Deer authorisations

Authorisations can allow you to cull deer in situations where you wouldn’t usually have the legal right to shoot them.

NatureScot issues authorisations under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, for example to prevent deer damaging the natural heritage.

Authorisations are required to shoot deer:

  • during the closed season - 5(6) authorisation of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996.
  • at night (i.e. from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise) - 18(2) authorisation of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996.
  • while driving deer with vehicles to take or kill deer for deer management purposes.

Anyone operating under an authorisation – general or specific – should be able to show that no other reasonable means of control would be adequate.

Read our Authorisations Guidance for Practitioners

Changes to deer management legislation

The following changes were passed by Scottish Parliament in 2023:

  • There is no longer a closed season for any species of male deer in Scotland (effective from October 2023). Female deer seasons remain unchanged, and you must still apply for an authorisation to shoot female deer out of season for certain purposes.
  • The use of any ‘sight of any type including light-intensifying, heat-sensitive or other special sighting device for night shooting’ is now allowed under the Firearms Order (effective from 3 November 2023). Note that these sights can also be used in daytime and includes the use of thermal imaging, night vision and digital sights. You must still apply for an authorisation to shoot deer at night.
  • The minimum bullet weight required to shoot red, sika and fallow deer was reduced to 80 grains, or 5.3 grams (effective from 3 November 2023). This allows a greater choice of non-lead bullet types in common rifle calibres to be used. The minimum requirement of a muzzle energy of 1750 foot pounds and muzzle velocity of 2450 ft/sec still apply. There is no change to the minimum requirements for bullet weight, muzzle energy and muzzle velocity to shoot roe deer.

These changes are reflected on the Wild Deer Best Practice Group website.

General authorisation for deer

General Authorisation for 2023/24: For the taking or killing of deer during close season

The general authorisation allows occupiers suffering damage to improved agricultural land or enclosed woodland to control deer in the closed season.

But be aware: the general authorisation does not allow the culling of female deer over one year old, of any species, anywhere, between 1 April and 31 August. You must apply for a specific authorisation to do so.

You don’t need to apply to use the general authorisation. But you must be sure that you carry out any control entirely in accordance with the conditions.

For example, ‘enclosed land’ as defined by the Deer Act means enclosed by a stock-proof fence or other barrier.

Abuse of, or failure to comply with, the conditions of the general authorisation could constitute an offence.

Read about: Authorisations under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996: Guidance for Forestry Companies

Specific authorisations: how to apply

You can now apply for or renew an authorisation online. The new digital service is quicker and easier for both applicants and staff, allowing us to process applications more efficiently.

Applicants can use the online service to:

Alternative offline forms remain available for people who prefer to apply by email or post.


Collaboration and consultation between the various interests on any given piece of land is highly desirable.

All possible steps should be taken to ensure an effective dialogue between owner, occupier(s), sporting tenants, controllers, neighbours and the local deer management group.

Longer-term problems may be more effectively addressed by working with other deer managers in the area than by resorting to authorisations.

Find out more

Deer management in Scotland - Frequently Asked Questions


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]

Last updated: