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  • Jonny S

Little deer, Big personality

Aktualisiert: 25. Sept. 2023

My over all judgment on the natural world, would in most circumstances put native species far and above non native ones. This prejudice stretches to my view as a hunter as well, to the point where in many cases, I don’t feel that I can almost count a new species that I have hunted, if it is from a non native population. But like all people I am a Hypocrite, I absolutely love everything about Muntjac deer in the UK. Yes I think Roe and Red deer are great, but nothing gets me more excited in deer hunting or virtually any other hunting situation than a gnarly old muntjac buck steaming into a call.

Muntiacus reevesi or the Reeves Muntjac is native to areas of Southeast Asia, they were first became established in the English countryside during the early 19th Century. They are believed to have first been released by the then Duke of Bedford from Woburn abbey, but there has in recent years been evidence of more deliberate releases throughout the country around that time. Their numbers have grown here significantly to the point that they are now at an unmanageable population. What makes managing them so difficult, is partly due to their ability to breed throughout the year but mostly the fact that they can happily live in peoples gardens as well as other built up area’s such as town suburbs. They have an extremely mixed diet of grasses, herbs, fungi, roots, blossoms, berries, tree bark and have even been reported to eat eggs and carrion. This varied diet could strongly contribute to why myself and many others regard them at the top of the Venison tree in terms of taste and texture. Many of my friends and myself often say that you never get a bad tasting muntjac, unless it has some kind of sickness which can mostly be found straight after shooting it.

Now, I have said that I love everything about them, but this isn’t strictly true. As an extremely successful non native species, they do provide a huge amount of negative impact in many parts of England. Studies by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have show that high densities of Muntjac are extremely bad for woodland birds and in particular the threatened Nightingale and willow tit. Because of their constant grazing they can strip woodland vegetation to the ground and keep it there, almost like a manicured lawn. This has disastrous effects on ground nesting birds as well as others species that use this woodland vegetation for safety from predators. Muntjac can also do a fair amount of damage to trees/shrubs and due to their small size they can access more sensitive areas than their larger cousins, making it extremely difficult to exclude them.

But for all their misdemeanour’s I do find them amazing little creature’s. When you sit back and quietly watch them go about their business, they are truly entertaining. When stalking them, like with most hunted species the older the individual animal you are after, the more canny and difficult it can be to get a shot at. What I would say makes an older Muntjac such a challenging hunt, is the fact that they tend to live in the same small territory all their lives. This means that an older Muntjac can become extremely knowledgeable about its surroundings, it knows all its routs and it will notice the slightest difference in the feel of the place, especially if the hunter makes a mistake. The stupidity of most bucks or stags of other species during the rut can be outstanding, revved up males will literally come running at the sign of movement. But the old muntjac will keep his distance, working on a clock face around you to try and pick up your scent.

For me Muntjac are a great species to guide for, they are tricky enough to give hunters

satisfying stalks, and sometimes there is a huge amount of work and luck that goes into an individual animal. When a successful hunt has been achieved, sorting out the extraction is no problem at all, and they can easily be butchered for clients to take some of the meat away. I would say that their only drawback during preparation for the table is that they are hard work to skin properly. Once skinned, they are as mentioned one of the tastiest meats available.

As a hunting species they have gained an international status. Many trophy hunters in Europe and America have realised that although the little Muntjac is on the endangered list world wide, in England there is a very sustainable population. Many of my clients get super excited by the prospects of hunting this unique species, partly due to it being rare and also because it is one of the oldest deer species on the planet. The different species of muntjac are believed to be the original deer type that all others have come from, this is not so hard to believe when you see how primeval their heads look, including antlers, tusks and glands that look more alien than from this planet.

So ultimately they may have detrimental affects on the native species of the United Kingdom where they live. But in a world with so many issues that face wildlife, this is at least one that tackling can bring in a revenue to rural areas. It also provides a fantastic byproduct of both hunting pleasure and some superb healthy meat to be enjoyed.

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