It’s taken four months, but the police have at last agreed that they will bring no charges against the deerstalkers in the Stag-in-Watergate scandal.
The film shocked some deerstalkers but, maybe more shocking, is that some of them complained to the police about the video, which shows a stag shot in water on the West Coast of Scotland. For the stalker Fraser Macdonald and guide Niall Rowantree, it has been four difficult months, not knowing whether a campaign started by fellow deerstalkers and whipped up by antis would result in police action.
So what does the film show? You see a herd of deer running into water, as if someone is driving them. A team of stalkers is waiting for them. The shot looks dodgy – there is a house visible in the background. After the shot, the stag takes a minute to die, floundering around in the water. The video caused a social media storm, and even made it into a newspaper.
But is that what really happened? We talk to the stalker concerned, Fraser Macdonald, and one of the film’s main detractors, Andy Richardson. We uncover the role of the British Deer Society, which is the only shooting organisation publicly to condemn Niall. And we get a verdict on the film from firearms expert Andrew Venables.
That was in November 2020. Two months later and Fieldsports News made a Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland in order to find out how much the investigation has cost the taxpayer and how many police officers are involved. Police Scotland says it is unable to answer our request.
Two months on from that and the police announce that its investigation has come to a close. Now Niall would like an apology from the British Deer Society – and the BDS remains unbending in its condemnation of Niall. It says:
‘We were disappointed that someone who is as well regarded in the deer world as Niall Rowantree did not stop the incident from being filmed. We all have a duty to ensure we do not bring our community into disrepute and the footage with its accompanying commentary, was distressing and distasteful and clearly upset many people who viewed it.
‘The British Deer Society received numerous complaints from the public after this video was posted and paramount to our charitable aims is the welfare of deer. If we feel that actions that run contrary to this are brought to our attention, then we absolutely reserve the right to comment.’
Judge for yourself. We made the video below in November 2020, the one above after the resolution of the case in March 2021.