Open range counting 2

a digital photograph taken from a helicopter, can reveal much greater detail when processed. (near bottom left) a second deer can be seen behind another, and calves may be distinguished from hinds

Planning and communications

The key to the success, accuracy and efficiency of counts, particularly large counts, is in thorough and detailed planning, along with good communication between all involved. The Risk Assessment should apply to all operators

  • Ensure that an appropriate Risk Assessment has been carried out and recorded where appropriate*.

Computer software may help count large groups. Each deer in the group can be marked and a different colour used for every 100 deer counted within the group

In addition to carrying out a risk assessment the following checklist should be completed:



areaarea to be counted defined
woodlands to be cleared identified
neighbours contacted
equipmentradios & batteries
notebooks & pencil
binoculars/ telescopes
digital camera/ batteries
health & safety equipment
staff clearing woodland briefwoods to clear
radio comm protocol
health & safety procedures
counters briefroutes to fly/ walk
which deer to count
classification to use
record (nos, age, sex...)
radio comm protocol
health & safety procedures
helicopter pilot briefroutes to fly/ walk
fuel dumps
flying hours
military restrictions
radio comm protocol
health & safety procedures

On the day

Prior to commencing counting obtain an up to date weather forecast for the area.

  • Ensure all team members are equipped with radios operating on a dedicated channel.
  • Agree protocols for radio procedures with the pilot, co-ordinator and wood clearance teams before the start of any count. Send, receive and acknowledge are essential steps. In addition team members should be clear on:
    • Definition of terms to be used
    • Methods of relaying
    • Channel allocation
  • Immediately after the count:
    • hold a ‘de-briefing’ with all involved to determine any potential double counting or areas missed.
    • Collect all maps, notebooks, digital images, gps routes to collate data on numbers and locations of all deer sighted and all routes walked or flown.

After the count

It is essential to make most use of the information collected. As well as reporting on the number of deer counted the following should be reported on:

  • Area counted
  • Deer densities (areas unavailable to deer - fenced / water)
  • Map of deer counted and area covered
  • Costs (man-hours, £)
  • Weaknesses / limitations:
    • Planning
    • Area counted / woodlands cleared
    • Weather / ground conditions
    • Observer ability to spot / count / classify / record
    • Digital image quality
    • Deer behaviour and movement
  • What could be done better?

What next?

  • Disseminate results to neighbours / DMG / SNH**
  • Use count to inform deer management in terms of:
    • Population size
    • Sex ratio
    • Likely impact on habitats