Deer numbers are in balance

YOUR article "Deer stalking for the masses" (News, 27 September) reports on a study published over 12 months ago based on statistics and information reaching back five years and more. Times have moved on; so have attitudes.

Stalking is neither elitist nor expensive. Anyone with a firearms licence, the necessary equipment and, most importantly, the proper training can go stalking. The question is whether we require more stalkers to address a problem, and whether a problem, in terms of numbers of deer, exists? The answer on both counts is "No".

The Deer Commission for Scotland will verify that deer numbers in Scotland are largely in balance. True, in some places, there remain too many deer; equally in other areas there are too few. With the increasing trend of livestock coming off the hills, however, there is less grazing pressure and, as a consequence, greater scope and an argument, given the health qualities of venison and drives to increase volume of product going into the food chain, for more deer in some areas.

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The hind cull, where Douglas MacMillan suggests expansion of the deer stalking opportunity should lie, is best left to professional stalkers working in difficult conditions to meet cull targets. Distractions such as paying guests, while they may introduce additional revenue, can too easily impede getting the job done. As an alternative, low ground roe stalking is widely available, but only to properly qualified hunters, competent in their craft and with animal welfare and safety as their foremost concerns.

Scottish stalking positively welcomes and can benefit from enthusiastic men and women of all ages and from all social backgrounds – but not to solve an imaginary problem.

Robert Balfour, chairman Association of Deer Management Groups, Fort William