Book Cover












Deer Alliance HCAP will commence the 2023 Series of Workshops, MCQs and Range Tests on Saturday 4th March 2023, at the Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Kilkenny Road, Carlow, Co. Carlow, R93 N207 (10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.). The supporting Range Test will be held shortly after that (on a subsequent Saturday, date to be confirmed) at the Midland Range, Blue Ball, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, R35 NC58.

Applications are now open for this first event in the 2023 Series. Application can be made online through the Deer Alliance website, www.deeralliance.ie, with payment through PayPal, using any valid debit card or credit card. Application can also be made in hard copy, by post, to the address shown on the current downloadable application form.

The cost of HCAP (Training Workshop, MCQ, Range Test and Certification) is unchanged and remains at €165.00.

In preparation for HCAP, candidates are recommended to study the Deer Alliance Stalker Training Manual thoroughly in advance. The Manual is available for purchase through the Online Applications section of the website, costing €35.00 inc. p. & p.

Certification is now mandatory for all first-time applicants for a Deer Hunting Licence (DHL). HCAP is the only training programme in Ireland developed in partnership with Coillte Teoranta, National Parks & Wildlife Service, An Garda Síochána and all principal deer organisations. HCAP enters its twentieth year of operation in 2023 and to date approximately 3600 licensed deer hunters have participated in the programme. Enquiries by email to deeralliance@gmail.com or by ‘phone to 086 1927 845 (office hours).


The 2022 Series of HCAP assessments concluded with a Training Workshop an MCQ on 29th October and Range Test on 5th November (the fifth in the 2022 Series), the results of which can be seen on an earlier posting here.

Plans for 2023 are now in hand, with the first Training Workshop and MCQ taking place early in March 2023, for which applications are now open.

Application can be made at any time through the Online Applications section of the Deer Alliance website. The cost of HCAP (Workshop, MCQ, Range Test and Certification) remains at €165.00. The Stalker Training Manual can be purchased in preparation for HCAP at a cost of €35.00 including p. & p., also through the Online Applications section of the website.

The venue for Workshops and MCQs remains the Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Kilkenny Road, Carlow, R93 N207, and Range Tests will continue to take place at the Midland Range, Blue Ball, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, R35 NC58.

Dates for these activities (and others) will be posted here early in the New Year.

HCAP Candidates who do not have access to their own deer-legal rifle have two options open to them. If they have a friend who has a deer-legal rifle and is prepared to let the candidate use that rifle for the Range Test, that is permitted, provided that the friend holds a valid Firearm Certificate for the firearm in question, holds valid shooting insurance and is present with the Candidate on the Range at all times.

Alternatively, the candidate can avail of a Club Rifle, usually in calibre .308, available from the Management of the Midland Range. Booking must be made at least two weeks in advance and is subject to Garda vetting. The current cost of rifle hire is €60.00, to include ammunition sufficient for the standard Range Test.

Candidates with no previous experience of full-bore rifle shooting may be required to undertake basic tuition and competency testing on a one-to-one basis at the Midland Range (to include the Range Test Course of Fire but not as part of the Range Test), the current cost of which is €150.00 (one person, one day tuition and test preparation).

Hire of a Club rifle and/or arrangements for tuition and test preparation, including all costs, are entirely a matter between Midland Range management and personnel, are outside the ordinary HCAP process and Deer Alliance HCAP has no responsibility or obligation in this regard.

Membership of IFA Countryside carries with it the shooting insurance required for the purposes of the HCAP Range Test, and may also offer subsidised training opportunities, including HCAP.

Deer Alliance HCAP remains the only such training and certification process developed in full partnership with Coillte Teoranta, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Forest Service, An Garda Siochana and other key stakeholder organisations and in 2023 enters its twentieth year of operation, with over 3600 licensed deer hunters having participated in HCAP to date.



Alan O’Dwyer











James O’Brien  

George Burdess

The candidates listed below all completed their Deer Alliance Hunter Competence Assessment Programme with a Range Test at the Midland Range, Blue Ball, Tullamore on Saturday 5th November 2022. Thanks go to the Midland Range management and personnel, including J. P. Craven and Tony Saunders, and to our Deer Alliance Range Officer Pat Scully. Successful candidates received their HCAP Certificates, ID cards and badges from Liam Nolan, Deer Alliance HCAP Course Director.


