Shooting a red deer calf on BBC series ‘Lady Lairds’

Red deer calf. (Photo courtesy of Polly Pullar)

Red deer calf. (Photo courtesy of Polly Pullar)

From time to time I see a wildlife law query on Twitter to which I sometimes respond. I may know the answer but more and more now that I have retired and not dealing with the law on a daily basis I need to research to remind myself. The most recent was an incident on the new BBC series Lady Lairds in which a red deer stag, hind and a calf were shot as they appeared to be a threat to the laird’s garden. I suspect the main cause for concern for some viewers was that the calf was shot, with the query as to whether this was legal.

Red deer have close seasons as follows:

Stags: 21 October – 30 June

Hinds: 16 February – 20 October.

I watched the short part of the series that related to the shooting on iplayer and the incident took place in winter. Looking at this from the standpoint of the law it would therefore be legitimate to shoot the hind. Having done so, the stalker was obliged to shoot the calf as it would be unlikely to survive without the mother. With the calf being under 12 months old a general authorisation issued by Scottish Natural Heritage permits this to be done whether the calf is male or female.

The stag which was with the group and was shot was protected by the close season but the same general licence allows it to be shot to prevent certain damage (listed on the authorisation) provided this is done by certain listed persons with the permission of the occupier of the land affected, provided it is carried out in daylight and provided there is no other suitable means of control.

I have reproduced the general authorisation below for interest.


Scottish Natural Heritage                          Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba

All of nature for all of Scotland                          Nàdar air fad airson Alba air fad


General Authorisation under Section 5(6) (a) for the taking or killing of deer during close season.

We, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 5(6) (a) of the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 (as amended by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010) and the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, being satisfied:

1) (a) that the taking or killing of deer is necessary:

(i) to prevent damage to any crops, pasture or human or animal foodstuffs on

any agricultural land which forms part of that land; or

(ii) to prevent damage to any enclosed woodland which forms part of that land;


(b) that no other means of control which might reasonably be adopted in the

circumstances would be adequate,

hereby authorise:

2) (a) the occupier suffering damage to those interests outlined in subsection 1(a) above

and; if duly authorised in writing by the occupier suffering damage for the purpose, any or all of;

(b) the owner in person;

(c) the owner’s employees;

(d) the occupier’s employees, or any other person normally resident, on the land;

(e) any other person approved in writing by SNH as a fit and competent person for the purpose to take or kill:

3) (a) Male deer and juveniles (up to 12 months old) of any species, during the period of

any statutory close season; and/or

(b) Female deer of any species during the period of any statutory close season, but not including the period 1st April to 31 st August;

Only during daylight hours, as may be necessary to prevent damage to the aforementioned interests on:

4) (a) arable land, improved permanent pasture (other than moorland) and land which has been regenerated so as to be able to make a significant contribution to the productivity of a holding which forms part of that agricultural land; or

(b) enclosed woodland


authorisation during the period 1 April to 31 August.

This authorisation will remain in force until the expiry date, or the authorised person ceases to be so authorised and is subject to the following conditions: –

  1. No person convicted on or after 18 November 1996 of an offence under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 (as amended) may use this authorisation unless, in respect of that offence, either (1) they were dismissed with an admonition, or (2) they are a rehabilitated person for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and their conviction is treated as spent. A person may also use this authorisation where, in respect of such an offence, a court has made an order discharging the absolutely.

Such a person may apply for a specific authorisation from Scottish Natural Heritage.

  1. SNH may withdraw this authorisation at any time, in whole or in part.
  1. The authorised person must comply with The Deer (Firearms etc.) (Scotland) Order 1985, the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 (as amended) and Best Practice as published by the Wild Deer Best Practice Partnership and available on the Best Practice website

  1. SNH reserves the right to accompany controllers operating under this authorisation.
  1. Occupiers should be able to demonstrate that other appropriate means of control, including liaison with others who control deer on the land and on adjacent lands or, where appropriate, the local deer management group, have been explored before undertaking control under this authorisation.
  1. The safe use of firearms is the responsibility of the nominated controller(s).
  1. Occupiers must provide details of deer killed under this general authorisation to the owner of the land.

Wildlife Operations Unit, Scottish Natural Heritage


  1. This general authorisation applies only to the land types and classes of persons specified.
  1. For the avoidance of doubt, this general authorisation allows for the shooting of female deer during the following periods (dates inclusive):
  1. Red deer from 16 February to 31 March and 1September to 20 October
  2. Sika deer from 16 February to 31 March and 1September to 20 October
  3. Fallow deer from 16 February to 31 March and 1September to 20 October
  4. Red/Sika hybrids from 16 February to 31 March and 1September to 20 October
  5. Roe deer from 1September to 20 October
  6. Any requirement to shoot adult female deer for the prevention of damage to the classes of land specified, outwith the period of this general authorisation will require a specific authorisation from SNH.

4, Any requirement for out of season shooting to prevent damage to:

  1. unenclosed woodland; or
  2. the natural heritage; or
  3. in the interests of public safety;

will require a specific authorisation from SNH.

  1. This general authorisation does not place any requirement on the occupier; the owner, the owner’s employees, the occupier’s employees, or any other person normally resident, on the land to be on the SNH Fit & Competent Register.
  1. Any reference to deer means deer as specified by Section 45 of the Deer

(Scotland) Act 1996 (as amended).



The following definitions from the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 are of relevance:

“agricultural land” has the meaning given by the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991;

“enclosed” means enclosed by a stock-proof fence or other barrier, and “unenclosed” shall be construed accordingly;

“occupier” in relation to any land includes any tenant or sub-tenant, whether in actual occupation of the land or not;

“owner” in relation to any land includes any person who under the Land Clauses Acts would be enabled to sell and convey the land to promoters of an undertaking;

“woodland” means land on which trees are grown, whether or not commercially, and includes any such trees and any vegetation planted or growing naturally among such trees on that land.


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