Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Chinese Water Deer: A tale of hunting hubris, or is that being hunted by hubris?

The idyllic nature of this shot can never show the sheer agony my butt cheeks were in after a couple of hours sitting on the bare metal slats that had once supported the seat

There's two trophies: a full freezer and a great tale. Ticked those two off, nearly got the other kind too. Nearly. Pull up a log, warm your hands by the fire, pour yourself a tin mug of scotch, this one has to be the most SBW hunting saga yet

Long term readers will remember the blogger known as Shooter and his Mountain Lion hunt. In the intervening years his kids have grown up a bit and he's moved to the country. Back in touch I was delighted to accept his invitation to a walked up day which I'll tell you about later, obviously we agree to catch up next time I'm in the area.

The ACL [who features in a few of the more recent tales] and I had made the journey to the fenlands, a hundred miles north east of London, for Shooter’s walked up birds, we'd got chatting to the gamekeepers; they'd shown us some pictures of substantial Red Deer, we'd seen some bloody deep slots left behind by some even bigger deer, and listened to their tales of many many Chinese Water Deer seen on the thermal scope while Foxing. These are the closing weeks of the season. With a much needed freezer top-up on our minds before we sack most stalking off until the big boys are back in season on the first of August. We eere both keen as mustard to get out there

Having been the victim of the curse of the Bushwacker- where I invite you stalking, shoot two deer and miss a third while every deer you see will be siluetted against a farm house or scared off by a dog walker, the ACL had booked us in for a couple of stalks so he was inviting me Prudent

My favourite Russian saying : we wanted it to be different, it happened just the same

The usual early start, the usual delays for all the usual reasons, [misplaced firearms certificate, wrong socks, only one boot] then once on tbe road it’s the usual realisations that the usual X,Y and Z had been left behind. That exhilarating feeling of the open road, the frustration of rounding the corner into a slow moving morass of traffic, the inevitable phone call to announce our arrival would be significantly delayed and the surreptitious roadside consumption of banned foodstuffs

Fortunately the ACL is excellent company and has been avidly following the war in Ukraine and so knows all kinds of great stuff about it. that soaked up a couple of hours and we found our way to Shooter's place. Only driving past it twice

Shooter, the long suffering Mrs Shooter and all the little Shooters are all in fine fettle. The new house is perfect for playing Tom and Barbara The menagerie has expanded to include rare chickens, peacocks and goats have been ordered. Theres even a puddle rather optimistically being called the pond

Where as the ACL,has one rifle per task, all rare and charismatic, Shooter has a vast collection of rifles all as horrible as i remember them being. On the other hand his shotgun cabinet is as glamorous as a weekend at Downtown Abby and he’s the only person i know with ore than one 10 bore shotgun

After a hearty and sustaining lunch and some trading over a .410 we set off to meet the keepers

Norfolk is pretty big and pretty flat the fields are punctuated by drainage dithlches the locals call sewers. Great banks of rushes line the sewers. You can really see how a deer with water in its name would be at home here. The road kill count suggests there are lots of them. Every 200m there's another dead deer by the side of the road

Chinese water deer are natives of the Yangtze flood plain and Korea. They were introduced to Woburn Park, Bedfordshire, in 1896, and Whipsnade Zoo in 1929-30. I’ve not tracked down why they were deliberately released into surrounding woodlands from 1901 onwards, but that release is often sighted as the start of their spread. Since then there have been numerous releases, translocations, and escapes. Adapting to live in gardens, deciduous woodland, grassland, arable land as well as their native wetlands, coastal & marshland,

A small, even compact deer, a pale fawn colour, with large rounded ears and button-like black eyes. The Bucks are antlerless, but have moody long tusk-like canines.
A bit taller, and paler than muntjac, lacking that hump-backed look. They look more like a mini roe deer.
Between 82-106 cm long with a tail length 2.5-9 cm tails and about 42-65 cm at the shoulder Males weigh 12-18.5 kg; females 14-17.4 kg. Some study’s show them living to at least six years old.
As the name Water deer would suggest they seem to prefer wetlands adjoining woodland and fen, though they often range onto nearby farmland where they will feed in the open. They are most evident in the Norfolk Broads and the coastal wetlands. Although a feral, uncontained, population in the grounds of Whipsnade park inhabits parkland and dry woodland, with no wetland available.feeding mostly around dawn and dusk, on weeds, grasses, herbs and some browse. Although they often feed in arable fields, they seem to be eating weeds rather than crops.

