Protected species: deer

All four deer species found in Scotland – red, roe, fallow and sika – are protected under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996.

Deer don’t belong to anyone while they’re alive. But the right to take or kill deer is limited to the owner of the land on which they’re found. A number of other people such as tenants may take or kill deer for certain purposes.

The Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 sets out:

  • when, where, how and by whom deer can be taken or killed
  • the dates of the open and closed seasons – during which the killing of deer is either permitted or prohibited

You can see our summary of offences in relation to deer below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Discover more about deer found in Scotland.

Offences: deer

Offences against deer include:

  • killing deer by any means other than shooting
  • shooting deer during close seasons
  • using any type of gun and/or ammunition to shoot deer other than those specified for this purpose

Deer close seasons in Scotland

Closed seasons vary by deer species and sex of the deer targeted.

Changes to the Deer (Close Season) (Scotland) Order were passed by the Scottish Parliament on 27 September 2023.

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.

  • Red hinds: 16 February to 20 October
  • Sika hinds: 16 February to 20 October
  • Fallow does: 16 February to 20 October
  • Roe does: 1 April to 20 October

For further information please refer to the Deer authorisations web page.

Deer authorisations

As with other types of licensing, deer authorisations allow named individuals to cull deer in circumstances that could otherwise constitute an offence. If you’re planning any deer management activities, you must make sure you stay within the law.

Find out about deer and licensing.

Find out more abut deer authorisations

Learn more about licensing.

Find out more

Protected species known to occur naturally in Scotland and their protection

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]

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