Deer Alliance, is the organising body for the assessment and certification of persons involved in the management, conservation and stalking of wild deer in Ireland. The Deer Alliance was established in 2003 in response to the need for a certification process in respect of hunters and managers of wild deer on the lands of Coillte Teoranta, Ireland’s State Forestry Board. The Deer Alliance administers the national Hunter Competence Assessment Programme (HCAP) through the HCAP Assessment Committee. HCAP is designed to lead to safer, more efficient and more humane management of wild deer in Ireland through a rigorous process of screening and assessment of deer hunters. All persons wishing to hunt wild deer on Coillte forest property are required to show evidence of competence in the areas of knowledge of Irish deer species (biology, habits and habitat, management practices) and proficiency in the safe use of firearms. HCAP, introduced in 2005, is currently the only Irish-based certification process recognised and accepted by Coillte as meeting the required standards.
HCAP Range test target
The Deer Alliance was formed in 2003 in response to Coillte Teoranta’s decision to seek a system of independent certification for persons hunting wild deer on Coillte forest property. The Alliance comprises the four leading Irish deer organisations – The Wild Deer Association of Ireland, The Irish Deer Society, Wicklow Deer Management & Conservation Group and the Wicklow Deer Society. These four organisations accepted the challenge to come up with a formula for a credible and independent assessment and certification model early in 2003. There followed almost a year of comparative study and assessment of different models used nationally and internationally, culminating in the decision to adopt the system of assessment now represented by the Hunter Competence Assessment Programme – or HCAP.
There followed a further year of work under the guidance of a steering committee comprised of the original four members of the Deer Alliance, strengthened by representatives of a number of other organisations and bodies whose involvement and support is key to the formulation and implementation of a national strategy for stalker training. These bodies included Coillte itself, National Parks & Wildlife Service, The Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture & Food, An Garda Siochana, Irish Farmers’ Association and the Irish Timber Growers’ Association. The strengthened committee, known as the Deer Alliance Development Committee, took on the task of developing HCAP to the point of launch in April 2005, including the task of producing the Stalker Training Manual, which forms the basis for stalker education and preparation for the HCAP assessment procedure.
HCAP is currently the only independently verified competence assessment programme which has been developed specifically for Irish deer stalkers, hunting Irish deer under Irish stalking conditions and has been fully accepted and endorsed by Coillte. It is now Coillte’s policy that all persons intending to hunt deer on Coillte forest property, as licensees of sporting rights or as nominated stalkers, must be HCAP-certified by stipulated deadlines, starting in January 2008.
HCAP is administered by the HCAP Assessment Committee, successor to the Deer Alliance Development Committee. The Assessment Committee has undertaken the objective of providing the opportunity for assessment and certification for all licensed deer hunters in Ireland (currently in excess of 2500 individuals) by the year 2015.
The HCAP Certification Procedure
HCAP is designed to test the knowledge and proficiency of all those who wish to hunt wild deer on both Coillte forest property and on private land. Assessment is supported by courses in training and education offered on a regional basis by the different participating deer organisations, as well as by the Stalker Training Manual, which is designed to communicate the essentials required for the safe, efficient and humane management of wild deer.
Assessment is based on a written Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) examination, which requires the candidate to answer forty questions out of fifty correctly. MCQ examinations are held periodically at different regional centres.
When successful in the MCQ, candidates then proceed to a Range Test.
The Range Test requires the candidate to group three shots within a four-inch bull target from the prone position at 100 metres. If successful at the grouping stage, candidates proceed to fire six shots on a deer-shaped target – two rounds in the prone position at 100 metres, two rounds sitting or kneeling at 60 metres and two rounds standing at 40 metres. Successful candidates are then HCAP certified.
HCAP is designed to be tough but fair. Current pass rates are in the order of 70% of candidates passing all stages, which means that four out of ten candidates will fail either the MCQ stage or the Range Test stage. This can result from lack of preparation or lack of practice – or simply underestimating the level of competence required. Nonetheless the HCAP Assessment Committee is determined to maintain the highest possible standards of knowledge, proficiency, safety and general competence, given the core requirements for safe, efficient and humane treatment of wild deer.
Guidelines on applying for certification
HCAP Assessments (MCQs) are normally carried out on up to four (4) dates in each calendar year depending on volume and origin of applications – usually in the months of March, May, July and September, followed in consecutive months by Range Tests. Additional dates and venues may be arranged by decision of Officers of the HCAP Assessment Committee. With effect from January 1, 2016, the HCAP Assessment Fee is €150.00 (Repeat Fee is €50.00)
Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) examinations are normally held at regional centres on a cyclical basis, facilitating candidates from different regions.