BRADLEY, Conor, 2022/0136
BRENNAN, Anthony, 2022/0110
BROOKS, Val, 2022/0116
BURDESS, George, 2022/0125
CORNISH, Jay, 2022/0118
FITZGERALD, Karl, 2022/0135
GORECKI, Mariusz, 2022/0105
HEFFRON, Eoin, 2022/0108
HEFFRON, Padraic, 2022/0109
McAULIFFE, Con, 2022/0111
McCLOREY, Patrick, 2022/0133
McGLUE, Ian, 2022/0132
MELNYK, Ihor, 2022/0115
O’BRIEN, James, 2022/0124
O’CONNOR, Tommy D., 2022/0114
O’DWYER, Alan, 2022/0127
O’MAHONY, James, 2022/0112
O’MALLEY, Padraig, 2022/0117
PERLAVICIUS, Justas, 2022/0129
QUIRKE, Andrew, 2022/0121
QUIRKE, Edward, 2022/0122
SWEENEY, John, 2022/0130
TROY, Eamon, 2022/0126
VASILIAUSKAS, Nerijus, 2022/0107
WESTON, Paul, 2022/0137
WHYTE, Keith, 2022/0131
ZARZYKA, Robert, 2022/0128

Successful candidates included IFA Countryside Members, Alan O’Dwyer, James O’Brien, George Burdess, Padraig O’Malley and Eamonn Troy, photographed above and below.


 Padraig O’Malley








                                                                                                                Eamonn Troy


The following candidates (HCAP numbers, followed by mark achieved) were successful in the HCAP MCQ held in the Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Carlow, on Saturday 29th October 2022 and are eligible to participate in the HCAP Range Test to be held at the Midlands Range, Blue Ball, Tullamore, Co. Offaly R35 NC58 on Saturday 5th November 2022. Procedures for Range Tests will be posted here separately.

Candidates who were Deferrals or No-Shows at this MCQ on 29th October 2022 will be carried forward to the next scheduled MCQ in 2023, except where they have missed two or more MCQs without notice, in which case they are now de-listed as eligible and must re-enter the HCAP process as Repeat Candidates if they wish to complete their HCAP Certification

2022/0135, 92%, Pass
2022/0105, 96%, Pass
2022/0108, 96%, Pass
2022/0109, 92%, Pass
2022/0111, 94%, Pass
2022/0133, 96%, Pass
2022/0132, 94%, Pass
2022/0119, 92%, Pass
2022/0115, 82%, Pass
2022/0124, 92%, Pass
2022/0114, 92%, Pass
2022/0136, 90%, Pass
2022/0110, 86%, Pass
2022/0116, 88%, Pass
2022/0125, 92%, Pass
2022/0120, 96%, Pass
2022/0107, 92%, Pass
2022/0137, 94%, Pass
2022/0131, 94%, Pass
2022/0128, 96%, Pass
2022/0118, 98%, Pass
2022/0134, 98%, Pass
2022/0127, 92%, Pass
2022/0112, 88%, Pass
2022/0117, 92%, Pass
2022/0129, 90%, Pass
2022/0121, 94%, Pass
2022/0122, 94%, Pass
2022/0130, 96%, Pass
2022/0126, 86%, Pass


Deer Alliance Hunter Competence Assessment Programme (HCAP) will hold a Training Workshop and Multiple-Choice Question Examination (MCQ) on Saturday 29th October 2022.

Venue: Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Kilkenny Road, Carlow, R93 N207.
Time: 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

The supporting Range Test for candidates successful in the MCQ will be held at the Midland Range, Derrymore, Blue Ball, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, R35 NC58 on Saturday 5th November 2022.

This will be the last opportunity to participate in HCAP in 2022. The 2023 Series of HCAP Assessments will commence in March 2023.

Applications are now open and can be made online through the Online Applications section of the website at www.deeralliance.ie. Cost is €165.00 for first-time HCAP Candidates, €50.00 for Repeat Candidates, with payment through PayPal. Application can also be made in hard copy by post, with payment by cheque or postal order. The Deer Alliance Stalker Training Manual, on which the Workshop and MCQ are based, can be purchased through the same Online Applications section of the website, cost €35.00 including p. & p.


