Human Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 473–484 | Cite as

Conservation with a Gun: Understanding Landowner Attitudes to Deer Hunting in the Scottish Highlands

  • Douglas C. MacMillan
  • Kirsty Leitch


Conservation conflicts are often difficult to resolve due to a combination of poorly defined property rights, inadequate funding, high transaction costs, and contrasting value systems among stakeholders. This paper explores these barriers to collaboration in the context of the emerging deer crisis in the Scottish Highlands, where deer numbers are now higher than at any time in recorded history. In particular we explore the potential role of recreational hunting in the government’s strategy to contain rising deer numbers from the landowners’ perspective. Using both qualitative and quantitative analysis we find that hunting traditions and personal preferences, reinforced by antipathy to conservationists and their perceptions of land stewardship, are the major barriers to shooting more deer for conservation objectives. We conclude that an expansion of commercial hunting opportunities is the best practical approach to resolving the current conflict over deer, but conservationists and landowners must work together to create a more positive context for hunter-conservation initiatives and activities.


Conservation Sustainable use Highland sporting estates Deer stalking 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology (DICE), Department of AnthropologyUniversity of KentCanterburyUSA

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