Increasing populations of indigenous deer, non-native deer and boar pose a growing challenge to the stalkers, professional and amateur, trying to control numbers.
Despite a growing number of stalkers enthusiastic about this small and elusive species, and wider realisation that they represent a true sporting challenge, our muntjac population is too big. It is good news that this inexpensive sport is attracting new devotees. Due to the non-seasonal breeding habits of does, an inhibiting factor stalkers face in trying to control the population is deciding which females to shoot without orphaning a dependent fawn. As a result, many muntjac are spared that ought to be culled.
Forty-eight gold medal muntjac have been presented for measuring, which represents a small proportion of the trophy muntjac being shot. An interesting feature among these are three six-pointers, something unknown until recently. Two came from Norfolk (C. Perkins and M. Burrage) and one from Oxfordshire (O. Beardsmore). All were past middle age.
No noticeable change in distribution is shown ? all coming from the Midlands and eastern counties ? though the species is still spreading, regrettably by illicit releases in some cases, and small pockets are established much more widely.
Chinese water deer
This year?s table is distorted because of a change made in the measurement formula following a CIC workshop in Budapest last July. In future, the full length of all tusks will be measured, not the length from point of eruption, which is never an easy point to establish. Stalkers wishing to have their trophies measured, please note that the tusks must be removable, but it is not necessary to bring or send the skull.
In common with muntjac, Britain is the only country where Chinese water deer stalking can be arranged easily. Though their name suggests a preference for wetland habitat, there is a modest but noticeable spread into the eastern Midlands.
Possibly due to the hot summer, the rut was late. Charles Fenn, one of the CIC team, writes that, while the first whistle among Dorset deer is heard usually around 1 to 3 September, it was not until 19 September that calling started, with the height about 18 to 23 October. Sika respond well to the call, occasionally so keenly as to be quite scary. Some now use the very effective US Wapiti calls.
It was interesting to see a 13-point sika stag from Hampshire (J. Chichester). Some years ago such multi-point heads were not uncommon in sika from the New Forest. South Dorset now has a major overpopulation in spite of a drastic cull policy by the MOD, one of their major hosts. It is to be hoped that measurements of more heads shot by its stalkers will be listed next year.
Red and fallow
Some notable reds have been shot, not all from well-known haunts. Among these, M. Andrews? fine 16-pointer from Essex and a silver medal 12-pointer from Lincolnshire, shot by H. Fish. A year with three gold medals for wild fallow is remarkable. These were achieved by G. Knight, J. Powell and D. Brown, with heads shot in Hampshire. Almost as remarkable is P. Hughes?s silver medal head from Northumberland, a county not noted for the size of its deer, though the roe, especially, are improving.
Last, but very significant, is the first British medal-class boar, shot in West Dorset by P. Johnson. With tusks measuring 19cm in length, it scores 111.6CIC points. Escaped boar have now become established from Kent to Dorset and elsewhere, and will inevitably become part of our fauna. Some rejoice ? others do not. The disease implications for pig farmers of a growing feral boar population does not seem to have been realised, let alone any problems their presence in our urbanised country may provoke. Stalkers also must be trained, otherwise, due to the use of unsuitable firearms, someone could get hurt.
Don?t miss the Scottish Red Deer Review in ST on 15 February.