I was speaking to the farm manager on some ground I have been asked to control the deer on in the Scottish Borders, and he has made me aware of one of the local characters that frequents the place, who appears to be the resident badger watcher.
There are about 700acres of woodland with only a scattering of houses (half a dozen or so) at one end of the total 1,800acres. There is a gate next to these houses into the estate.
The issue with the badger watcher is that he apparently and fairly regularly, is seen out and about at all hours day and night taking photos etc, whilst dressed in cammo gear. He is often in the woods off the pathway and has on numerous occasions appeared from nowhere when the farm manager has been going about his daily business. He actually described his actions as 'quite disconcerting' when you think you are on your own and the next thing someone is standing a matter of yards away, watching.
The problem is that the manager and the relatively new owner don't want signs up on the gates saying that shooting is taking place, and 'stick to the paths' etc. I don't think it would matter anyway as this person seems to have access to the woods from his garden. The owner is keen not to fall out with locals by causing restrictions to their access (obviously in accordance with the legislation) but at the same time is well aware of the management requirements on a sporting estate.
The ground is actually fairly remote and it would appear to be only one or two locals who are exercising their right of passage.
The chances of something happening over an area of ground this size are obviously slim however, it would be interesting to see how the authorities would view a 'near miss' or worse, given the badger man's covert operations.
When I do eventually bump into him I intend to politely highlight the dangers of what he is doing and I have the backing of the manager in that respect. To be fair, up until now he has not had to contend with someone stalking on the ground and it may resolve itself amicably however, he is described as a 'bit of a character' so we will see.
I know it is our responsibility to take as much care as possible in ensuring the shot is safe etc, but can we really legislate for someone concealing themselves in the woods?