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