What is deer poaching?

The Deer Act 1991 is the principal legislation dealing with offences against deer. Deer means deer of any species and includes the carcase of any deer or any part and species includes any hybrid of different species of deer.

Under this Act, it is an offence without the consent of the occupier, owner or other lawful authority to:

  • enter any land in search or pursuit of deer with the intention of taking, killing or injuring it, or
  • while on any land to intentionally take, kill or injure any deer or attempt to do so, or search for or pursue deer with such intent, or remove the carcass of any deer.

Exemptions

An 'authorised person' is permitted to kill or take deer that are causing damage on cultivated land, pasture or woodland. An 'authorised person' is:

  • the owner or occupier of land;
  • a resident member of his household (authorised in writing by the occupier);
  • an employee of the occupier authorised in writing by him; or
  • a person having the right to take or kill deer on that land, or a person authorised in writing by the occupier.

If an authorised person reasonably suspects someone is or has been committing poaching offences he may require that person to give their full name and address and to quit the land forthwith.

Sale of venison

A person commits an offence if he sells or offers or exposes for sale, or has in his possession for sale, or purchases or offers to purchase or receives, any venison which comes from a deer which has been taken or killed in circumstances which constitute an offence under any of the preceding provisions of this Act; and which the person concerned knows or has reason to believe has been so taken or killed.

A Regulatory Reform Order come into force in England and Wales on the 1st August 2007 and removed the requirement to hold a game licence in order to take or kill game. Should a stalker intend to sell any deer shot, he must ensure that sale is restricted to licensed food operators, if in England, or a licensed venison dealer if sold in Scotland.

Traps, snares, poison and nets

It is an offence to set in position any trap, snare, poisoned or stupefying bait so placed as to be calculated to injure any deer coming into contact, or to use any trap, snare, poisoned or stupefying bait or a net to kill or take any deer. It is also an offence to attempt to commit these offences.

Firearms and drugs

It is an offence to use any of the following to injure or kill any deer:

  • Arrow, spear or similar missile;
  • Missile containing poison, stupefying drug or muscle relaxant;
  • Rifle less than .240 or with a muzzle energy less than 1700ft/lb;
  • Rifle bullet other than soft or hollow-nose;
  • Air weapon;
  • Shotgun or shotgun ammunition.

A deer may be killed with any shotgun if it is seriously injured or in such a condition that to kill it would be an act of mercy; but the person would have to show that the injury was not caused by his own unlawful act.

An unlawful act is any offence under any Act and could include the use of a rifle without a certificate or whilst poaching. A shotgun may be used as a slaughtering instrument if it is not less than 12-bore, has a barrel less than 24in and is loaded with AAA shot or larger. It is an offence to attempt to commit any of these offences.

Motor vehicles

It is an offence to discharge a firearm or project any missile at any deer from any mechanically propelled vehicle, when the engine or vehicle is running (e.g. car, boat, aircraft, helicopter or hovercraft) or to use such a vehicle to drive deer. It is also an offence to attempt to commit these offences. Such actions are not illegal, however, if carried out by, or with the written authority of, the occupier of any enclosed land where deer are usually kept, and in relation to deer on that land.

Killing deer at night

It is an offence to take or intentionally kill deer, of any species, at night. Night is defined as between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise. It is also an offence to attempt to commit the offence.

Taking or killing of certain deer in close season

If any person takes or intentionally kills any deer of a species and description mentioned in Schedule 1 to this Act during the prescribed close season, he shall be guilty of an offence. The prescribed close season, in relation to a particular deer, is the close season prescribed by Schedule 1 to this Act in relation to deer of that species and description as shown below.

CHINESE WATER DEER (Hydropotes inermis)

  1. Buck 1st April to 31st October inclusive
  2. Doe 1st April to 31st October inclusive

FALLOW DEER (Dama dama)

  1. Buck 1st May to 31st July inclusive
  2. Doe 1st April to 31st October inclusive

RED DEER (Cervus elaphus)

  1. Stags 1st May to 31st July inclusive
  2. Hinds 1st April to 31st October inclusive

RED /SIKA DEER HYBRIDS

  1. Stags 1st May to 31st July inclusive
  2. Hinds 1st April to 31st October inclusive

ROE DEER (Capreolus capreolus)

  1. Buck 1st November to 31st March inclusive
  2. Doe 1st April to 31st October inclusive

SIKA DEER (Cervus nippon)

  1. Stags 1st May to 31st July inclusive
  2. Hinds 1st April to 31st October inclusive

Exemptions

A person shall not be guilty of an offence of any act done for the purpose of preventing the suffering of an injured or diseased deer. A person shall not be guilty of an offence taking or killing a deer that he reasonably believes

  1. has been deprived in any way (other than by an unlawful taking or killing by that person) of a female deer on which it was dependent; or
  2. is about to be deprived, by death from disease or a lawful taking or killing, of a female deer on which it is dependent.

A person shall not be guilty of an offence of setting in position, or using, any trap or net for the purpose of preventing the suffering of an injured or diseased deer.

A person shall not be guilty of an offence of the use of any reasonable means for the purpose of killing any deer if he reasonably believes that the deer has been so seriously injured, otherwise than by his unlawful act, or is in such condition, that to kill it is an act of mercy. "Any reasonable means" means any method of killing a deer that can reasonably be expected to result in rapid loss of consciousness and death and which is appropriate in all the circumstances (including in particular what the deer is doing, its size, its distance from the closest position safely attainable by the person attempting to kill the deer and its position in relation to vegetative cover).

A person shall not be guilty of an offence by reason of the use as a slaughtering instrument, for the purpose of killing any deer, of a smooth-bore gun which

  1. is of not less gauge than 12 bore;
  2. has a barrel less than 24 inches (609.6 millimetres) in length; and
  3. is loaded with a cartridge purporting to contain shot none of which is less than .203 inches (5.16 millimetres) in diameter (that is to say, size AAA or any larger size).

A person shall not be guilty of an offence if he uses for the purpose of taking or killing or injuring any Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis) or Muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi)

  1. a rifle having a calibre of not less than .220 inches and a muzzle energy of not less than 1,356 joules (1000 foot pounds), and
  2. a soft-nosed or hollow-nosed bullet weighing not less than 3.24 grammes (50 grains).

Rate this page