Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI) has just successfully run its first course in deer management in Ireland.
Organised by CAI with the assistance of Derek Anderson from Blakiston Houston Estates the Deer Stalking Qualification (DSC) Level 1 is a basic qualification aimed at the newcomer to deer stalking and is open to everyone over the age of 18.
With no natural predators, the British deer population is believed to be at its highest for 1,000 years and with an increasing population and range of wild deer throughout Ireland deer management has never been more important.
Deer are estimated to cause more than £8.8 million of damage annually to forest and agricultural crops in the UK.
Not only are there financial consequences with unmanaged deer populations, but habitat loss is another major impact.
Deer naturally browse tree saplings and as many of our deer species are most comfortable within a woodland environment heavy browsing can alter the sensitive dynamic balance of the woodland ecosystem which may have been in a perfect state of equilibrium of growth and decay for centuries.
This reduces the age and species diversity of a wide range of tree and plant species which has a further adverse impact on the populations of animal, bird and insect species.
It is this consequence which makes the implementation of ‘Close to Nature’ silvicultural systems difficult for many professional foresters today.
The classroom sessions for the course were held in Cloughmills, Co Antrim with the shooting assessment being carried out nearby at Altarichard Forest, a commercial forest property owned by Blakiston Houston Estates and managed by Scottish Woodlands Ltd.
The instructor Jamie Stewart is director for the Scottish Countryside Alliance and has over 25 years’ experience stalking deer throughout the UK.
The course curriculum covers a wide variety of modules all concerned with deer management which includes deer and firearms law, deer ecology common to all six species considered wild in the UK, stalking equipment and techniques, ballistics and carcass handling, inspection and basic food hygiene.
The classroom sessions were held on the Friday evening and all day Saturday and all candidates were assessed on each module during this time.
The final part of the course on Sunday morning consisted of a shooting assessment where candidates were required to demonstrate their shooting skills by placing three shots in a tight four-inch group on a zero target at 100 yards.
When this was achieved two shots each were required to be placed within the killing area of a deer silhouette target at 100 yards in any position, 70 yards sitting and 40 yards standing.
Once candidates pass DSC Level 1, and they have developed sufficient experience there is opportunity to progress to DSC Level 2 where candidates can be assessed on their stalking and carcass handling skills.
The course was sponsored by Blakiston Houston Estates, Scottish Woodlands Ltd and Lavin Guns.
Countryside Alliance Ireland is a non-profit organisation which provides Irish country sports men and women with high levels of information, advice and representation. The vision of the CAI is for a working and thriving countryside for the benefit of the whole nation.