There appears to be confusion as to whether deer hunting under licence is permitted under current Covid 19 travel restrictions. One deer organisation has issued an advisory notice to its members to the effect that National Parks & Wildlife Service have determined that deer hunting is not an “essential service” as defined under government directions around travel restrictions.
Well intentioned as this advice is, it is not an accurate interpretation of advice issued by NPWS.
The NPWS advisory notice can be viewed here.
The question is, whether deer control is an essential service. NPWS make no statement as to whether deer control under licence is an essential service. They advise that “Licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service do not in any way confer exemptions in respect of compliance with public health guidelines”.
This is not the same as a determination that deer control under licence is not an essential service.
At time and date of this posting, Coillte Teoranta have not issued any statement concerning hunting on Coillte forest property. Coillte’s deer management strategy is predicated on the perceived need to prevent damage to forestry – prevention of damage to crops, in other words. Forestry, which must include prevention of crop damage, is an essential service conferring an exemption in respect of travel restrictions, under the list of essential services published by the Office of the Taoiseach on 14th October 2020 and updated on 21st October 2020, whether under Section 1 or Section 13 of that List.
The List of Essential Services can be viewed here.
Regardless of forestry interests, and pending any statement from farming’s different representative bodies, the agricultural community will no doubt continue to regard deer control under licence as an essential service.
Suspension of hunting on Coillte forest property could potentially lead to claims for rebate or return of substantial licence fees paid by licensees.
All persons are of course urged to fully observe guidelines for prevention of spread of infection by Covid 19, including wearing of barrier masks and social distancing. The National Association of Regional Game Councils has issued a statement on Shooting and Hunting under Covid 19 Regulations which is available to NARGC Members on the NARGC website (members only, as it is a closed site requiring member login). It offers no guidance on the issue of deer control as an essential service but is otherwise excellent and relevant advice.