A red deer stag. Photo: Bill Ebbesen CC-BY-3.0

A red deer stag. Photo: Bill Ebbesen [CC-3.0]

The Scottish Hillphone service kicks off on Thursday, with the official opening of the deerstalking season.

And this year, there are plans to introduce a web-based service to supplement hillwalkers’ information on where stalking will take place.

Although the season, during which red deer stags are culled, doesn’t get into full swing until August, some estates will have stalkers and parties out on the hills from 1 July. The season officially ends on 20 October and many munros and corbetts are in areas where stalking takes place.

The Hillphones system, introduced in 1996, aims to cut the conflict between walkers, climbers and mountaineers and is supported by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage. The pilot online scheme is due to launch on 1 August, run by SNH and the Deer Commission for Scotland.

Hillphones cover areas from northern Arran to Glen Strathfarrar and enable walkers to check whether stalking is taking place using a recorded phone messages. The numbers are charged at normal rates.

There is also guidance for walkers taking to the hills and mountains where stalking may be taking place:

  • Take reasonable steps to find out where stalking is taking place and take account of advice on alternative routes
  • Follow reasonable advice given including in Hillphone messages, Deer Management Group leaflets, notices at parking places or by estate staff that you meet
  • Use paths where available if stalking is in operation in the area
  • Consult estates about plans if you are organising a large group or managing an event
  • Follow mountain ridges if stalking is in operation
  • Follow the main watercourse if you have to go through a corrie and stalking is in operation
  • Avoid cutting down through corries if stalking is in operation
  • Keep dogs on a short lead or under close control if stalking is in operation
  • Keep voices to reasonable levels as sound carries in the hills
  • Avoid wild camping in corries if stalking is planned for the following day.

Deer are culled by stalkers using their knowledge of deer movements and the weather forecast to plan where they will be stalking. Changes in weather conditions, particularly wind direction, on the day can affect their plans, just as they can do for hillwalkers. Longer-range forecasts are easier to make when the weather is settled.

The Hillphones website says groups of deer stalkers may stalk in different areas of an estate, known as beats. More than one stalking party may be active in an area on a particular date. The deer are shot humanely with high velocity rifles.

Details of the areas covered, along with relevant phone numbers, are on the Hillphones website.

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  3. Mountain council objects to planned windfarm near Ben Wyvis
  4. Mountain shelter back in service after volunteers’ restoration
  5. Ramblers tell Ledgowan estate walkers: don’t be bullied