The stu­dents tackle the DSS level 1

Rod Green­wood runs through the de­tails of Sparsholt Col­lege’s en­try-level qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the man­age­ment of deer – and what is ex­pected of stu­dents look­ing to pass their exam

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Each year, our first year Level 3 stu­dents are of­fered the op­por­tu­nity of tak­ing the Deer Man­age­ment Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Deer Stalking Cer­tifi­cate Level 1. This qual­i­fi­ca­tion in the ba­sics of deer man­age­ment is based on a num­ber of sub­jects, in­clud­ing the ecol­ogy and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the six deer species, an un­der­stand­ing of the leg­is­la­tion and firearms safety around manag­ing deer, marks­man­ship and a com­pre­hen­sion of the laws con­cern­ing larder­ing a car­cass.

Th­ese dif­fer­ent ar­eas are as­sessed in dif­fer­ent ways, al­low­ing one’s prac­ti­cal abil­i­ties and in­for­ma­tion re­call to be tested fully.

A good and thor­ough knowl­edge of deer be­hav­iour in the UK is a must for their ef­fi­cient man­age­ment. It must be re­mem­bered that each of the species are dif­fer­ent. Their be­hav­iour can vary due to fac­tors such as the habi­tat they are in, how many there are of them, the stock­ing den­sity and what im­pact man has pre­vi­ously had on them.

Deer are nor­mally found in wooded or af­forested ar­eas and feed mainly on the edge of cover, but var­i­ous species do have marked pref­er­ences and at dif­fer­ent times of year pre­fer dif­fer­ent habi­tats. Stu­dents will learn that some species herd while oth­ers re­main in small fam­ily groups of­ten de­pen­dent on their age and sex. This is very no­tice­able in high­land ar­eas where parts of the es­tates will be pre­ferred by the red hinds in com­par­i­son to the stags who are likely to be on the tops of the hills or in the sparse wood­land.

To pass the course, a good knowl­edge of the six species’ gen­eral ecol­ogy will be re­quired, along with an un­der­stand­ing of their plas­tic­ity in re­sponse to dis­tur­bance.

This is no­tice­able in re­gards to their feed­ing. As they are her­bi­vores, they need time to ru­mi­nate and chew their cud af­ter pe­ri­ods of eat­ing. This two to four hourly cy­cle should be in a quiet undis­turbed area. If they are re­peat­edly dis­turbed dur­ing th­ese times they could well be­come noc­tur­nal in their habits and be­come even trick­ier to con­trol, un­less dero­ga­tions are granted by the au­thor­i­ties, such as Nat­u­ral Eng­land. Deer are gen­er­ally cre­pus­cu­lar, show­ing them­selves at dawn and dusk. When alarmed and un­sure of the threat, deer will give an alarm call – per­haps there should be an au­dio test on the course, as well as just the vis­ual test.

All species of deer have an an­nual breed­ing pe­riod, known

as the rut. The herd­ing species will con­gre­gate to­gether, fol­low­ing well-trod­den paths or tracks to th­ese ar­eas. This is when the males use their antlers to hold harems, im­press the fe­males, con­trol ter­ri­to­ries and, if nec­es­sary, fight.

Males will gen­er­ally as­cer­tain the stronger con­tender by stature, so their weight and size, which is done by par­al­lel walk­ing – this phe­nom­e­non is more eas­ily seen in park deer herds, dur­ing the fal­low and red rut.

In re­gards to roe, the younger bucks will keep well away from a ma­ture ter­ri­tory hold­ing buck, as in some cir­cum­stances they will ac­tu­ally get killed, by a gor­ing, es­pe­cially if caught up against a bound­ary ob­sta­cle such as stock fenc­ing.

Mun­t­jac and Chi­nese wa­ter deer use their elon­gated ca­nines or fangs to set­tle dis­putes in­stead. When culling, you will find an­i­mals with slash marks and their ears in tat­ters due to pre­vi­ous as­saults.

Deer man­age­ment is nec­es­sary as they have no real nat­u­ral predators and our veg­e­ta­tive ecosys­tems can take a ham­mer­ing from them. Any leaf, shoot or stem eaten by a deer will have the tell-tale tag left on the plant: the woody stems will be torn away and not cut cleanly. This is due to the fact that deer have no up­per in­cisors – rather, they have a hard den­tal pad.

With so many deer wan­der­ing around the coun­try­side (and some ur­ban ar­eas), it is worth re­search­ing and learn­ing the usual signs left by them too. This as­pect of the course in­cludes ed­u­ca­tion on couches (where they lie up), the slots left by their hooves, their fae­ces or dung, how they mark their ter­ri­to­ries with scrapes and fray­ing, along with their char­ac­ter­is­tic browse lines, at dif­fer­ent heights, de­pen­dent on the species present. Hair that is found on barbed wire or on the ground will be hol­low, so will crease rather than bend, if it is from a deer.

To pass the DSC1, this knowl­edege of nat­u­ral field­craft has to be com­bined with the sci­ence and tech­ni­cal com­pre­hen­sion and un­der­stand­ing of bal­lis­tics and the ne­ces­sity of safe firearms han­dling.

Stu­dents will learn about the suit­able bul­let con­struc­tions and cal­i­bres that must be used to en­sure a hu­mane and swift kill. This is to en­sure that suf­fi­cient fa­tal tis­sue trauma is caused to the ma­jor or­gans that were cho­sen as the point of im­pact (POI).

The ac­cu­racy of this shot is a re­sult of the in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal bal­lis­tics of the ri­fle, and a ri­fled bar­rel com­bined with a suit­able op­ti­cal scope and mounts, of­fer­ing you a good point of aim (POA).

Some ba­sics of physics is needed, with the re­al­i­sa­tion that bul­let tra­jec­to­ries are af­fected by grav­ity and wind, along with the en­er­gies and pres­sures ex­erted on bul­lets of dif­fer­ent cross sec­tional ar­eas and weights.

All shots must be safe – stalk­ers must make sure there are no ob­struc­tions be­tween the muz­zle and the deer’s chest area. A suit­able solid back­stop must al­ways be present too.

Com­mon sense will pre­vail with most of the ques­tions in the writ­ten pa­per – hope­fully stu­dents will re­alise that ‘loos­en­ing the bed­ding screws half a turn and squirt­ing oil down the bar­rel just be­fore you leave to go stalking’ is not ad­vised!

Fi­nally, there is con­sid­er­a­tion given to the han­dling of the shot car­cass to en­sure that it is fit to en­ter the food chain, and stu­dents will take a large game meat hy­giene test.

Teach­ing of this will high­light the risks, the con­tam­i­nants, no­ti­fi­able diseases and the root causes of all, plus stu­dents will learn pro­ce­dures to en­sure that th­ese ar­eas are all min­i­malised dur­ing the man­age­ment of your deer.

‘A good and thor­ough knowl­edge of deer be­hav­iour in the UK is a must for their ef­fi­cient man­age­ment’

The course cov­ers prac­ti­cal marks­men­ship along­side the­ory

Bal­lis­tics train­ing is in­cluded

Con­sid­er­a­tion is also given to car­cass han­dling and meat hy­giene

Stu­dents learn which cal­i­bres are suit­able for shooting deer

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