The culling of deer should always take place as part of a deer management plan which considers both the welfare of the animals and the damage they may cause.
For many people, deer stalking is a recreational activity, but it is also necessary to protect agricultural crops and forestry and indeed, deer, since they are prolific breeders and, if numbers are allowed to increase unchecked, may become prey to starvation and disease.
Wherever appropriate, the management plan should involve close liaison and co-operation between neighbouring landowners and stalker.
Tip 1: Rest the ground
Resting the ground for a few weeks after the rut can work to your advantage. Deer tend to settle down after the rut and resume their normal activities – so giving them some space in which to do this is beneficial.
Tip 2: Cull the weak
Shoot any weak looking followers/fawns of the year on site. If they look rough now, they will only get worse. Also cull anything that is injured or looking backwards.
Tip 3: Trail cameras
Trail cameras can play a big part in learning the deers’ movements and do the work of ten men in a week. Fallow deer are a lot more nomadic and can walk between 10 – 20 miles every day, assessing when they visit an area is a must so that you do not waste your time at a location they are probably not going to visit.
Read our post of setting up your trail camera, positioning and obtaining successful results.
Tip 4: High seats
Now is the time to move those high seats from their summer roebuck positions to their new winter locations for fallow deer. It is essential to do it before the change, so that by the time the leaves start to fall, and the area begins to look stark, the deer are used to the high seats in their new locations.
Read our post on the different types of hunting high-seats you can use for effective deer control.
Tip 5: Feeders
If your ground operates as a game shoot, keep your eye on the shoot’s pheasant feeders and any feed rides, as these are sure to be paid a visit by the deer as the weather gets harder.
Putting your own feed bins out can pay dividends, as long as you don’t abuse it and overshoot the spot (Fallow are not stupid and learn by association). Equally liaise with the keeper so you don’t stalk a wood which they are going to shoot the following day.
Tip 6: Communication
With fallow deer being exceptionally transient, it pays to be friendly with your neighbour and their game shooting dates. I have experienced a few red-letter days when the deer have been pushed on my ground by the neighbouring shoot – they don’t like the disturbance.
Tip 7: Bums on seats
If you have a cull target to reach, pursuing fallow single-handed can be an arduous, thankless task. Organising days with friends or fellow stalkers can pay dividends. Bums on seats will definitely fill those gambrels rather than the lone approach at times. Plus, it is beneficial for all as you will most likely be invited back to help fulfil their cull target.
Tip 8: Gamekeepers schedule
Know your gamekeepers schedule (routes and times). What you need to know is whether the deer treat him as friend or foe. If it’s the latter, you’ll find your fallow deer will potentially exit the wood in the same place and that’s where you need to be. Fallow deer will move in the same locations for generation to generation so knowing their routine is key.
Tip 9: Observation
If you can get permission from your landowner to do some lamping/fox work, this can work in your favour, helping to work out population and densities, as you are sure to see many deer going about their midnight manoeuvres (but remember this is only for observation, as it is illegal to shoot deer under the lamp).
Thermal is also a good tool for calculating your numbers and assess your cull. You will see a lot more deer by night than by day. They are a lot more active without disturbance from humans.
Tip 10: Controlling numbers
When it comes to deciding what to shoot regarding fallow deer, I am of the opinion that unless you are operating on a piece of ground of at least 8 – 12,000 acres, then any management plans that you try to enforce will be quickly undone by your neighbour.
So realistically, fallow stalking is about controlling numbers in order to keep the population healthy and in-line with all other land use. My advice with any cull is to always shoot more does than bucks. But sometimes you have to cut your stick when you see it!
Tip 11: If in doubt, don’t take it out
As a rule of thumb with stalking there’s never a yard stick for the correct thing to do. There is always going to be a variant from location to location or from year to year. I always say if in doubt don’t take it out as there is no going back once you pull the trigger. Think three times and act once.
Read more technical hunting tips and advice from Hawke here
Learn more about Hawke Life | Like Hawke on Facebook | Follow Hawke on Twitter | Follow Hawke on Instagram