Deerstalking as a hobby, the why's and wherefores of training and certification

ugly

LE
Moderator
Having been asked to explain a bit about training of deerstalkers to a land owner who wished to take up the sport himself I penned a brief letter which I have copied here. I have taught a stalking course for about ten years, its been successful in getting many hobby stalkers started and also useful in teaching me an awful lot about people and deer. I took an introductory course many years ago despite training not being mandatory and have attended a few seminars on deer management and I feel that thie letter below is a fair explanation of the system, its flaws and the real reason it exists;

Deer Stalking as a hobby, an occupation, a sport or a service.

DSC1 and 2 The need for qualifications.

I have been involved in land management (which includes wildlife) for over 30 years. Most of this has been in a sporting or part time capacity. I have been a pest shooter, a farmer’s assistant, a hobbyist, a sporting gun and rifle user and most importantly a gamekeeper. My shooting career started over 40 years ago as a teenager with one of the cadet units. I proceeded into the regular army and finally the reserves. I have served operationally which can be thrilling but mainly very boring!

My sporting shooting career spluttered alongside my military one and when I left the services I was able to take up sporting shooting on a much more intense level.

After about 20 years I had the opportunity to get started in deerstalking. I was hooked from the beginning and still enjoy “buck fever”. I have always maintained that the day I stop being excited by the thrill I will retire.

The thrill of pulling the trigger if it can be called that is only a very tiny part of the game. I will try and explain this as I go along but essentially not every stalk ends in a kill and no stalk finishes with the kill.

When I started stalking the DSC1 was still very much in its infancy.

The St Hubertus club of GB was the organisation that ensured we got a Deer act setting in law the limits on what can be shot and when. This essentially raised in England the status of deer from agricultural pests to one of Game where they are protected for breeding but managed sensibly.

For about 30 plus years the St Hubertus Club was the only organisation with a set of rules regarding training for the stalker. The British Deer Society was formed as a broader society than the St Hubertus Club and with similar aims and also influenced the Deer Act of 1963.

Now at some point the BDS saw what St Hubertus was doing with stalker training and launched its Deer Management Training courses as DMQ’s.

Now none of these were recognised but eventually through Lantra they gained traction as accredited trainers and eventually along with BASC and others managed to get the DCS1 established as the benchmark course for deer stalking.

This was fine, a national standard that existing stalkers could measure against and many were to challenge the course. It was 4 days, 2 days of class room work, a day on the range and an examination day.

The problem was at no point was a live stalk carried out with or without rifles.

This seemed ok until new stalkers aware of the course and the requirement of the Forestry commission to have stalking qualifications decided it was a good thing and many took the course.

The course was originally based upon 50 or so questions from a 300 statement hand book issued on the course. The challenge was it wasn’t an open book course and without a deep knowledge you couldn’t hope to pass the exam.

Pupils failing the tests were disappointed, the course format changed slightly to allow a bigger revision period through Q & A however it was still a closed book exam.

A few passed the test, the Police had longed for an excuse to force formal training upon firearms users and this was it. Without a DSC1 pass you weren’t going to get a variation for a stalking rifle no matter how much land you had access to.

The DSC 2 was created to take more money from clients and allow other stalkers to cash in on the trade. Essentially within 12 months you had to complete 5 stalks and 2 grallochs. Now anyone with an ounce of common sense will see the opportunity to make money.

This is exactly what happened and the Police were compliant by refusing the variations and by putting severe restrictive clauses on rifles use.

Lantra now entered the game but despite being Govt recognised training accreditation body weren’t funded by or even the sole govt approved body.

The rules were challenged by a handful of independent providers and Lantra had to concede that it was one of the leading providers, also the Police firearms licensing organisations had to agree that training could be sought from any number of recognised providers and provided they were recognised then were eligible to be training providers for deer management courses.

This is where I started an enjoyable part of my career I teaching deer management with live stalking and interactive tests.

The DSC1 course evolved to meet the demand for training and also the demand for pass marks, learning 300 possible questions by rote was out, after all why should some one in Kent fail the course for not knowing the stalking legislation in Northern Ireland? Frankly it was bonkers, the DSC 1 test became an open book exam. You still need to have read the notes because to try and find all of the answers without ever opening the book beforehand would be a real challenge in the time allowed.

They still insisted upon DSC2 as they didn’t do a single stalk but somehow managed to provide on the course a fresh carcase for the meat hygiene part of the test.

I decided that if someone wants to be a commercial provider then they go to a local agri college and take the one evening course to pass. It really is that simple.

I continued to provide two levels of training, a deer taster day where after a zeroing and range session and some brief identification training a full evening stalk would take place.

The only difficulty is placing a client onto a shootable deer, the deer don’t always play ball and often are out of season if found. This is all part of the game.