NOTE: This list includes names of Candidates who were No-Shows at previous MCQs. Failure to attend the Workshop & MCQ on 29th October will mean such Candidates will be de-listed as eligible and if they wish to complete their HCAP certification process they will have to re-enter the process as Repeat Candidates, subject to the standard Repeat Fee of €50.00.

ANHOLD, Heinrich
BEIRNE, Declan
BRENNAN, Anthony
BUTLER, Andrew
BYRNE, Brendan
FENTON, Darren
FLYNN, Declan
GORECKI, Mariusz
HEFFRON, Padraic
McCLOREY, Patrick
O’BRIEN, James
O’BRIEN, Jason
O’MALLEY, Padraig
QUIRKE, Andrew
QUIRKE, Edward,
TROY, Eamon
WHYTE, Keith

Over 51,000 licences issued for shotguns and rifles

Blaser Combination Over & Under Shotgun/Rifle

According to a report published on the Agriland website on 19th August 2022, An Garda Síochána issued 51,508 firearms licences for shotguns, rifles and combination shotgun-rifles in 2021*.

This is a 15% increase in the number of licences issued for these types of firearms compared to 2020, when 43,638 certificates were granted.

Data released to Agriland by An Garda Síochána shows that just under 32,000 shotguns were licensed last year, along with 19,500 rifles and 16 rifle/shotgun combination firearms.

Licences were also issued for crossbows, air guns, pistols and human killers.

Type of firearm    2021 licences
Air gun                  1,457
Crossbow             5
Humane killer     4
Pistol                    1,029
Revolver              129
Rifle                     19,536
combined           16
Shotgun              31,956
Spare Barrel     16
Speargun           3
Other                 59

Source: An Garda Síochána

In 2021, a total of 54,201 firearms licences were issued by Gardaí across the country.

At 4,879, Co. Cork had the highest number of licences issued, followed by Dublin with 4,032 and Tipperary at 3,674.

Longford had the lowest number of licences issued with 623.

The following table provides a county-by-county breakdown of the number of licences issued by An Garda Síochána in 2021:

County                   Number of firearms licences issued
Carlow                   1,656
Cavan                    1,478
Clare                      1,778
Cork                       4,879
Donegal                2,318
Dublin                  4,032
Galway                 3,303
Kerry                     1,997
Kildare                  2,213
Kilkenny               1,860
Laois                     1,379
Leitrim                  804
Limerick               1,800
Longford              623
Louth                    1,173
Mayo                    2,498
Meath                  2,406
Monaghan          1,217
Offaly                  1,728
Roscommon      1,425
Sligo                    757
Tipperary           3,674
Waterford          1,709
Westmeath        1,513
Wexford             3,535
Wicklow             2,455

TOTAL 54,201

Source: An Garda Síochána

Gardaí are responsible for licensing and authorising legally held firearms and ammunition.

Anyone wishing to possess, use or carry a firearm or ammunition must apply for a licence to the superintendent of the Garda district in which they reside.

A firearm certificate, if granted, costs €80 and is valid for three years. The holder may then renew the licence up to three months before it is due to expire.

It is mandatory that each applicant includes their doctor’s details on the renewal form.

Under legislation, Gardaí must provide a decision within three months of an application or renewal being submitted.

An Garda Síochána said that every effort is made to ensure that all applications are processed “as soon as is practicable”.

*Firearms Certificates are valid and renewable in three-year cycles.

Hunting Licences for Game and Open Seasons Order 2022

Précis of Statement by Minister Noonan on Hunting Licences for Game and Open Seasons Order 2022

Issued by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, 24 August 2022

The Open Season for wild bird and deer hunting will open on 1 September 2022.

Considerable work has been undertaken by NPWS to set out a range of options available for future Open Seasons Order, and a wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders and interest groups in relation to future orders will be undertaken over the coming months. While there is no doubt that this will be a challenging process, the Minister is “keen to listen to the views of all of the interested parties”.

