Medal quality Red deer stag taken in Connemara, Co. Galway, Season 2020-2021

The Deer Alliance Hunter Competence Assessment Programme, introduced in 2005, is the leading training, assessment and certification programme for deer hunters in Ireland. To date, over 3500 candidates have been processed and we are gearing up for a new season of assessments, subject only to an easing in current Covid 19 restrictions on travel and on numbers gathering indoors or outdoors.

We are working closely to ensure that HCAP complies with NPWS requirements for a new regime of mandatory certification. As we enter our seventeenth year of operation and with over 3500 candidates processed to date, we are confident that HCAP will remain the gold standard for certification in Ireland.



  • Thirty-hours self-study required, based on the Deer Alliance Stalker Training Manual and other reference material including IDMF Best Practice Guides
  • Participation in one-day Training Workshop, required of all candidates (Day 1)
  • 50-question Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) examination (80% to Pass)
  • Range Test based on 12-shot (three position) test of accuracy and safe handling of firearms test (Day 2)
  • Successful Candidates issued with HCAP Certificate, ID card and HCAP badge.


 Principles of deer management

  • aims and objectives
  • current management issues
  • methods of population assessment
  • breeding capacity and size of cull
  • planning the cull; cull selection
  • shooting calendar & shooting plan
  • record keeping
  • landowner relations
  • Public relations
  • risk assessment

Basic Deer Biology

  • Species recognition, species distribution (For Red, Sika, Fallow, Muntjac)
  • Species habits & habitat (For Red, Sika, Fallow, Muntjac)
  • Life cycle of deer
  • The Rut
  • Pregnancy and birth
  • Vocalisation, hearing, powers of scent
  • Antler growth
  • Aging deer & tooth eruption and wear
  • Coat change and colouration
  • Scent glands – identification, use and purpose

Deer Impacts

  • Impacts of Deer on forestry, Agriculture and Nature Conservation Habitats – damage recognition and damage limitation.

Carcass Handling & Disease Recognition

  • Bleeding & evisceration (the gralloch)
  • Carcass examination & disease recognition including Anthrax, Bluetongue, Bovine Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Foot & Mouth Disease, Warble Fly Infestation
  • Notifiable diseases
  • Game Meat Directive and other food meat legislation relevant to deer
  • Carcass preparation, venison joints etc.

Deer Stalking Aids and Techniques

  • Use of High Seat
  • Binoculars and other optics
  • Field craft
  • Clothing
  • Knives
  • Use of Dogs
  • Aiming Points
  • Reaction to the shot
  • Dealing with a wounded animal

Deer hunting & the Law

  • Wildlife Act 1976 (As amended)
  • Relevant Regulations and SIs under the Wildlife Act
  • Relevant Sections of Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations
  • Coillte licence requirements regulations
  • Firearms legislation 1925 – 2000
  • Control of Dogs Act (1986)
  • Occupiers Liability Act 1995
  • Sporting rights etc.

Firearms Safety and other Health & Safety

  • Safe storage and transportation of firearms and ammunition including legal requirements
  • Background to shot
  • Loading & unloading
  • Negotiating obstacles
  • Barrel obstructions & misfires
  • Shooting positions
  • Non-firearms risks, knives, dragging carcasses, terrain issues, weather

Firearms, Ballistics and Zeroing

  • Choice of rifle and ammunition
  • Ballistics (internal, external & terminal)
  • Rifle Care, cleaning and maintenance
  • Scope mounts, slings, bipods etc.
  • Zeroing your rifle

Trophy Evaluation

  • Irish Trophy Commission measuring standards

Book Cover






















The Deer Alliance Hunter Competence Assessment Programme, introduced in 2005, is the leading training, assessment and certification programme for deer hunters in Ireland. Unfortunately, activities have been, and continue to be, limited due to Covid 19 travel restrictions and restrictions on numbers of persons gathering together indoors and outdoors.

Notwithstanding, it is hoped and expected that restrictions will ease as the Covid vaccination programme begins to take effect, together with a reduction of the number of Covid-infected cases reported weekly.

Dates and venues for Training Workshops, HCAP MCQs and Range Tests have been drafted, commencing in March 2021, and will finalised and posted here as soon as restrictions ease and we can fix dates with a greater degree of certainty. Applications are now open for intending candidates and can be made online through the Deer Alliance website (Online Applications from the Home Page).

The basic cost of HCAP remains the same @ €165.00, to include MCQ and Range Test.