I would run a full 2 day course where death by DVD covered the deer species and gralloching, the identification was done with real hides and heads and a range session before an evening stalk. An early morning stalk took place followed by Q&A revision and a 40 question multiple choice test.

Passing this would get the client a certificate of competence, a range session and two stalks, more than the DSC1.

This syllabus was recognised by the southern felweg (police firearms managers groups) to be as good as the DSC certificates. It also meant that only 2 hours follow up would be needed for the meat hygiene course and they could then start to harvest deer.

Essentially the DSC1 was a good idea, Lantra created a financial gravy train which everyone jumped on and then the Police used this as an excuse not to issue licenses.

In a way having the knowledge is better than having a certificate. You do however often have to convince the police of this, one way is to get a DSC1 and the other is to get a letter/certificate from a training provider saying that you have demonstrated competence.

Access to land is the key one, without it regardless of your qualifications you will not get a license or variation. If you are fortunate in this way then provided you have a compliant police force and insurance there is nothing to stop someone starting to stalk with no training.

I do however recommend reading the course notes, I have provided a link for you to download these notes as they are too big to email.

I am always available for advice and consultation in this field.
 

Mick9abf

War Hero
I don’t agree with using DSC1 as a bench mark, sure it is a good knowledge base but it can be passed without even seeing a deer, you then get a heap of people ‘qualified’ to put carcasses into the food chain who’s experience of gralloch and inspection amounts to watching a couple of YouTube videos. The byproduct of this can be amusing while watching someone ‘produce’ a carcass (if you’ve half an afternoon to wait for them to piss about, think about it and refer to YouTube), which looks like it was done by Freddie Kruger, husquvarna or a combination of both.

It’s chicken and egg as the DSC2 is more fit for purpose but then by its nature it has led to it being a cash cow for some. The thing is I know people who think they are ready for it and have culled a handful of deer at best and then there is the rumours of how some of the assessments are run.

Putting it as a necessity for some leases is half the problem, aguably indirectly it could put the prices of leases up as people who have invested that much money want something to show for it.

I’m sure something will be along soon to replace both once the gravy train slows and then choo, choo the providers will all jump on the bandwagon. Incidentally I have both, did them purely for the reason I thought the Scottish Government (SNP) who dislike firearms in ‘citizens hands’ intensely would use it as an excuse to cut FAC numbers.
 

4(T)

LE
I wonder how long it will be before deer stalking is targeted and shut down by activists?

Listening to a couple of clients' accounts of rather strained interviews with their FEOs, there seems to be an element of "so you like killing things" creeping into discussion around deer/pest rifles. More agenda-risms being promulgated...?
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
I wonder how long it will be before deer stalking is targeted and shut down by activists?

Listening to a couple of clients' accounts of rather strained interviews with their FEOs, there seems to be an element of "so you like killing things" creeping into discussion around deer/pest rifles. More agenda-risms being promulgated...?
If that's the case then scotland is doomed, fail to meet the cull targets for your DMG and they chopper in the marksmen and send you the bill! The Scots taxpayer would have to pay massive bills for that work, not even the SNP are that stupid surely?
Who would be doing the RTA call outs, not the Police, frankly armed police aren't equipped or frankly (in the main I wouldn't trust them) I doubt they would want to do it!
Let's hope its only local attempts to thin the herd!
If mine tried that line I would try the GMF line of counter attack!
 
I`ve been booted off Stalking Directory more than once for suggesting DSC1 & 2 are just money makers ,:)

Saying that you will learn from doing DSC1 but as ugly states you can get the certificate without any hands on experience , you can pass without ever having shot as much as a rabbit let alone a deer.

AFAIK unfortunately the Forestry Commission insist on DSC1 & 2 to stalk on their land.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
AFAIK unfortunately the Forestry Commission insist on DSC1 & 2 to stalk on their land.
100% correct, its a money maker, Lantra finally recognised St Huberts club trained stalker status as equivalent to DSC2 after many years of trying to force them to comply. St Huberts response was you have set a minimum standard as your pass for the top qualification. We do not recognise DSC 2 as a measure of Competence in stalking!
Or words to that effect. Quite rightly as the St Huberts scheme is rigorous and with good reason. I have always agreed that their way is the best. I am planning to train the next keeper and two of the guns on our shoot how to stalk so they can take over when I retire. I want it done properly with respect for the quarry (buck fever is not derogatory but in my mind a good description of that thrill before the remorse) and the land upon which they are lucky enough to shoot!
 
Convinced it won’t be long before DSC1 as a minimum will be mandatory to stalk deer in Scotland.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
Convinced it won’t be long before DSC1 as a minimum will be mandatory to stalk deer in Scotland.
Thats been pushed for a while down south, however how do you (Rather how can they) balance Lantra's suite of mickey mouse quals with grandfather rights and other pre DSC1 DMQ and NGO Deer Manager training? Anyone remember the NRA's attempt to take over all training?
I recently received this one:
NGO Deer.png

The course was a day of mixed ability and experience stalker and worked almost as a symposium where the experienced ones were passing on tips and best practices. I learnt a lot!
 
