The next step

Pic0201With more and more forestry companies requiring the DSC 2 it’s time to get on board, says Chris Dalton

In last month’s article I covered getting into stalking, the process of an FAC application and the DSC level one (DSC 1). Next logical step is to cover the requirements of the Deer Stalking Certificate level two (DSC2). This is something I’m being asked about this more and more frequently, and in the last 18 months we’ve seen about a 20 per cent rise in DSC 2 candidates at South Ayrshire Stalking. Although the reasons for this are many and varied, the forestry companies have no doubt been a major influence. In particular the Forestry Commission, which requires all syndicate members to have DSC 2 before they can go onto one of their stalking leases. Other forest management companies are starting to follow suit, and although not yet applied to syndicate members many do now require leaseholders to hold this certificate.

Whether you agree with this policy or not, I think you could argue the case that leaseholders – who after all have responsibility for the management of the ground, cull achievement and subsequent venison/ carcass handling, and the supervision of culls and fellow syndicate members – should have DSC 2. Personally, I feel that DSC 1 is adequate for the syndicate members, however. Many of you fortunate enough to be operating on private ground or estates may not have experienced this, but it will come and, like it or not, you might as well accept that and get on with taking your DSC 2. A high percentage of the stalkers we are taking through DSC 1 want to take DSC 2 simply for their own satisfaction and knowledge.

Pic0301So, what’s involved? The good news for the more practical minded is that most of DSC 2 is simply stalking and handling a carcass to an accepted and laid down standard. Primarily, you are identifying a suitable and in season deer, stalking and selecting a beast to fit a cull plan, effecting a safe and humane shot, processing the deer into the food chain in a hygienic fashion, and examining the animal and organs to ensure there are no food safety factors that might affect Joe public when he or she eats it.  So far so good.  Slightly more challenging is having to do this three times with someone like me – an approved witness (AW) – watching your every move. We all know how difficult it is to get deer to co-operate at the best of times (a bit like finding a policeman when you want one), but there are certain things you can do to narrow the odds a little – more on that later.

Before actually starting any witnessed outings, you need to have the experience and ability to realistically be able to do all of the above. By that I mean that if you have only just started stalking and taken your DSC 1, you will usually need to spend some time stalking, shoot a few deer and get hands on with several grallochs and inspections. Again, I am often asked ‘how long will that take me?’ or ‘when do you think I will be ready?’ This really varies between individuals, and I can’t say. The advice from DMQ is stalk and shoot at least six deer. As a general guide this might not be far off, but it takes no account of ability or related previous experience.  I have assessed some very good folk who were ready long before that, and others who took an awful lot longer. But what I will say is that you should know yourself!  When you are confident and comfortable in what you are doing, can identify and place deer into age and sex class, and are able to cleanly eviscerate the carcass and point out all the key organs and nodes within the gralloch and pluck to eliminate any chance of a notifiable disease, then you are probably about there. To get to that point, again, there are a few options. There are some very good DVDs that will take you through the process, and some good literature, some of which is touched on your DSC 1 training manual. You can also go out with someone who has the DSC 2 and get some training – there is nothing better than hands on with someone to guide you. We run a lot of training courses doing just this. Folk will sometimes book some training outings directly followed by witnessed outings, or they may prefer to have some hands on training and then go away for a few months put this into practice. Everyone is different and what works well for one will not necessarily work for another.

Pic0404So you have decided that you are well prepared and ready to get some witnessed stalks in. This is the time to apply for your portfolio, not before! I have lost track of the number of people who have decided to do DSC 2, registered for and received their DSC 2 portfolio, read it and decided they were not ready, and then started to organise training or training material. All fine, but you only have three years to achieve DSC 2 from the date of registration. That will go surprisingly quickly, and usually ends in a frantic phone call asking if I can do some witnessed outings at short notice, as there is only 3 weeks left to get the thing completed. It isn’t going to happen! To register you apply to Deer Management Qualifications (DMQ) through any of a number of organisations. Mostly, though, this will be through BASC or BDS. You simply download an application form, and send it in with a couple of passport photos and a cheque for £100 (this varies slightly). A few weeks later your portfolio, printed information and a disc explaining the process and giving a list of AW’s and their contact numbers will arrive. You are now ready to go; make a start by contacting one of the AW’s and booking some witnessed outings.

Costs for this will vary, so you will need to establish how your chosen AW works and charges. When I am contacted I go through an initial list of questions to try and establish that the candidate understands what is involved, whether training is required, and whether it is best to use a package and get it done in one visit or simply to book a couple of stalks and take it from there. Mostly folk are wanting to do this on my ground, as if they were coming for accompanied stalking, but sometimes they have their own stalking area and want Tony or I to go to them. This is good if you can do it, as you know the area well and will hopefully have earmarked some deer following a fairly regular pattern. Clearly the best times to do your DSC 2 are those that are also good for stalking: when deer are in the open and cover is down, early in the season while you have a few yearlings about, or perhaps on the hill at the hinds where it may well be possible to stalk and shoot three different deer on the same day!

Pic0505When you have stalked and shot your deer, assuming that you did this hygienically and in line with best practice guidelines, the AW will fill in your portfolio as having observed most of the Performance Criteria (PC) – basically the standard you are to meet – satisfactorily. They will then set some questions for you to answer on things not observed, allowing you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of these factors in a written answer. The PCs are split into four separate elements: stalk deer, cull deer, prepare and inspect deer, and transport and store dead deer. Once complete, they will sign that off as one Individual Cull Record (ICR). Two more like that and you will have finished your DSC 2.

You then return the portfolio to DMQ, via the organisation it came from, where it will go through a further verification process. You will then be contacted by an assessor who will discuss the process and your portfolio evidence with you, often asking questions of their own to confirm that you know your stuff, and that’s it. The timeframe for this varies, but I usually find that from submission of the completed portfolio to confirmation of achieving DSC 2 is around 10 weeks.  All the stalkers I have taken through to DSC 2 have enjoyed the process and, whilst it sounds daunting, like most things it is not anywhere near as bad as it first seems. ν

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