The Deer Alliance Stalker Training Manual can also be purchased through the Online Applications section of the website, price €35.00 inc. p. & p.

Participation in the Training Workshop is currently booked and charged separately, however, we are currently looking at a bundle cost (Manual, Workshop, MCQ and Range Test), with a reduction in the combined cost. Details will follow here shortly, meanwhile all applications received at the current cost after date of this posting will be honoured at the proposed lower combined cost.











We wish to remind any persons intending to make a first-time application for a Deer Hunting Licence (DHL) that evidence of training and certification from an approved provider will be required by the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) before grant of DHL, in respect of licences to hunt wild deer from commencement of the 2021-2022 Season.

Click HERE to access NPWS statement (13th March 2020) concerning mandatory certification

Gardaí to train park rangers in effort to tackle wildlife crime








From the Irish Times online, 18th January 2021

Gardaí to train park rangers in effort to tackle wildlife crime

Rangers will be taught how to identify and preserve evidence and to pursue cases

Wildlife crime is now regarded as one of the largest areas of criminal activity in the world.

Gardaí are to train park rangers in investigation techniques as part of an effort to clampdown on wildlife crime in the State through the creation of a dedicated unit in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Staff investigating matters such as animal cruelty, illegal hunting, the poisoning of protected species, the trapping of birds and the destruction of nests will be taught how to identify and preserve evidence and to pursue cases.

Wildlife crime is now regarded as one of the largest areas of criminal activity in the world – behind drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking, said Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan, who has responsibility for the NPWS and is driving the creation of the planned unit.

“What we are really trying to do is establish a consistency of effort right across the country in tackling wildlife crime issues and that would involve a consistency of application: uniformity in reporting, statement writing and presenting case files,” he said.

“It’s very much based on a Garda-type reporting system and getting to a very high level of professionalism.”

‘Cold case’ crimes

The unit will have the ability to investigate “cold case” crimes such as the unsolved poisoning of 23 buzzards in west Cork last year.

A report published in October found that more than 300 birds of prey were poisoned or suffered some form of unnatural death in Ireland between 2007 and 2019. However, there have only been 164 prosecutions of any kind under the Wildlife Acts between 2012 and this year.

Under the plan, rangers who cover large territories across the country will collaborate with their equivalents in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and with similar crime bureaus in other countries in what will be a marked departure from existing approaches to the investigation of wildlife crime.

While gardaí will maintain their role in prosecutions, they have signed a memorandum of understanding with the NPWS on this new approach.

The creation of a beefed-up investigation team will be welcomed by wildlife groups, who have been calling for increased enforcement powers at a time when the State is grappling with a biodiversity crisis and the loss of important species.


Mr Noonan has identified improving staffing levels at the NPWS as a priority, although initially the unit is expected to be modest in size. There are just over 72 conservation ranger posts around the country but efforts are under way to bolster recruitment for these roles.

The aim is to mentor and train rangers in law enforcement techniques, and intelligence-led approaches to investigations, and to produce field manuals to aid them in their work.

“Quite rightly members of the public have been outraged over the poisoning of the buzzards but there is also lots of other issues: persecution of badgers, the illegal hunting of hares, trapping wild birds, destroying nests, and then the persecution of raptors in general,” Mr Noonan said.

“There is a lot of activity out there that is in some cases going unreported or cannot be pursued because we don’t have that standardised approach.”



Further to previous posting here (30th October 2020), Deer Alliance HCAP has again called for the designation of deer control for stated purposes, with written correspondence to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Heritage Malcolm TD (NPWS), Minister of State for Agriculture Pippa Hackett TD, and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien TD (with ultimate responsibility for Heritage including NPWS).

The following is the text of the communication sent today 1st November 2020:

Dear Minister,

I refer to our earlier email sent on 30th October 2020.

To assist you in your consideration of a decision to designate deer control for stated purposes as an essential service to agriculture and forestry, we draw to your attention Part 2, Schedule, Essential Services, paragraph 14, Public Administration, Emergency Services and Defence, sub-paragraph (k), of Statutory Instrument No. 448 of 2020, Health Act 1947 (Section 31a – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 8) Regulations 2020, signed on 21st October 2020, which lists as essential services “activities relating to the management, protection, restoration and conservation of protected species, habitats and designated natural, archaeological and built heritage sites.

Deer are a protected species under the provisions of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended).

Management of wild deer as a protected species requires culling by licensed persons in order to achieve a sustainable population and to provide against damage to agricultural crops and forestry.

