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Heading for the Scottish hills? Check for deer stalking activity on Highland estates

By John Davidson

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Hillwalkers are reminded to check for information before setting out to avoid disturbing deer stalking activity. Picture: Lorne Gill/SNH
Hillwalkers are reminded to check for information before setting out to avoid disturbing deer stalking activity. Picture: Lorne Gill/SNH

Hillwalkers should check for information about deer stalking before setting out during the busiest part of the season.

That is the message from Scotland’s nature agency, NatureScot, which manages the Heading for the Scottish Hills website, providing details on deer management on estates up to late October to help walkers avoid disturbing stalking.

Most stalking activity takes place from August onwards, with autumn being a particularly important time on the open hill.

NatureScot says that management of deer controls the grazing pressure on natural habitats, not only contributing to the rural economy, but helping protect woodlands and restore them to their carbon-capturing potential.

With many more people getting out and about to enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer since the easing of Covid restrictions, the website helps walkers to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It includes advice on where and when stalking is taking place on each estate, provides details on who to contact for more information and includes routes that are ‘always okay’ for walkers.

The access code also encourages walkers to follow reasonable advice from land managers on alternative routes and to avoid crossing land where stalking is taking place.

Fiona Cuninghame, NatureScot recreation, access and paths officer, said: “Many people are enjoying Scotland’s amazing hills more than ever following the restrictions of the last two years. Some people may be discovering the joys of exploring our hills and mountains for the first time, which is fantastic – but it’s also important to bear in mind that this can be a very busy time for land managers.

“Our Heading for the Scottish Hills website is a great resource to help walkers have a great day out without disturbing deer stalking in their chosen area, as well as learning about your rights and responsibilities more generally under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

The information can also be accessed through the Walkhighlands website, with relevant stalking details provided on the page for each walk.

Davie Black, Mountaineering Scotland access officer, said: “We have been involved with Heading for Scottish Hills since it started and encourage all walkers to check the website during the stalking season and contact the relevant estate if they have further questions.”

Tom Turnbull, chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups (ADMG), said: “Land managers welcome visitors to the hills, but in some circumstances disturbance can prevent successful deer management. With increasing pressure to achieve culls from Scottish Government in the light of the climate and biodiversity crisis, ADMG would like to encourage all visitors to check the Heading for the Hills website and take notice of any signage on the ground when taking responsible access.

"We would like to thank everyone who uses the website, which has seen increased usage in recent years and has received positive feedback from our members."

Heading for the Scottish Hills was first launched in 2015. The website can be accessed at www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/hftsh

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