So the legend exists?! Vampire’s are real?! Well, I wouldn’t get too ahead of yourself just yet…
The Chinese Water Deer
The Chinese Water Deer has been at liberty in England for more than 100 years now, since its escape from Woburn. Although not widespread like Muntjac, they achieve high densities in the areas they are established – mainly Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Both adult males (bucks) and females (does) sexes only reach a height of around 50 – 55 cm at the shoulder and weigh 11 – 18 kg. CWD are highly productive and can produce up to 4 fawns per year, with the season here in the UK opening from the 1st November right up until the 31st March.
The rut is during November and December. Bucks perform parallel walks with invading rivals, as do other deer species, and only fight if their dominance order is not identified using this method.
I had been invited out last month to stalk the open, rolling hills of Buckinghamshire for my first ever Chinese Water Deer. No trophy hunting, just helping out with the local cull.
The Chinese Stalking Experience
Hunting these animals is something like no other, there behaviour is totally different to any other of the 5 deer species in the UK. I’ve often been told the best way to describe there unique character is like roaming hares in a field. It’s very likely you will see them out on approaching the field, mainly laid up, especially in the areas in which the population is in abundance.
Unlike Roe deer, Fallow and Muntjac, you won’t need to be stalking through the woodlands or sitting up high seats waiting for these animals to appear (as long as the ground isn’t being hammered by excessive hunting). The challenge of the hunt was not finding them, but patiently stalking into a suitable distance to take a safe shot, usually in prone position, without them being spooked and leaving for the next county! In the areas in which CWD inhabit, the population numbers are plentiful and subsequently need to be carefully managed.
TIP: A bipod is highly recommended/needed for this challenging hunt, with flat shooting of distances up to and beyond 200m in some instances!
For me, it was the first time I’d ever come face to face with these unusual animals and I was told you will usually find both bucks and does out sunning themselves in the middle of the fields, often lay down, pretending they are hidden. We glassed the neighbouring field to see what we identified as a large mature doe and a yearling buck. Game on!
We stood behind cover, glassing the pair closer to maker certain that this was the right cull buck to take, it was imperative that this was the case as the only way you can identify between CWD sexes is by whether tusks are present or not. We knew it was impossible to stalk further in as the pair were stood out in the open field. Yet, we were in luck. They were close enough for a safe background with the undulation of the hill.
The guide told me to ready myself. Which I knew meant shooting in prone – with the buck over 150 metres away. I looked down at the only possible ground I could lie in without spooking the deer. It was no less than a mud bath, but it was the only possible safe position. I readied my rifle, locked and mounted into my shoulder in prone, a position, in truth, I wasn’t familiar with.
I controlled my breathing as I watched the buck scurry around through my scope; in a moment it stood still, broadside, I squeezed the trigger. I sent my bullet screaming toward him, fuelled with all my adrenaline.
Perfect strike, and with it, a cloud of hair out the back! The buck was knocked off it’s feet with the force of the .308w round I was using. It was a perfect 150m rib to rib shot and I was delighted the buck was down in one clean, ethical kill.
The moment had come and had been executed perfectly. The hunt was a true success. I shot a yearling buck as part of the management plan as we try and achieve a perfect population statistic of 1 : 1 – one buck to one doe, ensuring we take a balanced cull of old, mature and young.