Hill walkers are advised to check online about deer stalking on estates before heading out for the hills.
The stag stalking season, July 1 to October 20, is a popular time of year for walkers, so three years ago Sscottish Natural Heritage set up the Heading for the Scottish Hills website, www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/hftsh. The web service has proved popular with walkers with 7,500 hits last year.
The website includes general information about stalking on all participating estates and contact details for further information. Some estates provide detailed information on the site up to a week in advance, describing where and when stalking will take place, as well as suggested walking routes. There is also information about responsible behaviour for land managers and walkers.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code encourages walkers and other recreational users to take reasonable steps to find out about stag stalking – this is made much easier with the Heading for the Hills website. The web service has replaced Hillphones this year because of demand for an online service.
The website has expanded in 2012 to include more of Scotland’s most popular hill-walking areas, including in the Cairngorms National Park, Breadalbane and the west coast.
Fiona Cuninghame, SNH recreation and access officer, said: “This web service is a quick and easy way to check that you won’t disturb deer stalking when you’re out in the hills between July and October. I’d encourage all walkers to try the site out and let us know what you think.”
Andrea Partridge, Mountaineering Council of Scotland Access Officer, said: “The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has been closely involved with the Heading for the Scottish Hills website and is delighted to see that it has been further extended to provide essential information on stalking areas. We would encourage all hill-goers to check the website especially during the stalking season and contact the relevant estate.”
Richard Cooke, chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups, added: “The number of people going to the Scottish hills for recreation has increased steadily over recent years and in some cases that can make it difficult for deer managers, particularly during the autumn period.
“There is no reason why both walkers and stalkers can’t share the hills, but the need is for more readily available information so that all hill goers can take account of the needs of others.
“We see the online version of ‘Heading for the Scottish hills’ as a really important step forward in that communication process.”
The web page takes its name from the ‘Heading for the Scottish Hills’ book, a collaboration between landowners and mountaineers published between 1988 and 1996. For the first time, this book provided hill walkers with an easy way to identify and contact participating estates to find out where stalking was taking place.