Managing Scotland’s deer numbers

Measures to protect biodiversity and prevent nature loss. 

Land managers will be given more powers to help control Scotland’s rapidly growing deer population after updated rules were introduced to Parliament this week. The changes to existing laws will make it easier to reduce unsustainable deer numbers in order to protect plant life and boost rewilding efforts.

The refreshed regulations will allow authorised land managers to:

  • cull male deer across a longer period of the year
  • use specialist scopes known as ‘night sights’ to cull deer at night
  • use ammunition which is less damaging to venison products

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said:

“These changes – recommended by the Deer Working Group – will allow deer to be managed in a way that is both beneficial to our environment and the rural economies that rely upon deer.

“Deer are an iconic species that is synonymous with rural Scotland but their numbers have reached densities that can have a devastating impact on our land due to trampling and overgrazing. This activity can prevent new trees from growing and damage existing woodland.

“The changes to rules on ammunition will also boost Scotland’s venison sector. Lead is toxic to humans and its presence can spoil venison products. That’s why we are now allowing land managers to use different types of ammunition. This will make more venison available to both foreign and domestic markets.

Mike Daniels, Vice-Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK Deer Group said:

“We strongly support the Scottish Government’s proposals to improve the flexibility of deer management, based on the independent scrutiny of the Deer Working Group and its final recommendations.

“More than ever we need to make all of the tools available to Scotland’s skilled and experienced deer managers to deliver the urgent changes required for nature and for all of us.”

Peter Clark, Scotland Director of British Association for Shooting and Conservation said:

“BASC Scotland supports the decision to amend the minimum bullet weight because it will make non-lead ammunition more accessible.

“Many stalkers are already required to use lead-free ammunition, be it through lease conditions or AGHE requirement, thus this would ensure that stalkers in these situations can continue to manage deer populations and supply venison into the food chain.”


The Scottish Government has a Programme for Government commitment to “modernise deer management, implementing the recommendations of the Deer Management Working Group.”

The Deer (Close Seasons) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2023

The Deer (Firearms etc.) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2023


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