A company promoting the trophy hunting of animals in northwest Scotland offers people the chance to shoot rare stags for up to £8,000, we can reveal.
West Highland Hunting’s 2020 price list, obtained by The Ferret, offers bespoke hunting packages for a range of animals including white red stags, sika stags, Père David bulls, roe bucks and feral billy goats.
The firm is based in Ardnamurchan and advertises “trophy” stags to potential clients on its website. Its price list for 2020 details how much it costs to hunt specific types of species.
But critics of trophy hunting – including politicians and the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting – have called for the “obscene” sport to be “abolished”.
The Ferret reported on 7 November that West Highland Hunting was involved in the shooting of a stag in a Highland loch. The incident was filmed.
The film was described as “repulsive” by a Scottish Government minister and an investigation was being carried out by the British Deer Society, which oversees humane deer control.
The stalker who took the shot was interviewed by online Fieldsports Channel. He described criticism from fellow stalkers as “disgusting” and accused them of “never knowing the full story”.
West Highland Hunting’s price list offered people the chance to kill “exotic” Père David “trophy bulls” for £8,000 for the hunting period 1 June to 20 October 2020.
The Père David Deer (Milu) were first discovered by Père Armand David, in the Imperial Hunting Park in Beijing. He was a missionary who visited China in 1861 and carried out scientific work, especially in zoology and botany.
West Highland Hunting’s website says that its “famous herd of Père David deer is thought to be the most north-westerly herd in Britain”.
It adds: “Available to hunt on Ardnamurchan estate in the Glenborrodale Deer Park, this species boasts highly distinctive anatomy and is a true conservation success of British deer parks. Price on request. Open season for both sexes: May – September.”
Red stags are also listed, with the cost to clients determined by “points” which refer to antlers.
Stags’ antlers are highly branched and these increase with age, growing multiple points. The more points a stag has, the higher the cost to West Highland Hunting’s clients.
West Highland Hunting also offers clients the chance to hunt rare white red stags for £7,850.
Stags with 20 to 26 points were on offer for the same price.
Stags with 16 to 19 points cost £5,500 and 12 to 15 points, £3,300. The price list says that an “agent’s commission” is to be added. These stags could be shot in Ardnamurchan, Glenborrodale and Ardnish between 1 August and 20 October 2020.
Red stags up to 15 points at £3,300 were also available on estates at Auch and Invermearan, Sutherland and Skye, with an agent’s commission of 15 per cent to be added.
Sika stags over seven points were on offer at £2,250. Sika deer are similar in size and coat to fallow deer, but have a shorter tail.
Roe bucks were offered at £550 each, fallow bucks for £1,000, and red hinds at £550, with a “maximum bag per day” of four animals for the latter.
The West Highland Hunting price list added: “If an animal is struck and leaves blood on the ground it will be considered taken and charged recovered or not. Animals which present an opportunity and are repeatedly missed will be charged at the normal rate for the area.”
The company’s website says: “Up to eight animals may be booked in any August to October week by arrangement and subject to availability.”
The prices include the animal’s trophy preparation including caping, the process of skinning out a trophy animal.
Accommodation is offered at the 13th century Mingary Castle, which overlooks the Sound of Mull.
Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, said: “Rich foreign hunters quietly jet into Scotland from all over the world every year to kill animals for so-called sport. They treat Scotland as their playground, shooting local wildlife just to add another animal’s head to their macabre collections.
“Many of them are trophy hunters desperate to get their names in the sickest publication in the world – the Safari Club International Record Book. This book lists thousands of animals that have been senselessly slaughtered simply to satisfy the vanity of these people.
“In Scotland, they’re even breeding an animal – the Père David’s Deer – which is extinct in its native Chinese habitat. Wealthy playboys are coming to Scotland so they can add the most exotic trophy to their collection – that of an animal that technically no longer exists. This obscene so-called sport has to be abolished and consigned to the history books once and for all.”
Labour Highlands and Islands MSP, Rhoda Grant, pointed out that hunting deer had been part of life in remote rural areas for centuries. But she deemed trophy hunting to be “indefensible”.
She said: “Trophy hunting increases the price on the head of animals that would otherwise be protected as the pride of the herd if the motivation was land management and animal welfare. Therefore, it means that our natural environment is damaged for the sake of a scalp and a photo.
“Because of this trophy hunting is indefensible and has no place in our world today. Deer culling has to take place for health of deer and land but I am wholly against trophy hunting. The glory aspect of trophy hunting is sickening and vile.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats stressed that Scotland’s wildlife was precious. “We must not allow rare animals to be hunted and exploited for sport,” said the party’s environment spokesperson, Molly Nolan.
“One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction because of human activities. That is grotesque. In Scotland, no animal should ever be pushed towards or over that brink.”
She added: “Our laws need to stand up for that most basic principle and I urge the environment secretary to investigate this.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation argued that trophy hunting was acceptable in some circumstances. “Well-regulated trophy hunting programmes play an important role in delivering benefits for both nature and people,” said the group’s head of deer management, Martin Edwards.
“We support the sustainable harvest of wildlife in the UK and overseas and the import and export of trophies arising from such harvesting where they are clearly proven to be from a sustainable source.”
He added: “As far as we are aware all the species mentioned are from sustainable sources and the income generated will help with the essential management of the deer populations to ensure that they are maintained at a level that cause minimal impact on their environment.
“Père David’s deer were extinct in the wild in their native China. Fortunately we have thriving populations in private collections and deer parks in the UK which have been used as donor herds to re-establish them back in the wild in China.
“Deer have no natural predators in the UK and populations need to be managed to stop them causing immeasurable damage to woodland biodiversity, tree establishment, agriculture and eventually their own species through starvation and disease.
“Park herds are managed like all other deer herds in that animals need to be culled to maintain their overall health in line with the carrying capacity of their environment.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We completely understand why the hunting of animals as trophies to be used for videos, pictures and selfies is so upsetting and offensive to people.
“The legislation in Scotland allows sustainable management of Scotland’s wildlife. We are in regular discussions with land managers to ensure management of wildlife is carried out in a lawful and humane manner.
“We are developing a strategic approach to wildlife management with NatureScot, that puts animal welfare at the centre while protecting public health and economic and conservation considerations and will be publishing the approach shortly.
“If anybody has concerns about illegal hunting practices taking place they should report the matter to Police Scotland.”
When contacted about WHH’s prices for hunting packages, the British Deer Society would not confirm whether its investigation was ongoing, nor would it comment on the list.
WHH has been contacted and asked to comment.
West Highland Hunting’s price list
This investigation was funded by the cosmetics firm, Lush. The Ferret retained full editorial control of the project in line with our editorial guidelines.