Well folks, a lot more police forces are asking for it before center fire fac applications are granted, In our recent survey, nearly 90 people out of 150 hold it.Game dealers want it, estate managers require it, and even the forestry commission demand it.
What is it I hear you ask? Its the DSC course.
We asked for a course point of view from a candidate, so here is his course in words and pictures, and by chance the range officer for the course also got in touch to sum up from his side.
Having spent the last few years bashing bunnies and the like with shotguns and air-rifle, I tasted venison for the first time a couple of years ago, when I did a bush craft style “deer-in-a-day” course. Shall we say “the lights went on in my taste buds” after butchering, then cooking, this exceptionally tasty animal that in many parts of the UK we are over-run by. It is a real pity that so many people think of venison as one kind of rather weird meat, and that they “couldn’t possibly eat Bambi” (thanks Disney!).
Of the six deer species in the UK, only two are indigenous, and they all destroy habitat and cause many serious road accidents each year. I decided that I wanted to know more about deer management and stalking. I joined a local rifle club to get used to using rim fire rifles, and to see what my shooting was like with something more powerful than an air-rifle. Late last Summer I went on one unsuccessful deer stalk with a trained hunter, and he got me used to using deer caliber rifles, to give me the confidence of passing the shooting element of the DSC1. Over the next few months, I spent quite a while asking experienced hunters, whose course they would recommend. The answer was unanimous from all 5 I spoke to: “British Deer Society”.
Their website showed the”when and where” and my nearest was Wad Hurst Park at the end of March spread over 3 days. A very easy booking process, with no problems around me, not having an FAC or not being a member. In fact the lady booking said it was better I wasn’t an experienced certificate holder as there would be less to unlearn. They sent out a 300 page manual very quickly. I read the first 50 pages and then used it as a place to rest my coffee or beer on. I can’t stress this too much : READ IT. Then READ IT AGAIN. Then test yourself. Over and over again. Doing a DSC1 is not about being a crack shot, and having a rifle worth thousands, it is about knowledge, which you need to have a good idea of before starting the course.
My first impression of the classroom at Wadhurst Park was that it was the wrong shape, with a long table, which meant everyone sat looking sideways all day, past the guy in front of them. I personally think that 24 people were too much for the room. The trainer was highly experienced and knowledgeable both as a trainer and as a deer stalker. He was passionate about his subject and clearly had opinions, and most of the instruction was off a power point shown on a large screen. The pace he took the course at was more like a rapid revision, than an instructional day, and again I thought there was too much information being packed into one and a half days of training; there wasn’t much Q&A and it was difficult to ask questions (especially silly ones!).
The afternoon of the second day was for assessments that were in a multi choice format. There was no time limit given to take these and the results were given almost straight away, so you knew if you had passed or failed that part of it. The classroom tests were:
Large Game Meat Hygiene
Main Bank of General Questions
These required an 80% pass mark and some candidates did fail some of them. There was no opportunity to re-take there and then; you would need to re-take at another DSC1 course being held elsewhere.
The first two days I found to be very intensive, even for someone currently doing a Foundation Degree as a mature student. The training sessions were rapid fire, and the days were long. I found the training for the Deer ID to be particularly helpful, as there was some repetition to drill this aspect.
The final day was about the safety test and the shooting. Both of these elements were carried out in the field. There was no training at this point; it was just about testing and a 100% pass was required. The safety test was taken alone with an assessor and it was a series of verbal questions about rifle-handling; we were then shown a series of mock targets and asked if they were a safe shot. The shooting test was a series of shot sets.
First from a prone position you need to put three shots into a 4 inch circle at 100 metres, you then needed to place two into the kill zone (heart/lung), then at 70m you need to place a further two shots into the same zone from a sitting/kneeling position, then finally another two from a standing position at 40 metres. You are allowed to use sticks or whatever else you would have in an ordinary stalk and are also allowed 3 attempts at each target; however there is no indication on the target where the kill zone is, as this was covered the previous day.
With my 3 zeroing shots I did mine at the first attempt (12 rounds) using a borrowed .243. For me there was a moment of suspense when my target was inspected: it was missing a hole. But it was the trainer who realized that two shots had “key holed” and I had the full set.
