Wildlife Management - Deer Control
At the end of the deer season and cull targets reached, the one question I’m often asked is why are there more people into stalking now than there were twenty years ago and yet the deer population seems to be growing?
My answer to this is, your average stalker who does it for pleasure and recreational purposes doesn’t have a cull programme in mind to worry about. To be fair to them, when they go out, all they want is a good stalk and hopefully get a shot.
In most cases, if they come across a herd of fallow, most people will want that ‘trophy head’ and will shoot a buck sooner than take any of the does even when both are in season. The same usually goes for Muntjac and Roe. If there are a couple of them about, it’s normally the bucks that get targeted, again for their trophy head. In addition, more deer are being seen due to more greenbelt land being sold off for development.
As deer management makes up a large proportion of my work, a culling plan is essential to keep numbers down. When does come into season I concentrate purely on them.
After all it is the females that reproduce and multiply numbers. When it’s the close season, I still work on these areas checking squirrel boxes and doing rabbit control, also taking any Muntjac off the land (which have no close season).
Reconnaissance is vital during this time to keep a check on Fallow numbers, then to have a cull plan in place come open season.
Having the right equipment is a must when carrying out deer management. It’s all too easy to squeeze the trigger. However, when working on your own there is no point getting to your dispatched animal and then thinking “how am I going to lift this into the truck?”
So I have to ensure that I carry a deer hoist; deer sledge; pulling hoist and ramp; good knives; roesack; gambels; hooks and an on board pressure washer to wash off any contamination... the list goes on.
All have their own place on my vehicle so the job can be done properly and without causing injury whilst keeping the carcasses clean and free from cross contamination.
Wildlife Management - Rural Fox Control
The control of rural foxes is something I undertake year round taking as many as possible through the winter months which mainly are the animals others have failed to control with a lamp & rifle. Unsurprisingly, it’s usually ones which have already been the victims of failed shooting attempts.
I always do the usual reconnaissance check of the field and surrounding for safe back stops etc. then normally go out that night, in most cases with my thermal imaging scope set up on the rifle, along with thermal imaging spotter to scan the fields first.
Usually I manage to get a kill on the first night, but this is not always the case. If it’s a very wise, old fox the tactics have to be changed.
To this end, I bait a particular area to get the fox feeding and feeling secure. I also install a good stealth camera which tells me what time and date it’s there and with foxes being creatures of habit it’s normally around the same time each night.
I would make sure I’m in position usually about 100 yards away making sure the wind is in the right direction and not behind me. Foxing through the summer months however, I find it a lot more relaxing to use a normal scoped up rifle and a pair of binoculars when foxes can often be taken during daylight hours.
Foxes tend to change their hunting habits in the summer especially if they have a litter of cubs to feed and the bigger the cubs get the more demanding they get for food.
The vixen will hunt through the day as well as the night and it’s only a matter of time before she will have them out with her teaching them how to hunt themselves. This can be a worrying time for game keepers when they’ve had their thousands of poults delivered.
This type of control is a must to ensure that the vixen is taken first before even thinking about taking the cubs. I’ve had times where I’ve sat watching cubs playing outside the earth for 20/30 minutes and not a sign of the vixen. It’s all a waiting game and having patience. However, by taking her first, the cubs will be easy pickings after that.
Another good time for summer fox control is as soon as farmers cut their fields. I get setup alongside a hedgerow which they’ve had months of running through high cover. This is great time for them to hunt field mice and voles this is often done before the end of daylight hours. This is when I am at my happiest, in a t shirt and not freezing to death in those winter months and being out until the early hours!
Wildlife Management - Squirrel control
As I’m sure everyone will be aware, grey squirrels can cause significant damage to the local environment and therefore their control is a necessary if not imperative part of conservation.
The type of control I am predominantly involved in, consists of mainly large areas of woodland, farm estates and large stately gardens. In my experience, squirrel boxes containing a mark 6 fenn are a very effective method of control. Positioning these approximately 12—15 feet up trees, keeps them away from public interference and is always the best policy.
I often get asked to take on a new piece of woodland when a clear fell has been carried out and young trees planted.
Before using squirrel boxes and following a robust risk assessment, I will usually conduct a couple of visits and use a 22 rimfire (a small quiet calibre bullet rifle) which is very effective against grey squirrels.
Once the numbers are reduced, the boxes will be used to control of any which have avoided the shooting programme and any others which may have moved into the area. Squirrels are very inquisitive and cannot resist the monkey nuts placed at bottom of the box. They drop in head first, where the Mark 6 Fenn dispatches them very swiftly.
Young trees can be a easy target and squirrels love the sweet sap they contain. Once a tree is ringed (i.e. a complete circle of bark gnawed around the stem) the movement of sugars around the plant will halt and the tree will die. Bark stripping is always worst between April and July, however, it is important to remember grey squirrels are a highly mobile species and a controlled woodland can be re-colonised within a month. As a consequence, constant vigilance and control were necessary with boxes and 22 rimfire will certainly help to keep numbers down considerably.
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