The public are reminded that only certain species may be hunted, and only at certain times, as set out below. The hunting of deer species may only be done with a rifle and still requires a specific Deer Hunting Licence which may be applied for online HERE

The species and dates between which hunting may take place is in keeping with previous orders. Based on the information available, the number of species under conservation threat, and our legal obligations under the Birds Directive, changes in the ambit of the 2023/2024 Order are very likely. In effect, this will mean the likely removal of certain species from the order. The Minister states that he intends consulting with the sector on these changes in advance of their application.

It is known that the conservation status of some of the bird species that may be hunted in Ireland is declining. In order to continue to protect and preserve the conservation status of these species, and to support sustainable hunting practices, a new way forward is required. This must be collaborative and based on scientific evidence.


Red Male (throughout the State excluding Co. Kerry)

1 September to 31 December

Red Female & Antlerless Deer (throughout the State excluding Co. Kerry)

1 November to 28 February

Sika Male (throughout the State)

1 September to 31 December

Sika Female & Antlerless Deer (throughout the State)

1 November to 28 February

Fallow Male (throughout the State)

1 September to 31 December

Fallow Female & Antlerless Deer (throughout the State)

1 November to 28 February

Muntjac Deer (throughout the State)

1 September to 31 August


1: Antlerless deer are construed as including any male deer without antlers, of less than one year, i.e. a calf.
2: The minimum recommended legal calibre for hunting Irish deer species is with a 100 grain bullet with 2100 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, effectively meaning in the range .243 to .308.
3: “Red deer” includes red deer hybrids.

The Open Season Order for game birds and wildfowl can he viewed HERE



With the Season for hunting of male deer opening on Thursday 1st September, licensed hunters holding permits to hunt deer on Coillte forest property will be obliged to use the Hunting Area Management System (HAMS) to reserve hunting days and times and to check in and check out of licensed forest properties, and to input other information regarding deer seen or shot, as well as other relevant information.

HAMS is best used through a PC rather than the ‘phone app, which appears not to have yet achieved an optimum stage of development.

The system may appear to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate to first-time users, so hunters are recommended to familiarise themselves with operation of the system well before their first scheduled hunting trip.

HAMS have published a useful series of instructional videos on their dedicated YouTube channel, which can be accessed HERE

Ireland’s 100,000-plus gun owners: Who are they, where are they and what firearms do they own? Irish Times, 6th AUGUST 2022

Weekend illustration for gun ownership in Ireland

The understated nature of Irish gun ownership means the uninitiated are sometimes surprised when they hear how many legally held firearms there are in Ireland. Graphic: Paul Scott

The following article on gun ownership in Ireland appeared in the Weekend Review Section of the Irish Times on Saturday 6th August 2022. Written by Conor Gallagher, Crime Correspondent of the Irish Times, it iss based on multiple interviews including an interview with Liam Nolan, Course Director of Deer Alliance HCAP and spokesperson for the Firearms Users’ Representative Group.

‘There’s a lot of ignorance out there about firearms so people can get the wrong idea about us’

The induction course for new staff in the Firearms Unit of the Department of Justice is more interesting than most.

A senior official comes in with a box of bullet and shell casings and takes employees through various types of firearms ammunition, from the tiny .22lr round used for target shooting and hunting small game, to the much larger .308 rifle round mainly used for hunting.

There’s also a field trip to one of the 18 authorised shooting ranges in the country where staff have an opportunity to fire the guns they’re responsible for regulating.

The induction helps staff understand the jargon involved in firearms licensing. They learn the difference between a rimfire cartridge, which is typically less powerful than a centre-fire cartridge, and that a 12-gauge shotgun shell is bigger than a 20-gauge.

“The problem is that the jargon and technology is so interchangeable that it’s very difficult to understand that without many, many years of anorak behaviour,” the senior department official, who asked not to be named due to the nature of his work, said after giving a version of the presentation to The Irish Times.

Getting the terminology right is vital. “Don’t call it a weapon whatever you do. Call it a firearm, maybe call it a gun. But don’t call it a weapon. Weapons are for hurting people. If you use a firearm to do that you’ll probably go to jail,” one gun owner reacted after I made the verbal faux pas.

