Police are promising to crackdown on deer poachers on Exmoor as the nights draw in and rising demand for venison prompts illegal hunting.
Wildlife Crime Officer PC Martin Beck said with the open season starting today, there was likely to be an increase in deer poaching, which would not be taken lightly by police.
While red deer are in healthy numbers on Exmoor at the moment, Mr Beck said it was vital to stop poachers acting outside the law to hunt them.
They most commonly act during the night, which is illegal, and often trespass on private land to get to the deer.
There are animal welfare issues as considerable distress is caused to the deer.
Illegal poaching has a wider effect on the local economy with the deer products being taken outside of the area.
"These are gangs of people often on farms trespassing on people's land and blatantly taking deer," said Mr Beck. "It is not just shooting deer. They will use drugs and lamps to stupify the deer and then there is criminal damage to farms and the opportunity they have to commit thefts."
The punishment for illegally poaching deer is a significant fine with the option of a custodial sentence.
Mr Beck said people can phone 999 if they hear shots being fired and suspect illegal poaching, or dial 101 in a non-emergency situation.