The UK's other species threw up some interesting results, with twice the number of fallow heads presented, says Tony Dalby-Welsh

There is often debate among the UK hunting fraternity about the status of introduced species and the application of the CIC formulae to them. This comes from the concern as to whether introduced ungulates are truly wild in nature or because of the way man has manipulated their existence, they are more “feral” than “wild”.

It perhaps helps to understand the situation in other countries because we in the UK so often think that these issues are ours alone. The fact is that such concerns are widespread and as an international organisation the CIC is well aware of these issues and their effect within hunting communities across the world.

Within greater Europe, the Czech Republic is the state in which the highest number of hunted species exist. The 10 species include only four that are native — red and roe deer, moose and boar — and another six that have either been introduced or have escaped from captivity: fallow, white-tailed and sika deer, chamois, Barbary sheep and mouflon. In the majority of cases, man’s intervention in their existence is limited mostly to providing some sort of feed during winter. It is a system not dissimilar to that used by livestock farmers.

Should we worry too much about the origin of the species present in our country? Humans are almost incapable of not interfering with wild animals so we have to work around such interventions. The fact that park deer get out and breed with wild animals happens all over the world, as proven in so many projects where DNA comparisons are made. But at least such breeding can be considered “natural” rather than man-made.

Deliberate manipulation

We should strive for an animal to lead an existence that is as “wild” as possible. What happens naturally is one thing, deliberate manipulation is another.

Having reviewed roe separately, had all six other “wild” species forward for assessment. We included for the first time a few heads shot in the UK but measured in other countries. This is a result of hunters taking their heads to their home countries before the required drying-out period has been achieved. This number will increase in the future as other countries come online with the International Evaluation Database.

RED

Though down one head on those measured last year, all four Scottish red deer heads made medals, though all at the bronze level. Of interest were the weights of the heads with a high of 9.64kg and 14 points for Mr Gibb’s Dumbartonshire stag and more than 8kg for both D. Bain’s Islay head and Mrs Yool’s Inverness-shire medal head, both 12-pointers.

English heads presented for evaluation were up again this time with 16 medal heads, including the first gold medal since the re-classification of UK red deer as part of the European sub-species (Cervus elaphus hippelaphus). This was Stephen Underhill’s Cornish stag assessed at 210.37 CIC points, a fine 14-pointer weighing in at 8.91kg. It was one of two from Cornwall, the other being Nigel Fulton’s bronze- medal 12-point stag. Another five heads took silver, ranging from 192 to 200 CIC points, with a further 11 assessed as bronze. These red trophies came from Suffolk (five), Devon (five), Norfolk and Cornwall (two each) and one each from North Yorkshire and Somerset.

In February 2016 I was invited to Budapest to form part of an international team to measure some potential record heads. There are many more red trophies in Hungary, but the single biggest difference from those that we see in the UK was the size of the main beams. One 252.3-point head produced had lower beams of 22cm and larger circumferences are not uncommon. Compare this with what we see on a regular basis here with a maximum of 16cm (V. van der Valk, 200.28 points) and we begin to understand the difficulties in finding gold-medal  heads. It may also be that we are shooting stags too young; good heads in Hungary are often 12 years old or more.

To see the red deer and fallow deer gold medal table click here

FALLOW

What a change this year — almost twice as many as has been usual over the past few years and of the 20 heads awarded medals, nine were gold. The best of these — Jake Smith’s buck at 204.52 CIC points and Ed Seabourne’s 201.09-point buck — both came from West Sussex and are among the top five heads assessed in the UK. The next five heads came from Hampshire and were interesting for the span of points that they covered — 181 to 188 — at the top a full 10 points below that of the Sussex heads. A typical example is Paul Keating’s 187.41 gold-medal head.

Those who like a rule of thumb to help assess heads will be interested to note the average length and width of palm for each medal category as being 43cm and 18cm for gold, 40cm and 16cm for silver and 35cm and 15cm for bronze. The difference in each case doesn’t sound much, but once the formula is applied those differences are sufficient to raise the head’s quality from one level to the next.

SIKA

Though we measured slightly fewer sika in 2016 compared with the previous year, the quality remained as good with five golds, four silvers and six bronzes. Daniel Smith’s top-scoring 269.8-point stag from Dorset was only 0.1 point off last year’s best. That county then produced the remainder of the gold medals with heads from Peter Krovina, K. Torland,

J. Adami and Paul Johnson all scoring between 256.3 and 262.6 CIC points. Of the remaining medal heads, six came from Dorset with the others split equally between the Borders and Sutherland.

