Hunting includes the chasing, capturing or killing of any bird or animal.
Not all hunting is illegal, but there are many laws and legal restrictions that help protect wildlife. Illegal hunting can include hunting outside of an open season, using traps or weapons that cause unnecessary suffering, or hunting without a special licence.
It's not just an offence to hunt illegally. You are also breaking the law if you:
assist in an illegal hunt, such as allowing hunters to use your land or providing them with dogs
watch or attend an illegal hunt
Knowing when hunting is illegal can be challenging. Different animals and birds have different laws to protect them. If you're planning to go hunting, it's important you know what you can and can't do.
Hunting wild birds includes:
killing by any other means
It is illegal to hunt a wild bird if:
it is not their hunting season
they do not have a hunting season
you are hunting on someone else’s land without their permission
hunt for deer on land without permission from the landowner
remove deer carcasses from land without permission from the landowner
hunt deer with spears, arrows or similar types of missiles, whether used as weapons or as ammunition in a firearm
hunt deer using poisons, muscle relaxants or drugs that make them sleepy or confused
hunt deer using ammunition that contains stupefying drugs, poison and muscle relaxants
use traps, snares or poisoned bait
hunt wild deer during their closed season or at night, unless you have a licence to, or the deer are damaging your land (a landowner can authorise someone to kill the deer when their land is being damaged)
capture deer for science, education or relocation without a special licence
Muntjac deer are not protected by an open season. This is because Muntjac deer breed all year round.
‘Trail hunting’ and ‘drag hunting’, where dogs follow either an animal-based or artificial scent respectively, is legal. These are hunts designed to copy fox hunting without foxes being involved at all. However, these activities must still take place on locations where the people or animals involved are allowed to go and are not trespassing.
There are exemptions under the Hunting Act 2004 that allow for foxes to be ‘humanely’ shot and killed. In such cases, a dog or dogs, depending on the circumstances, can be legally used to ‘flush’ a fox from cover so it can be shot.