Each element took approximately 20 minutes to complete but many had to wait over 4 hours to go through the process (I was on site for 6 and a half hours) and the weather very wet and windy! Many agreed that this could have been organized better and there were many suggestions how this could have been achieved, to avoid standing around for many hours and to make better use of training time.
After completing and passing the course I felt elated. It was three long intensive days. It is not a course to be undertaken lightly or without a lot of preparation. I used an online resource DSC training.org and a set of audio CD’s from Galloway Field Sports that allowed me to revise wherever I had a CD player within earshot. Both really helpful, especially if you are not inclined to read a 300 page manual! The BDS also sell a CD that goes with the DSC1 as an extra.
The cost of the course was £295. Membership at £57 is also required if you need to borrow the estate rifle. The rounds cost £1.50 each.
I had thought there would be more emphasis on practical deer stalking, more field craft. I also thought that they would emphasize the need for bio-security e.g. measures to inhibit the spread of Ash die-back.
I would agree that the BDS course was well taught as most people passed. Preparation was key, and I can only suggest that those attending have little else in their diaries prior to and during the course.
I am left with many questions about Deer Stalking and it was clear that the DSC1 was a bit like passing your driving test-it’s a good start.
By Chris Chaplin, DSC1.
From a range officers view the shooting test of a DSC 1 can go easy or hard. During the course there is a small lecture on range use, course of fire and procedures, there are candidates that listen and take in what is said and candidates that don’t.
Due to the high level of information that is delivered during the first two days the same range brief is given again just before the candidate sits the shooting test.
This consists of course of fire and the three basic rules of
1: STOP STOP STOP which should they hear this they must stop everything and await further guidance
2: The misfire procedure
The instruction of when closing the bolt raise the rear of the rifle up so the muzzle is pointing in a safe place in case of a slam fire or accidental discharge .
There are many more rules that can be given but due to the nature the test and the environment that it is conducted in it is kept simple
The shooting test is comprised of a practice target that can be shot as many times as is needed from the prone position with a by pod or another stalking aid such as a rucksack or from a simulated high seat , experienced shooters can opt to go straight into the test , or just take 1 shot to check zero .
This is followed by 3 shots at 1 target that has a 4 inch circle on it, all 3 shots need to land inside or cut the line of the outer 4 inch circle, should 1 or more fall outside the candidate can then have a second attempt or opt to go back to the practice target, in total they get 3 attempts.
When successful they are instructed to take 2 shots at a deer silhouette and are also told where to the point of aim is, this is followed by 2 shots at 70meters sitting or kneeling, then 2 shots at 40 metres standing.
They are told there and then if success was achieved or if they need to shoot again, this also comes with 3 attempts.
Due to the diverse level of ability and experience as well as a few complacent folk the course is held on a one to one basis for the inexperienced shooters as well as the experienced ones which sometimes suffer from nerves or bad habits.
None of the instructors are there to fail you they are there to help and guide and occasionally mock (in jest)
Candidates without a rifle are able to use the course supplied rifle and ammunition that is available. It is important that if you use your own rifle it is zeroed, serviced and safe.
A UN zeroed rifle can take up lots of time which when 25 to 35 people are doing the test is a valuable commodity.
But UN zeroed rifles can be accommodated by prior arrangement although you may have to wait until the end of the day to sort it and take the test.–
It is also important not to remove your rifle from its slip until on the firing point and the range ahead is clear.
The day of this level 1 was wet cold and windy and had 26 candidates to get through , there were a couple of fails and a few that needed all 3 attempts some were down to nerves 1 was possibly a problem with the rifle or scope .
One sin on the course is the shooting of the wrong target which normally happens at least once in every course and sure as eggs are eggs it happened.
The diversity of people and nationality’s on the course was wide as where the level of abilities but generally speaking apart from the howling wind and rain it was a good day with some interesting people .
Should the test be failed candidates can arrange to sit the test again at a future date as they can any other part of the disc 1 that was not successful.
After or in some cases before the shooting test there is also a safety test that comprises of scenarios and questions that require the answers to be given verbally. There are also deer
Silhouettes placed that require a verbal confirmation of their position and if the candidate thinks that a safe shot is achievable or not, if not then they are asked why not.
The course is also a chance to meet like-minded people of similar levels of experience and sometimes to make new friends and shooting contacts.
British deer society (South East)
Committee and range officer