Eating more venison could save saplings and boost carbon capture

The UK government has committed huge sums of money to planting trees for carbon capture. But these efforts are being undermined by the country’s rapidly expanding deer population, writes Len Williams

Wednesday 08 December 2021 10:04
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<p>Bucks (or stags) are mainly shot in late summer</p>

Bucks (or stags) are mainly shot in late summer

I come to a stop on a gloomy forest path. A few paces ahead of me, the deerstalker has taken out his thermal sensor and is scanning the forest. Nothing yet. He puts it away and pads silently forward over debris of leaves and twigs. After 20 steps or so, we stop again. I’m acutely aware of my own breathing, the leaves that rustle beneath my feet, bird calls and the creaking of tree branches in the breeze.

Martin Edwards, the deerstalker who has taken me out on this expedition on land in Hampshire, has told me that deer have good eyesight, a sense of smell almost as good as a dog’s, and excellent hearing. Fortunately, the cold breeze on this November evening is coming towards us, so if deer are near, they shouldn’t smell us approaching.

Later, we stand in the corner of a field, looking down at a copse about 250 metres below. Edwards, who is the head of deer management at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (Basc), tells me he believes there’s a group of four roe deer living in the thicket. If one does emerge, he plans to creep down into the field to get closer; he prefers to be within 200 metres when taking a shot. As someone who’s never seen an animal hunted before, I’m a little surprised to discover I’m excited, secretly willing a deer to emerge for an evening feed at the wood’s edge.

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