Fallow are scattered throughout the Province and Red Deer mostly
occur along the County Donegal border, with a few outlyers in
County Down which escaped from the County Down Staghounds.
With the increased demand for venison, Deer
Farms have appeared throughout Northern Ireland. They are stocked
with either Red Deer or Fallow Deer.
In addition to the wild deer throughout the
six counties, we must consider the deer confined within the various
large deer parks and estates. To me the most important and finest
herd is the Red Deer Herd owned and maintained by His Grace the
Earl of Caledon on his beautiful estate at Caledon. Stop on the
country road during the rut in October, and you will hear the
stags roaring their challenge to each other. The lucky people
will be the ones that get a glimpse of these majestic animals.
The chosen ones are the members of the Northern
Ireland Deer Society who assist estate staff with the tagging
of the "Bambie" calves in early June. Go on join the
Society and get the opportunity to see the most beautiful animal
in this country for yourself.
Private deer herds of Sika are maintained at
Colebrooke Estate and Baronscourt Estate in County Fermanagh,
and Fallow Deer at Shanes Castle Estate in County Antrim and Clandeboye
Estate in County Down. There is also a small herd of Red Deer
on Seaforde Estate, which is also in County Down. The National
Trust maintains a small enclosed herd of Fallow Deer at Crom Castle
in County Fermanagh.
For the general public Fallow Deer can be seen,
if you are very lucky, in Tollymore Forest and Randalstown Forest.
Sika Deer can be seen in Gortin Glen Forest, and if you want to
see the majestic Red, call in at Gosford Forest Park in County
Perhaps the most interesting and genetically
valuable herd is that of the White Fallow at Parkanaur Forest
Park in County Tyrone. They are direct descendants of the White
Fallow from Mallow Castle in County Cork, the oldest park herd
of deer in Ireland.
For the protection and good of the deer they
must be managed. Basically in Northern Ireland all deer control
and culling is carried on in house, either by estate stalkers
on private estates, or by wildlife wardens within the Northern
Ireland Forest Services. All shooting is done with full-bore rifles,
the most popular calibre being either .243 or.270.
There is no leased deer stalking in Northern
Ireland. Perhaps the unique security situation in this country
has largely precluded the casual sporting use of the full-bore
All the deer herd owners wish to maintain full
control of the cull - both the selection of the animals which
make up the herd and the total number of deer to be taken out.
That is not to say that the private amateur
stalker does not have the opportunity to stalk deer in Northern
Ireland. Northern Ireland Forest Services operates a day permit
system whereby anyone suitably equipped, and most importantly,
skilled and insured, can make application for an outing with a
trained wildlife warden and assist with part of the cull within
the forest services. There is no unescorted stalking, and the
warden will select the animal to be culled. Payment is for a standard
3 hours outing, plus a trophy fee depending on the quality of
the animal shot.
To the best of my knowledge only two private
estates - Baronscourt and Colebrooke - offer deer stalking. These
are generally geared to a residential weekly package. High demand
from continental stalkers means the market is usually fully booked.
Most of the stags are shot from high seats. The hinds (females)
are taken by estate stalkers.
Stalking in Northern Ireland is woodland stalking.
There is no traditional open hill stalking as in Scotland.
A high percentage of the deer shot in Northern
Ireland are sold locally for venison. The remainder of the cull
is mostly sold to game dealers in Scotland. Local demand for wild
venison from Hotels, Restaurants and retail butchers is high for
two main reasons:
1) The long running health scares within the Beef industry.
2) The fact that wild venison is virtually cholesterol free and
therefore recognised as a health food
With the increase in cookery programmes on
television, and the vast selection of recipe books on the market,
the many amateur chefs are experimenting with new dishes.
Current Government policy to increase afforestation
throughout Northern Ireland means an increase in suitable deer
habitat and this in turn gives us, the public, more opportunity
to see deer. Those of us who study and observe deer know only
too well that deer have much better eyesight than the human; therefore
practice the skills and see the deer for yourselves, it really
is well worth while.
When did you last see a wild deer? They are
there and I bet they saw you.
Many years ago when I first became interested
in deer, I was given the opportunity to access woodlands on which
there was a small herd of wild Fallow. A local gave me sound advice:
"when you're moving you are making a noise, so spend more
time looking and listening than walking", so off to the woods
I went! As we approached the area on a late, still, cloudless
September morning, driving up a long lane we saw a commotion on
a large bank. Slowing down to a crawl, we made our approach and
observed a unique spectacle, a Honey Buzzard attacking a wild
bee's nest. Small sods flying everywhere and hundreds of bees
in the air- car windows were shut tight.
We sat for ages watching and eventually he
reached the honeycomb which he started to eat. We had spent long
enough so, releasing the hand- brake, we free-wheeled past without
disturbing morning breakfast.
Going into the woods I went off in my chosen
direction. Walking slowly for about 20 minutes, I found a big
flat stone at the base of a Larch tree and sat down. Around me
was an area of open mature Larch with a very thick carpet of bright
green moss. Time passed, and there I relaxed listening to the
sounds of the forest. Suddenly from the corner of my eye I detected
a movement. Slowly turning my head I saw a pair of Pine Martens,
about 15-20 yards away, playing in the thick moss like two otters.
I relaxed even more and watched, not having a camera to distract
me. I enjoyed the whole experience until they had had enough and
continued on their morning search for breakfast, out of my sight.
Being content with my lot, I remained on my
stone seat listening and watching, when over my shoulder I heard
the crack of twig - what was the next excitement to come? One
crack, then another and another, but still I didn't move, hardly
even breathing. Eventually curiosity got the better of me. I slowly
turned my head under the broad-rimmed hat.
At first I saw nothing and thought the woods
were playing tricks, but on a closer look I detected a movement.
Concentration produced a pair of long ears. These ears eventually
developed from behind a fallen and moss-covered trunk into the
most beautiful 4-months old fallow calf. His natural defence had
not detected me, so motionless and holding my breath. I watched
him browse and nibble. For some reason he appeared to be on his
He continued to browse closer and closer to
me, eventually moving to within 10 or 12 feet of me, and then
lifting his head in that angular, inquisitive way, stared straight
at me, decided I should not be there, turned and departed in a
slow, stilted bounce, reminiscent of deer and antelope.
That day has stayed clear in my mind for 35