Editorial: National velvet

All bucks were to be culled inside the fenced forestry. Photo credit: Andy Lovel

 Photo credit: Andy Lovel

Recently I was asked a very valid question regarding the shooting of roebucks in velvet and the ethical and sporting considerations involved.

From the perspective of a deer manager intent on maintaining or safeguarding the integrity of his trophy quality, assessing promising middle-aged and adult bucks that are possibly past their prime when in velvet is almost impossible.

Ok, poor body condition of an over-wintered buck would indicate an old or maybe injured beast, but this scenario would morally warrant an ethical bullet anyway.

From a sporting proposition, the shooting of a buck in velvet that would certainly make a trophy when clean would be anathema to me, and I suspect to most other stalkers.

On the other hand, for the deer manager or contract stalker with an overpopulation of roe in vulnerable plantations, where timber production overrides any sporting considerations, the shooting of any buck in velvet may be justified to varying degrees.

This will be unpalatable to many of us, but it will be especially necessary in fenced plantations where roe have breached the wire and established a breeding population.

There can be no pleasure in shooting a promising buck that hasn’t yet reached his prime. But in rare situations it is the correct thing to do. Even so, let them clean first if you can, as age assessment is then much less of a lottery.

Indeed, in a poplar plantation where I manage the deer, I am instructed to shoot all roe on sight. I always lament the loss of these promising animals, and am always left wishing the beast had moved 15 miles northwards to an estate where I carefully manage the trophy quality.

I am still averse to shooting a buck in these poplars that will provide a trophy when clean; in my eyes I can wait and give him a more respectful death.

Owing to the inclement weather conditions most of the British Isles suffered from last May onwards, the countryside seems to be almost a month behind.

Judging by reports from colleagues around the country, there is a higher instance of bigger bucks retaining their velvet for longer than normal.

Is this because of a wet autumn and winter, and the resulting poor nutrition? I really don’t know, but I suspect it is. Lower than average body weights on the does I and other colleagues have shot would indicate it is probably so.

I shot a young roebuck in velvet on opening day that had two straight spikes, one a little longer than the other. This buck was without a doubt a shooter, and I had no qualms about putting him in the larder.

However, if he had had points and looked healthy, I most certainly would have left him. Only yesterday I passed up not one but two bucks in a similar scenario.

So in answer to the original question, I personally think it fine to shoot obvious young bucks in velvet, which should form a significant part of your cull plan anyway.

Leave anything with points until clean, unless you have a real, justifiable reason not to do so.

Keep the faith.

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