As of 2020, game shooting and deer stalking are still practiced as outdoor sports in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Traditional hound hunting became illegal in Scotland in 2002 and in England and Wales in 2005, but it is still practiced in some permitted forms.
Non-traditional hunters can use crossbows or firearms to hunt small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and birds. In general, hunting with a firearm is allowed only if you have a license for that species. Hunting with a crossbow is legal without a license if you are taking no more than two animals per day and using only artificial means to kill them. Otherwise, you must have a license.
Hunting licenses are issued by individual counties or government agencies. If you plan to visit several areas during your trip, it's important to get separate permits for each one.
In most cases, you will need to provide proof of identity when applying for a license. This may be as simple as showing your passport, but it may also include holding a driver's license, registering your vehicle, or having your photo taken at a police station.
The process of getting a license and what documents you need vary depending on which country or state you're visiting. For information about specific laws, check with local authorities before you go hunting.
As a result, they are currently governed by a number of Acts of Parliament that impose close seasons (when deer may not be hunted), gun restrictions, and poaching laws. Hunting deer, stags, and most wild creatures with dogs is prohibited in the United Kingdom for animal welfare reasons.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. The law allows farmers and landowners to shoot certain species of deer if they cause damage to crops or livestock. Hunters are also allowed to take red deer into captivity for sport or hunting purposes.
Farmers and landowners can apply to have their land designated as a "managed fallow" area where deer are allowed to roam free. They cannot be shot on these lands except under special circumstances such as when they pose an actual threat to people or property. Otherwise, they will be killed. Managed fallow areas are used to improve farmland through natural processes such as soil improvement and pest control without using agrotextiles or pesticides.
Deer farming is becoming more common in the United Kingdom because it is viewed as a sustainable method for farmers to manage their land. It has been estimated that there are still enough healthy deer in Britain's forests to meet its needs for meat and timber.
The government subsidizes the hunting industry by paying hunters to harvest the excess deer population. This program is called the Deer Management Program.
Hunting and shooting are popular pastimes in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the phrase "hunting" without qualifier often refers to hound hunting—typically fox hunting, beagling, stag (deer) hunting, or minkhunting—while shooting refers to the shooting of game birds. Fishing for pleasure is also popular, especially among the upper class, who can hire fishermen to go out on boats with them in the English Channel or other protected waters.
In modern Britain, hunting with a gun is permitted only for sport and then under strict rules. Shooting deer is allowed, but only if you are prepared to pay a fee and obtain a license. Hounding mammals such as foxes and badgers is legal, but requires a special permit called a "chase certificate".
During World War II, hunting was banned to prevent conflict between soldiers and animals being hunted. However, after the war this ban was reversed and now hunting with a firearm is permitted in England, Scotland and Wales. Hunting with a bow and arrow is still permitted in England and Wales. Until 2005, hunting with a horned weapon was also permitted in England; however, this practice was outlawed by then-prime minister Tony Blair due to concerns over animal welfare. Today, hunting with a horned weapon is again permitted in England under strict regulations.
In the United Kingdom, the term "hunting" without qualifier often refers to hound hunting, such as fox hunting, stag (deer) hunting, beagling, or minkhunting, whereas "shooting" refers to game bird shooting. What is known as deer hunting elsewhere is known as deer stalking. Hounds are used in hunting with guns.
Hunting with guns is by far the most common form of hunting in the United Kingdom. It is allowed on land owned by the government or registered charities, and there are many estates where gunning is part of the recreational offering. Gun clubs also exist where people can go to shoot birds and animals.
The British are famous for their love of a good shoot. Sporting magazines such as Shooting Times publish how-to articles on gun handling, while television shows such as Shooters' World and The Big Game feature competitions between friends and professionals.
Hounds have been used in hunting with guns since at least 1550. However, it was not until about 1750 that true stag hunting began, when the French introduced the sport into England. Stags are difficult to hunt because they are very wary and will usually run away from the hounds. However, if trapped against a tree or fence they make easy targets.
After the stag, next in line is the fox. Although rarely seen these days, once upon a time Britain had large populations of foxes that were widely hunted.