Stalkers have a highly skilled job, often working alone in wild and remote landscapes. Focusing on all aspects of successful wild deer management, a stalker contributes to the efficient culling of deer, for example on countryside estates, and the conservation and management of the natural habitat.
There can be a requirement to work closely with neighbouring estate stalkers to ensure an efficient, co-ordinated cull throughout the landscape.
Particularly during the stag stalking season, a stalker will take responsibility for small numbers of shooting guests. Stalkers are likely to undertake a range of other tasks including pest and predator control, maintenance or part-time shepherding. This will particularly be the case on upland red deer estates owing to the relatively short season. Tasks are largely outdoors and often undertaken in quite harsh weather conditions.
In the UK there are in excess of 14,000 active deer stalkers with the number being higher if you include those involved in recreational stalking.
Culling deer begins with shooting stags in the late summer to the end of the autumn. Red deer hinds are shot throughout the winter months. Roe deer are managed throughout the year.
Full-time employment opportunities on rural estates will often be in very remote upland locations such as the North-west Highlands of Scotland, although stalkers are employed throughout the UK on low ground estates as well as on farms and woodlands.
Shooting estates operate seven days a week at all times of the year. The intensity and timing of work is related to the deer-stalking season. Therefore stalkers on estates usually work flexible hours based around the jobs that need completing at different times of the year.
In larger estates, they are likely to work on a rota system with other members of staff including early mornings, evenings and weekends. Roe buck stalking for example involves particularly anti-social hours in the late evening and again from 3.30am in the morning. There may be opportunities for both full-time and part-time working.
The work is an essential part of land management and conservation, benefiting moorland, woodland, farmland and other habitats. Stalkers need to be comfortable working alone in remote locations. Most of their working time is spent outdoors in all weather conditions. The work itself is active and physical, demanding patience, perseverance and skill over long hours.
Stalkers combine excellent local knowledge, the skills of an experienced hill walker with a deep understanding of the deer. A full driving licence is usually needed as are a Shotgun Certificate and a Firearms Certificate.
Salaries vary with experience, qualifications and between companies, but here's a guide to what you can expect.
Work experience on an estate is very useful as an introduction to stalking and consequently, following various courses, gaining a position as an Under Stalker.
Employers are looking for people who:
- Have an enthusiasm and interest in deer, conservation and remote wild landscapes
- Enjoy working mainly outdoors carrying out a variety of tasks
- Have due care for the environment in which wild deer management takes place.
What experienced workers can do
- Promote good standards of health and safety
- Stalking and culling deer
- Transport and inspect dead deer
- Prepare for heather burning
- Manage game populations
- Maintain stocks of game birds
- Maintain habitats on estates.
Personal qualities you should have
- Good communication skills
- Able to plan and prioritise work
- Flexible and adaptable
- Able to use initiative.
If you are conscientious, willing to turn up on time and at weekends and show yourself to be a committed employee, there may be an opportunity for promotion to a more senior position, especially if you work for one of the bigger Estates.
If you are working as a stalker with a smaller organisation, you may have to move to find a promoted position such as Head Stalker. This position involves managing all aspects of the deer programme including weapon safety, deer shooting, habitat conservation, resources, people and security.