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.
Changes to deer management legislation
Changes to the Deer (Close Season) (Scotland) Order and the Deer (Firearms etc) (Scotland) Order were passed by the Scottish Parliament on 27 September 2023. These changes affect the law relating to deer management:
- The change to the Close Season Order removed the close season for all species of male deer in Scotland effective from 21 October 2023. You are no longer required to apply to NatureScot for an Out of Season Authorisation to shoot male deer. Female deer seasons in Scotland remain unchanged and you will still be required to apply for an Out of Season Authorisation (5(6) to shoot female deer and / or operate within the parameters set out under the General Authorisation.
- The change to the Firearms Order came into effect on 3 November 2023 and allows the use of any ‘sight of any type including light-intensifying, heat-sensitive or other special sighting device for night shooting’. Note that these sights can also be used in daytime and includes the use of thermal imaging, night vision and digital sights. You will still need to apply for an Authorisation (18(2) to shoot deer at night.
- The change to the Firearms Order also means a reduction in the minimum bullet weight required to shoot red, sika and fallow deer to 80 grains (5.3 grams). 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.
The Wild Deer Best Practice Group has drafted new guidance and the night shooting code of practice has been updated to reflect these changes. These are available on the Wild Deer Best Practice Group webpages.
General authorisation for deer
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.
Specific authorisations: how to apply
Fill in the relevant application form and email it to [email protected]. Please note all of our deer forms have been updated and we will no longer accept any out of date forms.
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
If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.