Hunting poses many welfare risks including injury, pain and distress, especially for a species like deer as they are highly sensitive and will panic easily if disturbed. The most humane way to kill a deer is not to alarm or chase them and to use a firearm for an accurate head shot causing instant death.
The species of deer hunted in Australia are sambar, hog, red, fallow, chital, rusa and wapiti. The methods used during recreational hunting of deer are:
- Stalking of deer with a rifle or firearm – involves a hunter attempting to get progressively closer to a deer until such point as he/she can get a clean shot with a rifle or firearm which he uses to kill the deer (usually with a shot to the chest to damage the heart and lungs). Hunters also use stationary tree platforms where they sit and wait for a deer to approach. Sometimes dogs are used for locating, pointing, or flushing deer during stalking.
- Stalking of deer with a bow/crossbow – involves a hunter attempting to get progressively closer to a deer until such point as he/she can get a clean shot with a bow/crossbow which is used to kill the deer (with a shot to the chest to damage the heart and lungs). Bow hunters must get much closer to their target than hunters who use a firearm.
- Hunting with the use of scent-trailing hounds – this method is only used in Victoria and only for sambar deer. It involves the deer being chased by a pack of dogs up to the point of near exhaustion when it comes to a standstill and is then shot (usually with a shot to the chest to damage the heart and lungs).
Stalking followed by shooting with a firearm causes the least suffering of these three methods, since shot deer will die quicker than when killed with a bow and arrow and the deer are not pursued over considerable distances and for a considerable time, as often occurs with hound hunting. However, stalking followed by shooting with a firearm is still not considered humane, unless the deer is killed with a head shot using a firearm to cause instant death.
Stalking followed by shooting is also considered to be ineffective for managing populations of wild deer (targeted, professional deer control programs are more efficient) and seldom satisfies important requirements for the humane shooting of animals. These are:
- it is carried out by experienced, skilled and responsible shooters
- the animal can be clearly seen and is within range
- the correct firearm, ammunition and shot placement is used
- target animals are not alarmed or chased prior to shooting
- wounded animals are located and killed as quickly and humanely as possible
- death of the target animal is confirmed before shooting another animal
- when lactating females are accidentally shot, efforts are made to find dependent young and kill them quickly and humanely
- all other conditions, as stated in relevant best practice guidelines, are understood and adhered to.
The RSPCA opposes recreational hunting, or the act of stalking or pursuing an animal and then killing it for sport, due to the inherent and inevitable pain and suffering caused.