Let me say straight off that I am not against night shooting in general, and night shooting can be useful tool for a deer manager, I have had Night authorisations in the past and have no axe to grind when the rules are followed
However a recent conversation had alarm bells ring, I will not name names nor locations for while I have no doubt my informant was genuine, the information is second hand and I can't verify it
First the rules
Authorisations are subject to conditions as specified by SNH
Night shooting authorisations used to only be issued where damage was being done to crops or commercial woodland, they can now also be granted for public safety for example where deer are liable to cause vehicle accidents.
SNH must be satisfied that night shooting is necessary to prevent serious damage, and no other method of control which might be adopted, would be adequate.
Authorisations must be in writing and include PRECISE area and for HOW LONG VALID
To be granted a night authorisation the operator must be on the fit and competent register.
Authorisation documents must be returned to SNH within seven days of expiry and details of all deer killed under the authority must be entered
There must be two people when operating a light marksman and light operator, three are recommended when a vehicle is being used light operator, driver and marksman
In woodland a trained deer dog must be available
Police authority in the area must be notified by SNH when a night authority is issued
The operator must also notify the police when night shooting will take place times etc, also anyone living or likely to be on the ground should be notified.
Best practice is normally only that best practice but as far as night shooting is concerned best practice is mandatory
and any failure to comply should result in the authorisation being removed
SNH reserves the right to place an observer with any night shooting operation to verify all terms and conditions are being adhered to.
Large forestry blocks being shot under night authorisation, what happened to precise area
one area having been shot continually over a period of seven years under night authorisation
how does this fit in with authorisation must state for how long it is valid.
And finally an area of amenity woodland being shot under a night authority, this is amenity woodland not commercial so whats the justification, but whats worse this ground had never been shot over prior to the night authorisation, so if its never been shot other than at night and no attempt has been made to manage the deer other than at night, how can they say no other method would be adequate to manage the population.
If these statements are true and I have no reason to believe they are not then someone is at the very least bending the rules whether it be the operators or those issuing the authorisations.
These incidents are pretty much in the same area, is there widespread abuse?
Scottish Government statement and SNHs remit wild deer are part of the public domain and current
legislation requires them to be sustainably managed in the public interest.
If the above practices are taking place is that sustainable or in the public interest?
I think not.
As already said there is a place for night shooting sometimes its the only way to deal with a problem but the rules are there for a reason not to be abused.
If you know of night shooting where you think the rules are being broken, contact your MP or anyone else who will listen, cause a stink if necessary someone will listen.