To see the muntjac and sika deer gold medal tables click here

MUNTJAC

Muntjac gold medals were up again this year, showing the increasing quality of these trophies with 47 golds being evaluated, 17 silvers and 18 bronze. The number of gold medals represents an increase of 15 per cent over 2015, which itself had seen an increase of 30 per cent over the previous year. So, in two years we have seen the number of gold-medal muntjac go up by nearly 40 per cent.

The top five heads all scored over 70 CIC points, with Mr Clifford’s winner receiving 72.2 CIC points. This puts these heads  within the top 50 in the country. Worth mentioning, and conscious as ever of the difficulties inherent in accurately gauging age, is the number of high-scoring gold- medal muntjac that appear to be “old” rather than classified as Lma (late middle age) or ma (middle age).

it would appear that successful male muntjac are adept at keeping away from the hunter until later in life. good examples of the heads presented are James Barber’s 67.3-point gold medal from oxfordshire and Derek Fletcher’s 62.7-point gold from Somerset, both of which show the benefit of well-formed brow points.

Nineteen of the now 21 counties from which we have ever measured muntjac were represented in 2016, including for the first time a head shot in Rutland. Mr T. Freimuth’s 68.2-point buck was perhaps not that unexpected, with heads having been recorded from both Leicestershire and northamptonshire in the past, but it is good to keep the records straight. the three leading counties for muntjac medals overall were Bedfordshire (14), Norfolk (13) and Oxfordshire (11). However, the quality was firmly in Oxfordshire: eight golds were recorded from that county compared with seven from Bedfordshire and, perhaps surprisingly, six from Hampshire, a trend that we noted last year.

CHINESE WATER DEER

A similar number of Chinese water deer (CWD) were assessed in 2016 as in 2015. Of the 92 recorded, 66 were gold medals (71 per cent), though of significance this year was the reduction in young animals being presented for evaluation as recorded in the closed or open nature of the tooth root. With 240 CIC points recorded, CWD trophies were in the top 30 in the UK and this year four sets of teeth made that level of quality. All four sets were from Bedfordshire as might be expected and owned by G. Bargues (248) Chris Gale (242), David Chandler (240) and Ricky Mills (240).

The spread of teeth submitted again shows Bedfordshire’s pre-eminence as the home of CWD with 38 of the 92 heads. Norfolk was second with 21 and Buckinghamshire third with 13. Of note this year were the teeth recorded as being shot in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, the first and second respectively from those counties.

To see the Chinese water deer gold medal table click here

BOAR

Boar were scarce this year with only one set from the UK: John Vaughan’s Herefordshire bronze medal at 112.4 CIC points. Marc Newton continued the trend of UK hunters going to Turkey for boar with a fine silver medal set at 116.6. Debate in the West Country on the effects of boar in the Forest of Dean and to the north gave rise to concern that radical steps may be taken in the future to deal with the perceived problem with boar. Whether such action will emerge and be effective is a matter of conjecture; in the meantime, we look to Herefordshire as the bastion of good boar. I do sometimes wonder how long will it be before Wales features in these reviews as a long-term sanctuary for these animals?

CARNIVORE

The CIC offers, as part of the Trophy Evaluation System, the ability to measure carnivores, an increasingly popular area and one that in the UK has been rather neglected. We therefore look forward to including such measurements in future reviews, specifically fox, which we know from our alliance with the National and Scottish Gamekeepers’ Organisations (NGO and SGO) will be of interest to their members in particular.

To see the bronze and silver medal tables for all these species click here.

THE FUTURE

The CIC UK Trophy Evaluation Board (TEB) measured just under 800 heads in the past 12 months, well up to the annual average. Having now trained an additional 10 CIC Certified Measurers, we hope the pressure on individuals will lift somewhat, while maintaining the essential levels of consistency and expertise. We will be in attendance at the majority of game fairs this year including Scone, Moy and the Deer Stalking Fair at Muir of Ord in Scotland, the West Country Game Fair, East Anglian Game Fair, Broadlands, Northern, Highclere, the Game Fair, Powderham Castle, Sandringham and the Midland in England. Full details are on the CIC TEB website .

My thanks to Iain Watson, Charles Fenn, Alisdair Troup, Barry Martin, Stevie Todd, Gary Tatterton, Chris Rogers and Kate Gatacre for their support in maintaining these records.

TROPHY EVALUATION BOARD

Trophy judges: Iain Watson, Tony Dalby-Welsh, Charles Fenn, Alisdair Troup, Barry Martin, Stevie Todd, Gary Tatterton, Chris Rogres, Kate Gatacrew, Drew Bain, Dave Lumsden, Charles Stone, Brian Lile, Trevor Huhes, John Allan, Carl Harrison, George Ritchie, Sam Thompson