The keepers drop me off and I walk to my highseat, wish I’d noticed what I noticed later. I climb up to find that the seat is missing, tentatively I settle onto the slats that once held the seat arse rest. For a while I manage to space out and even doze a little, but the sheer agony brings me back I roll my jacket up and that alleviate a some of it now I’m cold This is clearly what Buddhism refers to as the sheer unsatisfactoriness of existence Some very encouraging barking is coming from the reeds behind me to pass some time I spend a while twisted round looking into the standing reds and willing something to wander out what looks at first sight to be a car gliders silently past, a human head pops up , it’s the roof of a boat

Meanwhile at the other end of the field The ACL has found his highseat knee deep in water and looking precarious so he sets up shop in the hedgerow a while passes, a couple of Hares bounce past, a Fallow doe rocks up, spooked by something behind ACL. Weary of this life she sets herself down within range and waits to be shot, ever the gentleman stalker ACL decides it’s somehow outside of the pact between hunter and prey to shoot while they are both seated, not used to being ignored she waits a while and then ups sticks and toddles off in search of someone who will release her from the wheel of earthly suffering

Meanwhile back at the SBW end of things three deer have ventured out of the reeds if they turn left they’ll at the only buildings in the neighbourhood. I’m willing at them, trying to lure them in my my Jedi powers it’s actually working ….

ACL feels a bustle in his hedgerows and a little CWD saunters into range having got all his nerves out of the way with the Doe ACL turns theory into practice, pops his cherry and her right through the shoulder. Text book

His story proves something of an interruption to mine. There’s a fizzing whoosh from his moderator, the posse of three deer disappear. Spooked deer usually run them pause to add whatever scared them to the database, if they check and it’s looking like a false alarm they often resume their previous behaviour. I’m promising Artemis the earth and everything on it, for once she delivers and the three of them come back down their unseen camino towards me The X from the X Yz of left at home were my posh binos, the short comings of the Bushnells the ever cost conscious Shooter has lent me are becoming clear, but that’s the only thing that is, I resort to spotting through the scope the Deer’s on the right is wearing some pretty impressive mandibles

The balancing act: wait but don’t let chances evaporate while waiting for better chances

The bolt of the SR30!acts as the safety catch, by some kind of German engineering voodoo it snicks forward into battery without a sound our boy turns slightly to look up hill and catches one in the pocket behind his front leg the 120gr S&B blue takes the top off his heart and purées his lungs we are both unaware of this development and he takes off like South Side D’s Porsche for the first time in my life I’m completely invested in the trophy, they usually stagger and die, i e only ever had one run off into the last light and hail of a Scottish hillside I can’t bear to risk it he’s arcing back towards the reeds, he breaks stride and gets another one, staggers a bit and lies down twitching the other two are watching Muntjac doe points herself towards the reeds, the buck presents a shot, jumps to the bullet and legs it too. If it’s in the Reed bed that’s all she wrote the light is dying and the keepers and a dog are a long way off

A long time ago someone who gave me a rifle lesson told me he’d spent a summer reading the accounts of deer stalking written by army officers in the late 1940’s and 50’who brought the concept of Roe stalking home from Germany. smoking wouldn’t be bad for you for years, so smokes were a unit of time ‘Shoot the deer, then smoke a cigarette before going to look’

I’m still worried the Muntjac will have made it to the reed bed. I’ve not walked 25 meters before I find him must’ve pulled the shot a little, bullet entered third rib mashed things up a bit and destroyed the off side shoulder from the inside. Dead is still dead

Finally. The Money Pit a Heym SR30 in 6.5CM doing the job I've always believed it was born to do.