Range Tests are normally held at the Midland Rifle Range, Blue Ball, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Other venues may be considered subject to official approval of range and confirmation of compliance with all relevant safety and insurance requirements.
Applications for HCAP assessment must be received a minimum of two (2) weeks before each scheduled date.
All HCAP candidates are required to complete HCAP Assessment within 180 days of date of their MCQ, i.e. all candidates must pass their Range Test within 180 days of sitting their first attempt at the MCQ. Candidates may repeat the MCQ once only and/or the Range Test once only at the discounted Repeat Fee of €50.00. Should any candidate need to repeat the MCQ or the Range Test more than once, they may do so only subject to payment of the full HCAP Fee of €100.00. Failed MCQ or Range Test candidates may repeat the relevant stage of the certifying test as often as they wish and as often as administrative arrangements allow, within the 180 day timeframe but if certification is not achieved within that time, candidates must then recommence the process from the beginning, including re-sitting a current MCQ even where they may have previously passed the MCQ.
A maximum of fifty (50) candidates can be accommodated for each MCQ.
A minimum of thirty (30) candidates will be required before a Range Test can be confirmed. Normally, a maximum of sixty (60) candidates can be accommodated on a single-day Range Test.
Each initial application for assessment must be accompanied by the standard assessment application fee of €150.00 (euros, one hundred fifty). This fee covers the ordinary progression from MCQ to Range Test and certification, assuming success on the first attempt at both stages.
The pass standard for the MCQ is 80% i.e. forty correct answers out of 50 questions. Questions are set at random from a bank of approximately 300 questions and answers developed over time by the Deer Alliance Development Committee and reviewed on an occasional basis by the Officer Board of the HCAP Assessment Committee.
The pass standard for the Range Test includes a four-inch group on a six-inch bull target at 100 metres prone, together with six shots (two shots in each of three positions) in the killing zone on the HCAP deer target.
A candidate being unsuccessful at a first sitting of the MCQ stage may apply to re-sit the MCQ once only at the reduced repeat application fee of €50.00 (euros, fifty), at the next available date according to the schedule of dates and venues decided by the HCAP Committee.
A candidate being unsuccessful at a second sitting of the MCQ stage may apply to sit the MCQ again at any subsequent sitting of the MCQ (within the permitted 180-day limit) subject to payment of the full ordinary application fee of €150.00 (euros, one hundred fifty).
No candidate may proceed to attempt the Range Test without first having succeeded at the MCQ stage of HCAP assessment.
A candidate being unsuccessful at the Range Test or oral safety examination stage of HCAP assessment may apply to repeat the Range Test or oral safety examination stage once only at the reduced repeat application fee of €50.00 (euros, fifty), at a subsequent scheduled Range Test date.
A candidate being unsuccessful at a second attempt at the Range Test or oral safety examination may apply to attempt the Range Test again at any subsequent schedule Range Test (within the permitted 180-day limit), subject to payment of the ordinary repeat application fee of €50.00 (euros, fifty).
A candidate having passed the MCQ stage but being unsuccessful at second or more attempts at the Range Test or oral safety examination stage within the permitted 180-day limit, and still requiring to achieve HCAP certification, must repeat the entire assessment process, including MCQ, Range Test and oral safety examination, subject to payment of the full ordinary application fee of €150.00 (euros, one hundred, fifty).
A candidate having been successful at the MCQ, Range Test will be deemed to have satisfied HCAP certification requirements with immediate effect and shall have their status as HCAP-certified candidates confirmed to them in writing as soon as possible after having satisfied certification requirements and shall receive an official HCAP Certificate thereafter.
Coillte Teoranta and/or other agreed and relevant parties shall be advised in writing of the names and Personal HCAP Assessment Numbers of all successful candidates as soon as possible after the certification process. The HCAP Assessment Committee shall maintain a Register of all HCAP-certified persons at all times, which shall be available for inspection and consultation by approved parties, subject to approval of the HCAP Assessment Committee.
The Personal HCAP Assessment Number allocated to each candidate shall be retained by them and used by them in any and all subsequent correspondence or dealings with the HCAP Assessment Committee and/or Coillte Teoranta.
As a general note on the overall HCAP assessment procedure, it should be noted that while it is intended that the Stalker Training Manual should form the basis of all basic training for HCAP candidates, and this is reflected in the bank of questions from which MCQ questions are drawn, candidates are advised that an ongoing process of development and refinement is in place and will continue as more and more experience is gained. The bank of MCQ questions was drawn up by the original Deer Alliance Development Committee some time before publication of the Manual and as such is always under review. Candidates are advised to read as widely as possible, to gain as much practical experience in the field as possible and to participate in one or other of the training courses offered by participating deer organisations from time to time. Ongoing development and improvement of standards is a key objective of the process and this will always be reflected in the MCQ in particular.