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 Irish Deer Society, The Wild Deer Association of Ireland, 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 2200 individuals) by the year 2010.