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
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.
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