Thats been pushed for a while down south, however how do you (Rather how can they) balance Lantra's suite of mickey mouse quals with grandfather rights and other pre DSC1 DMQ and NGO Deer Manager training?
They can’t, but that doesn’t matter.

Mandating qualifications is “doing something about the problem”, even though there is no problem and the quals are often pointless.

There are plenty of people who have forgotten more about deer, stalking and the land than I will ever know, but unless they have a certificate they cannot be regulated, and we can’t have people doing unregulated things. It’s not safe.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
I doubt there are many Highland professionals over 40 that have much in the way of formal qualifications beyond maybe if they were lucky a couple of years at Agricultural college!
 

itchy300

Old-Salt
I've just done my DSC1 and have mixed feelings about the course. I did it over 2 days and an evening and it felt rushed, especially with the number of people on it.

I was disappointed with the lack of hands on butchering and if I'd not had a few goes before it would definitely raise more questions than answers. I was particularly puzzled by the lack of samples of diseased organs etc... How am I expected to recognise something I've never seen before then declare it safe to enter the food chain? I'm happy to consume what I've shot and butchered myself but I'll have to get a bit more experience before I'll stick any carcasses in the food chain.

On the upside the instruction and instructors were excellent and clearly very knowledgeable and experienced, we just lacked the time to exploit this. Also the shooting test seemed fit for purpose and I fired it with a .30-06 which was a first.

All in all I wouldn't describe myself as now being a qualified deer stalker but the course if nothing else has shown me what I need to learn (which as with most things is half the battle). I've booked myself onto a stalk for next month with a local chap who came very highly recommended. Having reflected in what I want from stalking I've decided that a couple of paid stalks a year will be enough to fill the freezer with enough to share with family and friends as well as satisfying my itch.

As a random bit of info plod near me are not accepting a DSC as a valid reason for a deer Stalking variation on your FAC.

Sorry for the long post its been bugging me for a while and I stumbled across this thread which seems to confirm what I thought.

Any hints, tips, advice etc on getting into stalking etc much appreciated! Cheers chaps
 
my sense that in the SW stalking is very much a closed shop. I presume trying to crowbar my way into that is likely to be either a) expensive or b) unwelcome?
 
my sense that in the SW stalking is very much a closed shop. I presume trying to crowbar my way into that is likely to be either a) expensive or b) unwelcome?
As i live close to Lulworth Ranges, have DSC1 and time on my hands, I contacted Defense Deer Management to find out how to become part of the organisation.

Didn't even get a reply.

Getting the impression they don't want to let anyone else in their playground.
 

itchy300

Old-Salt
I've not heard good things ref the defence deer management group, even if you manage to get in if your face doesn't fit (major and above) you might find yourself living in Edinburgh and being assigned Salisbury plain as a stalking area over the weekend and heaven forbid you turn them down.

Heard this second hand so could be utter bull
 
As i live close to Lulworth Ranges, have DSC1 and time on my hands, I contacted Defense Deer Management to find out how to become part of the organisation.

Didn't even get a reply.

Getting the impression they don't want to let anyone else in their playground.
Are you employed with the MoD with at least 5 years residual service? That's the minimum requirement for joining.
 
I've not heard good things ref the defence deer management group, even if you manage to get in if your face doesn't fit (major and above) you might find yourself living in Edinburgh and being assigned Salisbury plain as a stalking area over the weekend and heaven forbid you turn them down.

Heard this second hand so could be utter bull
Yes, I have to confirm it is utter bull.
 
100% correct, its a money maker, Lantra finally recognised St Huberts club trained stalker status as equivalent to DSC2 after many years of trying to force them to comply. St Huberts response was you have set a minimum standard as your pass for the top qualification. We do not recognise DSC 2 as a measure of Competence in stalking!
Or words to that effect. Quite rightly as the St Huberts scheme is rigorous and with good reason. I have always agreed that their way is the best. I am planning to train the next keeper and two of the guns on our shoot how to stalk so they can take over when I retire. I want it done properly with respect for the quarry (buck fever is not derogatory but in my mind a good description of that thrill before the remorse) and the land upon which they are lucky enough to shoot!
I don't trust Lantra whatsoever:

On hearing that a commercial company had started running homeloading courses I contacted them and ask who was doing the third party assurance and accreditation. They said Lantra.

Rang Lantra and asked them who was professionally qualified to conduct the third party assurance and accreditation? Might sound like me trying to make a dick of myself, but I was hoping a presidence had been set. The answer was that they did not have anyone qualified and the accreditation was for the actual teaching not the technical content of the course, which was accredited by the the delivering company.

So you have a company advertising an accredited homeloading course that has been accredited and assured by themselves!
 

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