Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is advising those heading for the hills this autumn to check ahead for possible deer stalking taking place on estates.
SNH has launched this year’s Heading for the Scottish Hills service to reduce disturbance during the stalking season, which runs up to 20th October, by giving walkers information and to plan routes away from the main areas.
The service covers over 70 estates in popular walking areas, mainly in the Cairngorms National Park, the Breadalbane area and on the west coast.
Most estates begin stalking in August and September.
The website - http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/ - includes general information about stalking on all participating estates and contact details for further information.
Some estates provide detailed information on the site up to a week in advance, describing where and when stalking will take place, as well as suggested walking routes.
There is also information about responsible behaviour for land managers and walkers.
Fiona Cuninghame, SNH recreation and access officer, said: “The web service is a quick way to check that you won’t disturb deer stalking when heading to participating areas between July and October.
“We’re working with partners to consider how we can re-design the system to make it more user-friendly and cover a larger area, and are hoping to launch a new, improved service in 2015.”
Andrea Partridge, Mountaineering Council of Scotland Access Officer, said: “The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has been closely involved with the Heading for the Scottish Hills website and with discussion about expanding the service and making it more accessible.
“We would encourage all hill-goers to check the website during the stalking season and contact the relevant estate.”
The website helps walkers follow the advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to try and find out where stag stalking is taking place because it was not always easy to find out who to contact.
The Code also encourages walkers:
• to follow reasonable alternative routes on days when stalking is taking place
• not to cross land where stalking is taking place
• to avoid wild camping where stalking is planned for the next day
The web page takes its name from the ‘Heading for the Scottish Hills’ book, which was collaboration between landowners and mountaineers, published between 1988 and 1996.
For the first time, this book provided hill walkers with an easy way to identify and contact participating estates to find out where stalking was taking place.