Applying for your DSC2, with advice from Chris Dalton

You’ve got your DSC1 – now it’s time for the DSC2. Chris Dalton explains the steps involved in the application and why you shouldn’t be daunted.

June is a relatively quiet month for the stalking team. That said, we do have clients in for roebucks as it is a good time to get a decent representative buck, and work on protecting vulnerable forestry continues. While we are out on these forays, we can monitor what is going on generally, but the next big push on the roe will be the rut towards the end of July.

We have long daylight hours and the cover is at its height, but it’s still great to be out at first light while the rest of the world sleeps – as long as you can get to bed early in the evening…

It is the summer when I do a lot of training – which brings me on the Deer Stalking Certificate Level 2. With the electronic portfolio, DMQ are entering the world of the computer.

This in itself has caused much comment within the stalking community – some love it, some hate it, as I suppose you can expect with anything new. The system has broadly been active for around 18 months and we are getting used to it by now. There have been teething problems, and a few tweaks have been required here and there, but now it seems to be working well.

Essentially, for the candidate in terms of achieving the required standard, you don’t fail a DSC2 assessment – you simply need to do a bit more work or hone your knowledge in some key areas before your next witnessed outing.

You will still have to stalk and cull three deer with the AW behind you, as it has always been. What is different, however, is the method of recording and submitting this information and how it is witnessed and assessed– all electronic, so you will have to bash some computer keys.

This has caused some angst particularly among the older of us, but it’s not as bad as it seems. I doubt very much that no one has a household, friend or family without access to a computer somwhere, or at least an iPad or the like.

I get a fair few calls from candidates who are not ‘computer literate’, but we have usually got around the problem, and assistance in completion of the relevant document has been provided by a spouse, child or – in two cases – grandchildren.

If you want a witnessed stalk to go smoothly, get organised and sort your gear ahead of time

That said, if you have genuine issues in doing this, the nice folk at your assessment centre or DMQ will be able to help. The paper portfolio will still be around for a few years yet as well, but only for those folk registering for DSC2 before autumn last year, as you have three years from first registration to complete the assessment. Then those portfolios will be ‘live’ for another 18 months or so until completed.

The application process for DSC2 is still through one of the assessment centres, with BASC and BDS the most commonly used. I am an assessor with the BDS, but there are others, so go with whoever you prefer.

Once registered, you will get an email with log-on instructions and a password. This allows you access to the ‘One File web site’, where you will have an online page with all of your information and details of the process along with your nominated assessor – this will also have been advised in your initial email.

After changing the password, the only other folk who have access to your information are the assessor and the administrator at your assessment centre. 

For now that’s it until you have successfully competed your witnessed stalks, though I would recommend that you find your way around your portal and the resources section, where you can access the two forms that you will eventually need to complete: the Candidate CV and the candidate narrative templates.

A witness is just that – a witness, not a guide – so really, you’re on your own

The single most important advice I can give is: Speak to your nominated assessor who can explain the process, answer any questions that you have, and get you on the right track from the off. As for most things in life, if you start off with good advice then the process should be relatively painless.

To progress, you will need to find an Approved Witness, AW. You will have been supplied with a list of AWs and you need to find one who will take you out on a witnessed stalk.

You have to cull three deer with a AW present, who will then, if you have reached the required standard, complete an Individual cull record (ICR). You have to shoot three deer and there have to be three ICRs produced for you to achieve DSC2.

You can use the same AW for all three culls or different AWs – it makes no difference as long as they are AWs listed on the information supplied to you on registration.

I strongly recommend that you make sure that your chosen AW is up to the job and understands the process. Unless you are lucky, you will have to pay for his or her services, which is only fair – but make sure you are getting value for your money. Would you appoint a tradesman to carry out building/repair work for you without checking them out beforehand?

The assessment doesn’t end when you take the shot. Carcase handling is all part of it

Often you may want some training before embarking on the DSC2. Some outfitters will do this you – I certainly do – so again make sure you are ready before you go on a witnessed outing.

Similarly, don’t register for DSC2 until you are ready, as you only have three years to complete the assessment from registration. Little point registering and then starting out on a training process – the clock will be ticking. 

A witnessed stalk is in effect the same as an advanced driving test. You conduct a stalk with an AW behind you. He has to be close to witness what you are doing and step in if there is an issue he needs to deal with.

It is simply an accompanied stalk in reverse: you, the candidate, lead the outing, you select the deer to shoot from a predetermined cull plan, you shoot the deer, conduct the follow-up, complete the gralloch and carcase inspection, transport the deer to the larder and complete the larder process along with any recording, completion of dealer tags and the like.

The AW can take no part in any of this process. They are merely there to observe and record. If they have to step in at any time, it ceases to become a witnessed stalk and is now a training outing.

A candidate takes a measured shot off sticks while Chris watches on

It is ideal to do this on your own ground as you know the lie of the land and the cull plan and hopefully know where your deer are likely to be. However, in my experience – and I have done literally hundreds of witnessed stalks for folk – almost all have been on the witness’s ground so it is likely that you will do the same. 

Let’s assume you have done your first stalk and all went well. The AW is happy with the stalk and briefs you accordingly. He will ask you some questions to cover areas he has not been able to witness.

For example, it is unlikely that he will see you following up and dealing with a wounded deer or see you dealing with some sort of carcase irregularity, and will ask questions to confirm your knowledge in these areas.

Once he is happy, he will raise and compile an ICR, which you will not see. This will be a summary of the stalk with notes on any questions asked and the answers you gave.

You need to download the candidate narrative template and complete this – it is your narrative of how the stalk went and what you did. This is sent direct to your assessor.

While gralloching or inspecting a carcase, you’ll be asked questions to confirm your knowledge

You continue the process, filling in narratives for the remaining two stalks, and your AW will do the same for ICR 2 and 3. The only other document you now should download and fill in is the candidate CV, again using the template from one file.

Do not fully complete this until you have finished your third cull as the CV requires details of the number of deer you have shot in the last three years and you won’t know that until you have completed you final successful witnessed stalk. 

So what happens now? Your assessor will go through all of the evidence submitted, check it for completeness, authenticity and relevance, and speak to the AW(s) and you. He will ask various questions again to make sure he or she is satisfied that your knowledge is to a standard commensurate with that laid down by Deer Management Qualifications (DMQ).

This is not done to try and catch you out but simply to establish the above. Once satisfied, the assessor will then sign off the assessment as a whole, confirming that the standard has been met.

At that point, all the evidence will come back to you along with a narrative and record of any question asked by the assessor of anyone in the process. At this stage you will be able to see all of the evidence submitted and you can verify that it is an accurate record of events.

If so you can sign off the record accordingly, and the assessment is locked and goes back to the assessor, who forwards it to an Internal Verifier (IV) for a final check and certification. You should then receive your DSC2 certificate in the post.

I understand that this can be a daunting process – frankly, sometimes it seems to scare the life out of everyone. But remember all AWs, assessors and IVs at some stage had to do DSC1 and DSC2, so we are no different from you.

We have all gone through the process so we can appreciate what folk go through when taking an assessment or sitting an exam. We are not there to belittle or make life difficult for you – all will endeavour to help where possible and at the appropriate time.

It is in all of our interests – deer managers, recreational stalkers, landowners, managers and outfitters – to have as many folk as possible involved in stalking qualified to DSC1 and 2.

And don’t believe all the scaremongering you may hear about the new e-portfolio – for the candidate and the AW it make the process much simpler. It the assessors who now have most of the work to do, so spare a thought for us! 

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