While the language surrounding firearms can be confusing, the legislation regarding their use is downright bewildering. By many estimations Ireland has the strictest gun laws in the EU; their use by the public is governed by 11 pieces of primary legislation, 31 statutory instruments, three EU directives and several High Court judgments.

Gun owners tend to be a quiet group. “People don’t go on about their hobby. It might be because of security fears, it might be that their neighbours are against hunters. There’s a lot of ignorance out there about firearms so people can get the wrong idea about us,” said one man from Co Clare who owns two firearms, one for target practice and one for hunting.

Another said he usually brings his rifle to the car in a bag in pieces to avoid awkward questions from neighbours. “It depends where you live. If you live in a rural area like I used to, nobody will raise an eyebrow if they see a shotgun. That might be different in Dublin 2, obviously.”

The understated nature of Irish gun ownership means the uninitiated are sometimes surprised when they hear how many legally held firearms there are in Ireland. “One in eight households now armed,” read one newspaper headline last year.

The exact figure is surprisingly hard to determine. According to the last published figures from An Garda Síochána, there were 208,835 active licences at the end of 2020. But licences must be renewed every three years, meaning this number changes frequently as people renew and cancel their registrations.

The official said the most recent figure he had is 202,000 licensed guns, he said, meaning four guns per 100 people or one for every 10 households. But the actual number of gun owners is far lower as many people own more than one firearm. There is no legal limit on the number of guns a person can own. Some enthusiasts have been known to have 10 or more firearms of various types.

“It is very hard to tell but the figure they tell us is somewhere between 125,000 to 140,000, somewhere in between there,” the official says. This means, at the higher end, gun owners make up about 2.7 per cent of the population.

Unsurprisingly, it also varies from county to county and rural areas invariably have higher ownership rates than urban areas. For example, last year 2.29 per cent of Leitrim residents were granted a firearms licence compared with 0.27 per cent of Dublin residents.

But even using the highest available figures, the rate of gun ownership in Ireland is less than a third of the EU average. In Finland, there are 34 guns for every 100 people and in Cyprus 34 per 100 — both pale in comparison with the US which has 120 legal guns for every 100 people.

Furthermore, gun ownership has remained relatively steady over the years. Going by Garda statistics, the number of licences in effect since 2014 has ranged between 185,000 and 209,000. There is some evidence of an upward trend in recent years but the increases have been small.

A sure way to have your application denied is to say you want a gun for self-defence; that’s not a valid reason to own a firearm in Ireland

You have to get a licence before you get a gun, and obtaining one is not a simple matter. Applicants must provide details of their medical and employment history, the phone numbers of two referees and evidence of competence in handling the gun.

If you want a firearm for target shooting, you need evidence you’re a member of a shooting club. If you want one for hunting you need to prove you have enough land to hunt on, or at least permission from a landowner who does. Guns will only be licensed for their intended purpose, so a hunting shotgun will not be licensed for target practice and a pistol will not be licensed for pest control.

A sure way to have your application denied is to say you want a gun for self-defence; that’s not a valid reason to own a firearm in Ireland. However, the current legislation appears to allow, in very limited circumstances, the use of a legally held gun to defend one’s home if the situation arises.

“But really, a firearm shouldn’t be kept in a way that you can easily resort to it for self-defence” said one Garda superintendent responsible for licensing firearms.

He is referring to the strict conditions Gardaí can place on how a firearm is stored. These include requiring a gun safe which is bolted to the wall and floor or requiring that a firearm be broken into parts and stored in different parts of the house. These arrangements are subject to regular spot-checks by gardaí and in some circumstances, the owner may be required to store the gun at their local gun club or shooting range.

Figures obtained by The Irish Times show the vast majority of licensed firearms – almost 80 per cent- are shotguns with most of the remainder being rifles.

The legislation regarding handgun ownership has been subject to the most change in recent years. Since 2015, no new licences can be granted for handguns with centre-fire ammunition (where the firing pin impacts the centre of the cartridge and ignites the round). But licences for guns first obtained before 2015 can be “grandfathered in”, meaning renewed, the department official says. Less powerful rimfire or air-powered handguns are also still allowed for target shooting.

As time goes on, the department expects the number of legally held centre-fire handguns to gradually decrease to zero as the owners age. However, there is little sign of this happening yet. Between 2019 and 2021, almost 3,400 licences were issued for pistols or revolvers.

