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Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) issues authorisations under the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996. Authorisations allow individuals to cull deer in circumstances when they would not normally have the legal right to shoot them, for example to prevent deer damaging the natural heritage (natural habitats).

When are authorisations required?

Authorisations are required when shooting deer in the following circumstances:

  • during the Closed Season - see below for more details 
  • at night - the shooting of deer is not permitted between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise
  • driving deer with vehicles- in order to take or kill for the purposes of deer management.

General authorisation

The general authorisation allows occupiers suffering damage to improved agricultural land or enclosed woodland to control deer in the close season. You can request a copy by contacting us on the numbers below or by downloading it from the link below.

 General Authorisation for 2016/17  PDF document

General Authorisation for 2017/18  PDF document

The general authorisation does not allow the culling of female deer, over 1 year old, of any species between the period of the 1st April to the 31st August. Those operating under a general authorisation, must have read and understood the general authorisation and carry out any control in accordance with the conditions listed on the authorisation.

More detail on the changes to the Close season and owner occupier rights

Owners and Managers of Woodland need to be particularly aware of how these changes may affect their operations. In any woodland, female deer cannot be culled from 1st April to 31st August without a specific authorisation.

The definition of enclosed land is also of central importance. It is defined by the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 as meaning enclosed by a stock-proof fence or other barrier and unenclosed shall be construed accordingly. It is for those operating under the general authorisation to satisfy themselves that the land is enclosed. 

Further guidance for woodland managers on applying for Authorisation is available at - Further Guidance  PDF document  


Collaboration and consultation between the various interests on any given piece of land is highly desirable and all possible steps should be taken to ensure that there is an effective dialogue between as many as applicable of the owner, the occupier(s), sporting tenants, controllers, neighbours and the deer management group. It remains the case that anyone operating under an authorisation, general or specific, should be able to demonstrate that no other reasonable means of control would be adequate. Longer term problems may be more effectively addressed through dialogue with other deer managers in the area, including through local Deer Management Groups than by recourse to authorisations.

Application forms:

Completed forms and maps

****Please send all completed forms to ****


Wildlife Operations Unit, Scottish Natural Heritage, Great Glen House, Leachkin Road, Inverness, IV3 8NW.

If you require any assistance please contact our helpline on 01463 725 364


Night shooting code of practice external site

Last updated on Tuesday 4th April 2017 at 14:21 PM. Click here to comment on this page