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Bowhunt Scotland


The following is an update from Ian Kirkwood of Bowhunt Scotland  
Dear supporters and interested persons,

This e-mail is an update on the activities of Bowhunt Scotland, a campaign of the British Bowhunters Association. Included are suggestions of ways you can help promote bowhunting here in Scotland. Please take time to read the second half of this e-mail and get in touch with your own ideas about my proposed demand for a National Bowhunting Trial and how it might look in detail.

Join the BBA
If you are in the UK please consider joining the British Bowhunters Association. The number of members is crucial in improving BBA credibility as we push for legalisation. The BBA has a new membership category for supporters of bowhunting. See

Overseas Support
Thank you to the many from outside the UK who have expressed support. I intend to publish some of your comments and encouragement in the near future. We need all the encouragement we can get!

Recently insurance for Bowhunting – where legal – has been made automatically available to members of BASC. See This is a big deal for any who are concerned about potential incidents when practising with broadheads fitted. It includes third party liability for this. That a growing number of BASC staff are aware of bowhunting and its capabilities and are themselves bowhunters is most encouraging. The BBA is in talks with BASC to make the same insurance available to BBA members.

Now that Ray Mears is on the board of the British Deer Society, there are signs that it might be ready to soften its stance on bowhunting. BDS approached the BBA at England's CLA Game Fair requesting bowhunting information. In the past this would have been most unlikely.

Spread the word
Please continue to make Bowhunt Scotland known amongst any interested persons you are aware of. All support is appreciated. The more who sign up to receive updates, the more popular we can demonstrate bowhunting to be, and move towards legalising bowhunting in Scotland and indeed the UK.

Finally, for your information and the opportunity to comment on the route towards legal bowhunting in Scotland and the UK, the rest of this e-mail constitutes my recently submitted short article for publication in the British Bowhunters Association Newsletter which looks at our progress and attempts to plot a future course:

Bowhunting in the UK

You may have heard of Bowhunt Scotland, a web campaign to legalise bowhunting. My name is Ian Kirkwood. I built this simple site and brochure in January 2010 after sitting on the idea for many years. I had the privilege of bowhunting in Zimbabwe with the late Douglas Mitchell (
former chairman of the BBA) and other BBA members in 1997, a fantastic experience which served to build my frustration at not being able to bowhunt on my own doorstep. It may be useful to let you know a bit about myself and what I am hoping to achieve.

From my window I watch fallow and roe regularly and am the kind of hunter/angler who simply wishes to put one in the freezer occasionally, with the satisfaction of having caught it by myself in a fair chase. Although I have always had an air rifle I have never been much interested in hunting with the gun. Nor has travelling to far flung hunting venues been a strong ambition for me.

I met Douglas and the Ladywell Field Archers at their Dunkeld club in about 1991/2. I was always interested in hunting rather than competition and it turned out Douglas was the perfect teacher. Over the years I learned from him the wide-ranging contents of the NBEF manual and its practical application. We shot hundreds of arrows, followed fake blood trails, gralloched and dragged (rifle shot) deer, skinned and butchered carcases. I gained my IBEP card and assisted Douglas in training new bowhunters from Scandinavia.

Along the way there were numerous interesting events. I met Tim Poole (NBEF President at the time) occasionally when he was here visiting Douglas and ended up designing the NBEF magazine which I named Broadhead. Unfortunately it only went to one issue due to a lack of funding, but I was always keen to do anything I could to further the popularity of bowhunting.

Even as a novice I wondered why nobody was actively promoting bowhunting in the UK. I wrote a short paper entitled, A draft plan to legalise Bowhunting in the UK. When I showed it to Douglas and Clive they looked wrong-footed or even offended. I never received any further feedback or comment. It seems that a general pessimism about the prospect of bowhunting becoming possible in Britain was the norm in the BBA then and has been ever since, which I can understand. In the end this may be born out, but surely someone must at least put the case for bowhunting here. And if not us, who?

Whatever the unexpressed view of 15-20 years ago, a lot has changed since then. Scotland has acquired devolved government. This has opened up the possibility of meeting local civil servants and politicians in an effort to promote bowhunting. Suddenly unexpected angles, unrelated to the usual bowhunting issues, have acquired a kind of logic that was not there before, e.g. the concept that bowhunting would be good thing to have in Scotland – because it is something England does not have.

