I do the deer control for a farmer here in Norfolk and he has now asked me to shoot some fallow on his land as they are damaging his crops. I know that they are not in season just now so can I do this?
Under section 7 of the Deer Act 1991, the so-called “Farmers’ Defence” can be used to control deer out of season in England and Wales. This enables out of season culling to protect crops on cultivated land and enclosed woodland, but only for the species which have caused or are likely to cause damage to crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber or any other form of property on the land and the belief that any further damage is likely to be serious and that action is necessary to prevent any such damage.
Anyone carrying out the control must have written permission from the holder of the shooting rights and the control must take place where the damage is actually occurring.
Note that it is called a “defence” and seen as a last resort only as, should any out of season control be queried, you must be able to show that you have tried all other methods first, including adequate in-season control, fencing, bangers and have recent evidence of the damage being done.
The Deer Initiative Best Practice Guide covers this in more detail.