Game­keeper

Munt­jac have ap­peared on the shoot and it’s hard to know whether to view them as a bless­ing or a curse when pros and cons are weighed up

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS -

We are start­ing to see our first munt­jac. We saw a sin­gle an­i­mal on a drive last year and an­other one was spot­ted help­ing itself to some wheat from a pheas­ant feeder two or three years be­fore that. Prior to these sight­ings there had been oth­ers, all sev­eral years pre­vi­ously and not all clear nor con­firmed; re­ports of a small deer seen cross­ing a road, a beater see­ing some­thing that might have been a munt­jac run­ning off through the bram­bles on an out­side day. That sort of thing but noth­ing con­crete.

There were two ex­cep­tions. The first was a buck that was caught in a fox snare by one of our ten­ants some 25 or 30 years ago. When it was caught, no one in the area had seen one be­fore and there was much de­bate as to what it ac­tu­ally was and guess­ing as to where it had come from.

The sec­ond con­firmed sight­ing was a buck that was run over about 15 years ago. At the time we had a lad from the Cotswolds work­ing on the place and won­dered if he had dumped it on the road near my house for a laugh. He said not, but he had a rep­u­ta­tion for play­ing prac­ti­cal jokes. I’m still not sure if it found its own way there and was un­lucky enough to get run over, or if it was hit by a car in Ox­ford­shire and made the rest of the jour­ney to Shrop­shire in the back of his van.

Frus­trated stalk­ers

True to form, though, the bucks seem to turn up first. Whether they ar­rived lo­cally un­der their own steam or not is open to de­bate. They may have done, es­pe­cially if you take into ac­count those very early sight­ings. The other pos­si­bil­ity is that they were moved from other parts of the coun­try. I am as­sum­ing this was by frus­trated stalk­ers with very lit­tle to shoot at or those with only one type of deer on their ground, who wanted to have an­other species to add to their list.

How long it will take for them to be­come more com­mon­place will de­pend on how both we and our neigh­bours man­age them. We will do what we can but sadly, if the ex­pe­ri­ences of my friends are any­thing to go by, keep­ing them in check and lim­it­ing their spread will be al­most im­pos­si­ble. As we all know, they are ex­tremely se­cre­tive, breed all year and rarely stand still long enough to of­fer a shot. Not only that, but the car­cases are worth so lit­tle that there is no fi­nan­cial driver for con­trol­ling them.

Our main con­cern is that our Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est woods — which con­tain some ex­tremely rare wood­land plants — and wild­flower mead­ows could be over­grazed by them. Flow­ers are one of the munt­jac’s favourite spring and sum­mer­time foods.

Deer on a shoot can be both a bless­ing and a curse, which will de­pend on where your in­ter­ests lie, but speak­ing as some­one who has the odd fal­low — in very low num­bers com­pared with other parts of the coun­try — and now a few munt­jac as well, and who has worked in parts of the UK where there aren’t any deer, I tend to lean more to­wards curse than bless­ing.

I am not anti-deer. I en­joy stalk­ing them, they eat well and veni­son sales and stalk­ing lets can bring in some use­ful ex­tra in­come. But when the pos­i­tives are com­pared to neg­a­tives such as crop da­m­age, tree da­m­age, tip­ping over and emp­ty­ing feed­ers, the da­m­age they can cause in re­lease pens and the havoc that can be cre­ated by just a sin­gle an­i­mal in a flush­ing point on a shoot day they seem very small in­deed. This is with­out road traf­fic ac­ci­dents, the thank­fully rare in­ci­dents where beat­ers have been knocked over and in­jured and the un­wanted at­ten­tion deer can at­tract from un­de­sir­ables.

The an­swer is to keep deer num­bers at a level where their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment will be neg­li­gi­ble. Whether we will be able to do that with our munt­jac re­mains to be seen.

“Munt­jac are se­cre­tive, breed all year and rarely stand still long enough for a shot”

Munt­jac can wreak havoc on shoots and it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to keep their num­bers in check

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