A look at the controversial tradition of hunting deer in Ireland.

Tom Fitzsimons, a huntsman with the Ward Union Hunt at Ashbourne, County Meath talks about a sport many think is cruel.

Deer hunting is a winter sport so where do the deer go in the summer time?

Sixty-year-old Tom Fitzsimons retired in 1961 after twenty years of hound hunting. The Ward Union keeps a herd of deer in a park next to the kennels in Ashbourne. During the winter months they fed on crushed oats, hay, and turnips, and during the summer months, they are kept fenced in on grass. The deer are kept in the deer park and then released on the day of a hunt to be chased by dogs. 

While stag hunting is considered by many to be a cruel sport, Tom Fitzsimons disagrees saying that the hounds never catch the deer. The female deer, the hind, are hunted up until Christmas time and only stags are hunted after that. The deer can live a very long life, up to fifty years. When the deer reach the end of their hunting life, the best ones are kept for breeding.

The hunting dogs are also kept in the kennels and are fed on raw meat. However, they do not get fed at all the day before a hunt.

We don't give them anything the day before a hunt.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 3 May 1962. The reporter is Ronnie Walsh.