The BBA has adopted the Bowhunt Scotland campaign as one way of pushing for bowhunting in the UK. I would ask BBA members throughout the UK to give this limited campaign their support as a way of potentially securing a foothold from which bowhunting can spread to the rest of the UK.

Bowhunt Scotland
I call it a campaign, but it is rather passive really. More a statement of the case for bowhunting and a source of correct information. I designed a booklet (currently only in pdf format) called Ethical Bowhunting in Scotland. It is downloadable from the site It is worth looking over the booklet and the site content. Your input as bowhunters and BBA members is welcome as there may well be good arguments that are not included or technical mistakes that need to be corrected.

So Far
So far we have enjoyed a meeting in March 2010 with the Scottish Natural Heritage deer managers (SNH absorbed the former Deer Commission for Scotland in 2010) and received the promise of a scientific evaluation of bowhunting equipment in an upcoming general test of ammunition, now to be held probably in 2012.
At the Scone Game Fair near Perth we had much positive feedback and hope to take a stand there when one becomes available. This is all good so far as it goes. But without some further initiative on our part there will be nothing else to report for some considerable time.

It is obvious from talking with civil servants, whether they are supportive of bowhunting or not, that they do not see an obvious course towards legalisation. The reason for this is that primary legislation (The Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Deer Act) need to be amended. This requires political will. Presenting the concept of bowhunting to their SNH Board is not something the department advising on deer control at SNH can see happening in the short or even medium term. We need to demonstrate wider support from recognised bodies to give SNH something tangible to take forward. At their behest I spoke to Scottish Land and Estates who expressed support for the idea. Needless to say the SSPCA could not be brought on board. I have heard of softening attitudes within parts of the Deer Society and BASC. But until attitudes soften to the point of publicly expressed support we must look elsewhere for progress towards our goal.

Where Next?
The Bowhunt Scotland site sits there making the case passively to any who might be interested. An active campaign however, requires planning and strategy that go beyond what a simple informative web site provides. Knowing where we are headed next and how we intend to get there is vital if the campaign is not to stall. The exercise of putting together the site content is only the first stage in achieving legalisation. Unfortunately my design skills are now used up and someone with marketing skills would be better placed to take the campaign to the next level. Is that you? We need to work with the BBA executive to identify actions we need to take together to keep bowhunting on the agenda and the registered interested parties informed, from time to time, about what we are doing or intend to do to advance the campaign.

Whilst running a campaign is not something I know a lot about, there is one action we should now take that will keep us moving forward: I believe the BBA must work towards demanding a Scottish Bowhunting Trial. A demand is a different animal for a civil servant to deal with. Instead of sitting on his hands he must at the very least come up with good reasons not to hold a trial. And since we will be demanding a scientific trial for the purpose of answering questions to which he does not have authoritative answers, he will need to work hard to argue against it. In fact I believe it will be smartly off his plate and referred to his superiors – the SNH Board and indeed politicians – for a decision ‘pretty damn quick’.

Integral to the demand is the structure of the national bowhunting trial itself. The demand must be accompanied by a developed trial structure. I do not agree with the idea that the trial will be whatever we are given by SNH. SNH knows very little about bowhunting. Instead we should be recommending and providing a structure that is both practical to bowhunters and sets out to answer questions to which we wish to demonstrate the answers. Then conferring with SNH to refine the design for the right trial. A structured proposal will be the central ingredient of our demand for a trial. It will describe exactly how the trial should be structured and managed, its scale and duration, what questions it will answer and how it will find the answers. It will be a comprehensive proposal, vetted and approved by the EBF and laid out in sufficient detail to allow costing. It’s structure will be scrutinised by vets, forensic pathologists, animal welfare organisations. It’s results will be objective and irrefutable.

It has always seemed unsatisfactory to me that in the likes of the Danish trial, which seems to be the best model we have, that the results hang on the unsupported word of bowhunters. Surely a weakness that needs to be addressed and something surely possible in this technological age! Do you have any thoughts on this? The NBEF and the EBF will help us design the trial in the light of their wide experience. If between us we create a resilient skeleton trial designed to answer the questions of game managers and the general public, surely it will be in high demand by campaigning bowhunters around Europe and the world. In fact, why have we not been offered this already on a plate? Please let us have your thoughts on how to move forward, if you agree we should be demanding a Scottish bowhunting trial and how that trial should be designed.

Might I ask EBF representatives in particular to comment on the last paragraph, and in particular the design of the bowhunting trial for Scotland?

Kind regards,

Ian Kirkwood