Abstract The population of red deer ( Cervus elaphus) in Scotland has doubled over the last 30 years and there is increasing concern among conservationists about the long-term impact of increased grazing on native woodlands and other sensitive nature conservation sites. Currently, the government relies on a voluntary approach to deer control, but landowners seem unable or unwilling to shoot sufficient numbers to meet cull targets. The aim of this paper is to examine alternatives to the ‘voluntary approach’ supported by insights from a mail questionnaire of landowners and recreational hunters. In principle, subsidies or taxation is possible but the Deer Commission for Scotland, the government agency responsible, has neither the necessary funding or the legislative power to introduce such a scheme. A tradable culling ‘obligations’ system on the other hand would build on the voluntary principle by allowing individual landowners to ‘trade’ culling obligations to neighbouring estates. Compared to traditional regulatory approaches, they are less bureaucratic and inefficient and have the potential to meet environmental targets at least cost as landowners can trade their culling obligation to another estate or hunting club should they wish to do so. Overall, the State's role would be restricted to setting the annual cull and the administration of the permit system for which a small charge could be levied per deer.