Current Affairs: The Red Deer World

January 2023

The Assynt Crofters.

Here we go again, The John Muir Trust are up to their old tricks. The Chief Executive at the front. The JMT’s attitude to deer is beyond commenting on so what I will do here is put a series of links to the chain of events that have unfolded at Assynt these last few weeks. Sad to say the JMT are doing their dirty work with a Zeal that makes a Deer Man like myself think that there is a hatred of something that is eating into the top layer of JMT’s management. No true Deer Man would treat deer in this way. Even John Muir himself I assume (although he did not like the Native Americans, they were untidy he thought!!) would not sanction this out of season slaughter. Or maybe he would?

Anyway the story is that SNH/NS issued an out of Season Licence to kill deer to protect trees that do not exist or are unlikely to on Quinag. Victor Clements article is first as it lays out the facts as they are on the ground. Take time to read it. Because this is what happens when a Government body such as SNH/NS take it into their heads to take no heed of the facts and drive their agenda forward regardless. JMT their willing partner.

The Facts: Victor Clements Article:

In the interest of fair play, the: JMT response:

The Story Unfolds: The Wounded Stag

The JMT Response: The Wounded Stag part 2

There you have it, a so called Conservation body yet again treating the Deer in the Highlands like Vermin.

I saw a post lately on FB where the picture was of a Stag crossing the road, the caption said. To this stag this road is his forest. The deer do not know what a road is. The deer were here before the roads drove through the Highlands. For centuries deer have moved freely throughout the Highlands. They know where the winter feeding ground is far off the snow covered, exposed hills where they go in more benign times to get away from people, flies and midgies for most of the year. How dare they come down to John Muir Trust’s land looking for sustenance and try to survive only to get lamped, harassed or shot.

For years the Traditional Estates that have stalking as part of their income have managed the deer, in the recent past the Association of Deer Management Groups have done sterling work reducing numbers to meet the recommendations of SNH/NS whom they worked with (I wonder if that is under threat now). Due to the finger being pointed to the ‘huge’ increase in deer numbers across Scotland, Supposedly.

Huge increases but where? Certainly not all Traditional Estates have played ball, some not bothering at all and for sure they need the book thrown at them for in my mind if a person/body is wealthy enough to buy or own land (they have the responsibility of/to the land, forestry included), they are then duty bound to manage the deer and other wildlife in a way that is beneficial to it. That should mean employing professional people to carry out this work if the owner/s who ever they are cannot.

Myself, I worked in private Forestry for a while and saw the huge increase in deer in our forests most notably in Scotland’s Forest Estate, I remember when the Company I worked for bought an ex Forestry Commission plantation on behalf of a client, being despatched to walk the fence, what fence? It looked to me like the fence had seen zero maintenance since the forest was planted. What I did see was a spiders web of tracks coming from the forest out onto the hill ground high or low. Deer everywhere, Red, Roe and Sika, it was a haven for them.

Another area I covered was only stock fenced (as it was said/assumed that there were no deer there). I could not believe way back in the early 1980s that this was the case knowing full well that these forests were going to fill up with deer. For sure during the early days of these forests the local stalker killed a lot of deer, but they beat him, he was only one man in a huge area. To-day on Skye where these stock fenced forests are, there are large numbers of deer where deer have never been seen before, simply because the new forests of the 70/80s were stock fenced as a cost saving excercise, the deer loved them the rest is history.

Looking back early 80s, I remember the day I shot a Roe deer in the far North of Skye, nothing remarkable in that but I had hardly seen any deer whilst doing my driving job n(at the time) through Skye during the night, far less a Roe. To add to that in the same year, early 80s again I shot a Sika stag. Unheard of on Skye but the drift from the mainland by then was in full flow, crossing at Kylerhea, Eileanriach had plenty Sika back in the day coming over the hill from Glengarry. Also reported pre the Skye Bridge, stags swimming from Kyle during the rut.

So, given this example and mutiply it by the number of plantations in the nations forests on the mainland and for me this is a big part of the ‘Deer Issue’. SNH/NS should pay more attention to Forestry in Scotland, the low ground. The likes of JMT should stop using the sensationalist claims of too many deer in Scotland using that to allow then to satisfy their personal bloodlust by killing deer when deer are at their most vulnerable, being managed as a sustainable resource for those that live and work in these areas.

More to come!!

Why I Write on Deer Matters

For some time now I’ve been concerned with the way the wind is blowing with regards to Red Deer matters in Scotland. Although I hung up my stalking boots when I came to Rona, things took a turn when we discussed the Island’s regeneration. I was asked what would I do given the rapid birch regeneration on Rona at that time. My answer was to suggest getting some Red Deer as it appeared we did not have any. The Deer would make paths, check the growth, slow it up and allow us to penetrate the forests on Rona. They would add to the ‘bio-diversity’, give us a regular income and add very much to the visitors experience of coming to Rona. This we did.

Move on to 2015 and I opened the paper to read this: The Knoydart Deer Massacre

So that got me on to deer affairs again. Because I find the Deer Management Policy of the Charity, The John Muir Trust completely against the love and respect I have for Red Deer. Since then I have become involved with the Scottish Gamekeepers Deer Working Group and we try our best to bring some sense to the debate on ‘ Too Many Deer In Scotland’ !!!

So here is last weeks (9th April) effort from the Chief Executive of the JMT.

WHFP Article of the 9th April

And here is my reply:

WHFP This Week.

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