top of page

Deer Stalking With Friends - before you get your FAC

In light of everything that's happening right now regarding the Home Office consultation regarding firearms laws in the UK, it's even more important than ever to ensure you have as many basis covered as possible before applying for your Firearms licence, or variation.

Let's take a closer look at the experience you should have before applying for your Firearms Licence in the UK.

roe deer buck in the countryside - deer stalking advice blog - shooting girl with an afro fieldsports blog uk

When I initially applied for my firearms licence I only had access to a Sako .22 rimfire, which I used for shooting rabbits. I had joined a local rifle club to practice and improve my skills in between shooting rabbits (my permission was limited), which had a 25 metre indoor range. This time spent at the range chatting to other rifle owners and time spent alone out in the field on rabbits also gave me the breathing space to think about what my next steps with rifles might be.

I had already spent the previous couple of years stalking with friends and butchering many deer carcasses (mainly roe, muntjac and Chinese water deer), so I had an idea that I may want to step up to a more powerful rifle for stalking, but I wanted to be absolutely sure that I wasn't just getting too over excited before moving forward.

After several months I realised I was more than ready. I had the stalking experience, I made sure I got the right references, I had shown proficiency in butchery (through interview not demonstration) and I had proved that the land I had permission on had deer that needed managing, demonstrating the need for a larger calibre of rifle.

1 - Stalking experience

Stalking with friends was something I was always happy to do, whether or not we saw deer, harvested deer, or indeed came home empty handed. If you are an outdoor enthusiast like me, no matter the hills you need to climb, hedgerows you need to scramble through (which is no mean feat to do when you have an afro, let me tell you!) And, no matter the mud you need to belly crawl through to get within a reasonable distance of your quarry; the sense of adventure, the respect for nature and the other amazing wildlife that you see are all part of what makes the experience more fulfilling.

But obviously, the most important part of all these experiences was learning from seasoned stalkers. Just as with other types of shooting and fieldsports, gaining insight from others is of the utmost importance; both learning from their successes and their mistakes. I was a very academic kid (yes, I was a huge geek at school) and loved to learn by reading tonnes and taking notes. However, I find that when it comes to fieldsports I prefer to learn by listening to stories and experiencing things first hand. Seeing someone doing what they do, explaining some of it but mostly allowing me to use my other senses to learn is invaluable. I could watch, feel and smell, whilst also feeling the weight of the responsibility that one loud step from me could end the one opportunity of the day of a successful stalk! These experiences also allowed my friend/guide to see how competent a hunter I was, meaning that they wee more than happy to write a letter of recommendation for me to go alongside my FAC variation, which I believe went a long way towards helping me to get the calibre I needed.

Gralloching was a whole other kettle of fish, but it was interesting to see different people doing it several different ways. Same with the equipment used; all of my friends and guides are highly experienced or professional stalkers, all of them put their harvest into the consumer food chain either selling to game dealers or using in restaurants. Yet they all used different equipment (rifles, scopes, sticks, clothing), they all had different preferences on the distance they would take a deer at, and they all had different techniques for gralloching (despite all of them taking their DSC1). This was a key piece of information for me; someone who fully believes that everyone is individual and you need to find what suits you best. Many people have tried to tell me until they're blue in the face that I will prefer their rifle sticks. But they never listen to the fact that I HAVE tried those sticks and I DON'T LIKE THEM. You are the one who will be pulling that trigger when it comes down to it, so ultimately you are responsible for ensuring you feel as comfortable as you can when doing it.

deer butchery - roe deer stalking uk - deer stalking advice blog, shooting girl with an afro fieldsports blog uk

2 - Butchery experience

My first ever experience of butchery was breaking down a horse. That's right, you heard me! I was a volunteer at Hammerton Zoo for a year in my late twenties, and among my list of responsibilities which included looking after the bats, sloths, lemurs and marmoset monkeys, was feeding and cleaning the big cats. The tigers were lucky enough to be fed retired racehorse meat every now and then; and as a lowly volunteer I was lucky enough to be involved in the butchery of said horses!

As icky as it was to do, especially in the heat of summer, it was the first time I could fully appreciate the effort and knowledge that went into breaking down an animal properly.

Many years later, I would have friends bringing me deer carcasses that they couldn't fit in their chillers, or to say thank you for helping out with something, and the knowledge I had from breaking down horses came back into play. I was no expert, but had a better idea of what to do - however I needed some help with knowing how to cook it properly. This is where my friend Jose Souto came in, who not only took me stalking but also taught me how to break down a deer properly (you can see him doing this at The Game Fair) and how to cook each section properly. I was not only grateful for the knowledge as a major foodie, but it meant that I could respect the life of the animal that I had taken, by ensuring that I was not wasting any of, or as little of, the meat as possible, by understanding what I was doing with it.

3 - Join a rifle club

It doesn't cost much to join and it's a great place to meet like minded people as well as practising your rifle skills!

Having come from a shotgun background rather than an air rifle background, I had no understanding about controlling breath, heart rate, etc. When you have been walking around trying find deer for an hour, then crawling for a couple hundred yards to get into position, being able to control your breathing and take that steady shot is paramount!

It also allowed me a chance to get to grips with the working parts of a rifle, the ammo, how to correct my aim, adjust the scope when zeroing and to see how comfortable (and competent) I was at shooting over specific distances.

deer stalking - bronze medal head - fieldsports blog - deer stalking uk - shooting girl with an afro blog

4 - Deer Stalking Certification

On top of the above, if you really want to you can take your Deer Stalking Certification. This will give you a good foundation of knowledge about deer management, identification of sex & species and legal requirements. This certification is not essential if you are planning on just feeding yourself or family. However, if you are planning on selling to a game dealer it is a legal requirement to have a unique ID number which allows you to sell game meat to game handling establishments.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope that the above info helps you when considering applying for your Firearms Licence application - do bear in mind that all police forces in different counties across the UK can behave differently, so not always a great idea to do exactly what your mate across the country might have done.

Happy Shooting!

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Sep 10, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Excellent information always Happy to see a diverse outdoor community.

Shooting Girl With An Afro | Shooting & Conservation Blog UK.jpg

Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I hope you're enjoying reading my blog! I'm not an expert, I only wish to share my personal experiences, of someone who did not grow up in the countryside nor enter the hunting world in the traditional way.

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page