The remaining types of licensed firearms include a broad range of guns including combined rifle/shotguns, with 16 licences issued last year; “humane killers” for use on animals, with four licences issued last year, and spear guns used for fishing, with three licences issued last year. Another 42 licences for crossbows, which are sometimes used for target shooting, have also been issued since 2019.

“Guns are like tools. You use the right tool for the job. If I want to shoot rabbits I’m not going to use a high powered rifle and I’m not going to use a shotgun to target shoot as you wouldn’t hit anything,” said one owner of multiple firearms.

By far the most common complaint from gun owners is the lack of consistency with which the legislation is applied.

The legislation grants the local Garda superintendent a large degree of discretion in deciding what constitutes a “good reason” for gun ownership. This gives rise to instances where people feel they have been refused a licence based on a superintendent’s whim or their perceived inherent dislike for firearms.

One gun owner complained about a superintendent who would not license telescopic sights. Another complained their local superintendent is reluctant to grant permission for sound reduction devices, commonly referred to as silencers.

These additions can make a firearm appear more intimidating but they do nothing to increase its lethality, the department official says, but some superintendents will take them into account when making a decision.

“The inconsistency of interpretation is a big concern across the country. Superintendents are interpreting the legislation in a widely varying way on this ‘good reason’ issue,” says Liam Nolan of the recently founded Firearms Users Representative Group (FURG).

The Department official acknowledges there can be inconsistencies but points out that there are benefits to having the decision made at a local level by a superintendent. “They can access knowledge of the applicant that a central authority wouldn’t be able to do as easily.”

Most firearms owners with complaints about the current system believe the Garda are overzealous in their interpretation of the law. One exception is a Defence Forces member who legally owns three firearms. He believes the Gardaí can be too lax and, being mostly unarmed themselves, can lack firearms knowledge.

“In 15 years of firearms ownership, I’ve only had one visit from a guard,” he said. When the guard did visit he did not know basic information such as the minimum legal length for a rifle or shotgun, he said. “It has also been rare that my referees are called by gardaí.”

He added that the physical firearms licence does not have a photograph on it, meaning if it is stolen it could potentially be used to buy ammunition from a firearms store.

There have been multiple tragedies involving legally held firearms over the years, perhaps most notably in Lixnaw, Co Kerry, last year when Eileen O’Sullivan and son Jamie were shot dead by partner and father Mossie O’Sullivan, who then took his own life.

Another concern is the use of stolen guns by criminals. There have been some incidents of stolen shotguns being used in robberies here but rarely in more serious offences. “Large shotguns and low-powered handguns are simply suited to the job of targeted murder,” a Garda source said. The largest single theft of guns, from a gun shop in Wicklow in 2012, appears to have been motivated by a desire to sell the guns on, rather than using them in crime.

According to Garda figures, 239 firearms have been reported stolen since 2019, including 17 under the category ‘revolvers/pistols/machine guns’.

The issue of gun safety also arises in the context of mental health. According to figures from the Central Statistics Office, there were 76 suicide deaths by firearm between 2015 and 2019, all but one involving men (more recent figures are not available due to the need to wait for the coroners process to be completed). But these have been on a downward trend; in 2019 there were seven incidents.

In June, Minister of State for Law Reform James Browne announced the formation of a five-person Firearms Expert Committee to make recommendations on how the firearms regime can be improved, including on how the rules can be more consistently applied.

Other issues to be examined include changes to what type of guns should be licensable and if there should be a limit on how many guns one person can own.

The announcement has raised concerns, from groups such as FURG, that further restrictions could be introduced. There is also disquiet over a lack of representatives from the hunting or sports shooting communities on the committee.

The Minister said it would be unwieldy to have representatives from all sectors on the committee. He also pointed out it will be advisory in nature and he will not be obliged to accept its recommendations.

He said it will be open to the committee to examine the role of firearms in recent tragedies. “But the challenge is always that if somebody decides to kill somebody, in some of those cases the gun was simply the mechanism,” Mr Browne said. “I don’t think legally held weapons are a motivation for the carrying out of murder-suicides or other similar types of tragedies.”

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times.