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

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

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 Please note all of our deer forms have been updated and we will no longer accept any out of date forms.

Authorisation Application – Night shooting (18/2) and close season (5/6) shooting

Authorisation Application – To control female deer between 1 April and 31 August

Proposed controller/s and firearm certificate details – continuation sheet

Control areas to which this authorisation is applicable – continuation sheet


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.

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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]