­fore I asked, but needed clar­i­fi­ca­tion. And that’s ex­actly what I got. In his un­flus­tered tones, Liam told yours truly that it would be some­thing akin to a gi­raffe mount­ing a cow.

‘Stalk­ers in any given area need to come to­gether to form a man­age­ment plan so that spe­cific tar­gets are met’

Need­less to say, that an­swer rested that par­tic­u­lar case from there.

On my way home that evening, I pon­dered on the rel­e­vance of such a course to the stalk­ing com­mu­nity as a whole. I’m pretty sure most stalk­ers that I know are con­sis­tent with re­spect to safety, shot selec­tion, car­cass dress­ing, etc. Where I feel the course is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to the above com­mu­nity is in its at­ten­tion to the ac­tual man­age­ment of deer in any given area. I’m sure most stalk­ers live for that medal head, or in­deed, if veni­son is needed, a pricket for the freezer. But, at sev­eral in­ter­vals dur­ing the course of the day, Liam kept harp­ing back to the fact that more hinds need to be culled. Al­though this may seem ex­tremely ob­vi­ous, it may not be prac­tised to the fullest ex­tent.

Also, stalk­ers in any given area need to come to­gether to form a man­age­ment plan so that spe­cific tar­gets are met. I was sur­prised to learn that if one had 20 hinds in an area, and given the usual breed­ing and mor­tal­ity rates, that if left to their own de­vices one would have 161 deer present in five years’ time. This high­lights the im­por­tance of culling suf­fi­cient hinds so num­bers don’t swell to un­sus­tain­able pro­por­tions.

I did say that it was a two-day course, the sec­ond in a few weeks be­ing the prac­ti­cal leg, and one, I must ad­mit, that I’m not look­ing for­ward to. Firstly, I haven’t dis­charged a heavy-bore ri­fle in years, and se­condly, all the rest of the shoot­ers are ex­pe­ri­enced stalk­ers, and friends of mine. I get the feel­ing that I could be the butt of a few jokes for some time to come.

Where a shot­gun is con­cerned, I feel I can hold my own in most com­pany, but a ri­fle is a to­tally dif­fer­ent mat­ter. Yes, I pot around af­ter a few bunnies and the odd fox with a .22 dur­ing the sum­mer, but this is not the same.

If I could wipe the eyes of those that think they know more, then it truly would be an event­ful day. One can but hope...

Did you know that some of the best red heads in the world are now be­ing shot in the west of Ire­land? For a wee coun­try, we re­ally have a lot go­ing on.

While many stalk­ers love to bag an im­pres­sive stag, it is clear that more hinds need to be culled in or­der to con­trol num­bers ef­fec­tively

Ru­pert is ap­pre­hen­sive about the prac­ti­cal el­e­ment of the course – most of these guys are ex­pe­ri­enced stalk­ers

Shot­gun shoot­ing in the Ir­ish hills with his pack of springers is more like Ru­pert’s com­fort zone

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