Deer control for stated purposes is therefore an essential service to agriculture and forestry as provided for under the relevant legislation and we call on your Department to recognise and designate it as such.



In the light of sometimes conflicting advice and contradictory statements circulating around the “five kilometres” rule and hunters’ right to travel in connection with deer control activities, Deer Alliance HCAP has today communicated with Minister Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Agriculture, also with Ministers Pippa Hackett TD and Malcolm Noonan TD. Our email communication is set out below.

We have also invited the Irish Farmers’ Association to support the proposal to designate deer control for stated purposes as an essential service to agriculture and forestry

TO: Minister Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Agriculture.

Dear Minister,

The purpose of this letter is to briefly make the case for designation of deer control as an essential service in the context of current Covid 19 regulations.

The control of wild deer is accepted as a priority objective by most stakeholders in the agriculture and forestry sectors. Wild deer, if not properly controlled and managed by competent, trained and certified hunters, offer the potential for serious damage and loss to agriculture and forestry. Coillte’s deer management strategy across their entire forest estate is predicated on containment of damage from excess numbers of wild deer. The question of possible inter-species cross-infection of disease is also a concern for farmers as well as for groups concerned with deer welfare.

Deer control for purposes of crop protection is not to be confused with recreational deer hunting but instead should be seen as an essential support service for agriculture and forestry provided it is carried out by licensed, trained, certified and competent persons working towards a coherent management plan for local populations of deer.

Deer control is not currently identified as an essential support service and consequently, licensed persons are curtailed in their activities by the current “five kilometres” rule. An unwelcome increase in populations can be predicted if culling is not carried out in-season and with the female hunting opening on 1st November, it is critically important that travel restrictions be eased. This can be achieved by designating deer control for stated purposes as an essential service to agriculture and forestry.

Deer Alliance HCAP now calls for the immediate designation of deer control for stated purposes as an essential support service for agriculture and forestry.

The safe, humane and efficient management of wild deer by trained, competent and certified persons, leading to a working balance between sometimes conflicting stakeholder interests while ensuring the welfare of wild deer, remains a priority objective for Deer Alliance HCAP.

Yours sincerely,



30th October 2020.


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.

BOTTOM LINE: based on subsequent discussions with key NPWS personnel at management level, Recreational Deer Hunting is NOT deemed to be an essential service covered by exemptions to the five kilometre travel restriction. Deer Control for stated purposes of protection of forestry and agricultural crops IS deemed to be an essential service and thus exempt.


Unfortunately, against the background of Covid 19 travel and group gathering restrictions, it is not possible to fix HCAP dates at this time.

A schedule of dates will be posted here as soon as circumstances permit.

Any and all candidates listed to participate will be notified at that time.

Level 3 Covid 19 Travel Restrictions – Impact on Coillte Deer Licensees and Permit Holders








On behalf of Deer Alliance HCAP-Certified hunters who are Coillte licensees and permit holders and who have asked for advice in relation to Level 3 Covid 19 travel restrictions now in place and affecting county-to-county travel, Deer Alliance HCAP has proposed to Coillte Teoranta that they issue a letter to each licensee and permit holder confirming their status as providers of an essential service within the meaning of the list of exempt providers published by the Office of the Taoiseach in March 2020.

The text of the proposal sent to Coillte is set out below. A response is awaited.


Dear (Coillte named BAU Administrator/Forest Manager)

As you can imagine, current Level 3 Covid 19 travel restrictions are impacting negatively on some Coillte deer licensees and permit holders, unwilling or unable to visit their forest areas without possible breach of the current travel regulations.

On behalf of those HCAP-Certified licensees and permit holders who have asked for advice on this matter, Deer Alliance HCAP wish to propose to Coillte nationally and locally that they issue a letter to each licence and permit holder confirming that deer management and deer culling on Coillte forest property by authorised persons is a valid exempt essential service as an essential aid in the protection of forestry and other crops, including both Coillte forestry and surrounding farmland. Persons involved directly or indirectly in crop production and related activities are deemed providers of essential services under the terms of the list of essential service providers under public health guidelines published by the Office of the Taoiseach in march 2020.

Such a letter could then be exhibited by licensed hunters travelling beyond permitted boundaries (county to county) if challenged.

Otherwise licensees and permit holders will be severely curtailed in the exercise of their licences and in the achievement of designated culls.

Email confirmation to each licensee or permit holder would suffice.

We trust you will give this proposal early consideration and implementation.

Yours sincerely,