Ive just taken the picture above when suddenly it hits me, a wave of illation the joy of not having to hear my own whining as i look for my much fettled Lapua cases in the long grass beneath the high seat! Turns out there’s a lot to be said for factory ammunition i leave the spent cases where they fell, walk past where much needed seat from the high seat lies almost at the bottom of the ladder and head off to find the ACL

The Y is why did I leave my rifle sling behind?

Shultz and Larsen Victory in 6.5x55 Swedish Nice

He’s standing around looking at his dead deer with a ‘I always wanted one, now I’ve got one I don’t know what to do with it’ look on his face I give him a hug I remember that moment all those years ago, when I had the same face on ‘Sheeet I’m a deer hunter!’

Gralloch and back to Shooter’s place

Just because that part of the story ended on a high don’t think for a moment that the feral failure ends there oh no not for a moment

The hour back flies by but it’s been a long day Shooter is a wonderful host, and a fantastic cook we hang our deer in his outbuildings and set about the feast he’s laid on Pile of carbs and a bucket of Islay malts later we hold a snoring competition for a few wee hours.

“Are you still alive? I thought you were dead for a moment there”. “Why had i stopped snoring?”

I’ll leave it to you dear reader to guess who said what

A brief tussle with Shooter’s coffee machine and hit the road

Trying to learn the ground we set up near a wood we saw muntjac in on our walked up day. Not a lot happens. I start to regret not wearing a smock length coat. By now I’m not only cold but busting for a piss. Out of the high seat and out of the wind it’s a beautiful morning still sling-less I’m pissing with the money pit leaning against me Who should pop his little antlered head out of the bushes but Mr Muntjac, by impatiently raising the rifle when I should have made like a statue , I spook him

The ACL tells his usual tale of dog walkers and we make a shameful detour to the Golden Arches

We’re three little deer up, its a beautiful morning, we’re a hundred miles from home, neither of us is wearing sunglasses and ACL is making all kinds of rash promises to Mrs ACL regarding his arrival time

You could say its all going swimmingly. Could

As we walk over to the hanging Chinese Water Deer Shooter gasps in administration “you didn’t say they were that good! Those tusks are Bronze, or maybe Silver” I grab the CWD lift and turn to check the symmetry and im met by a sickening tale of rural vandalism. During the night something with immense bite strength has grabbed hold of the lowest part of the carcass and rented at it, trying to break it free from its rope the broken off tusk is nowhere to be seen, my broken dream lies all around

Best crack on with the butchery Chinese Water Deer have hair, but unlike other deer it looks almost fur-like and is hardly attached at all, moving the carcass onto a different larder hook it’s coming off in clumps The skin too seems barely attached, even this end of the season theres an impressive layer of subcutaneous fat, you call pull the skin off with no knife work The ACL has just been on a butchery course so Shooter and I are at our most encouraging

“You’re actually in luck today. You want to process your first deer and we're here. I don’t know if you know this but Shooter was in the Indian National team for butting in, and I’m an exceptionally gifted amateur, if you'd like us to mither at you and butt in while you do it, we’re standing by. ready to interfere.”

All bagged up and ready to go we wend our now weary way back home

I cant help but wonder what might have been, so I make one last mistake..I post the good side picture on Facebook

Next time it’s pigeons
Your pal


Phillip Loughlin said...

Good to see a new tale... and not of woe. At least, not all woe. Tusks you can't eat. Meat you can. Enjoy the meals like I enjoyed the tale.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Thanks man

Anonymous said...

I know the reason behind the release of both muntjac and CWD from Woburn'

Atb Clem

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Anonymous said...

When they became too numerous in the park the DofB would have the various small gates in the park wall openned and the keepers would simply drive a set number out into the surrounding countryside very early on a Sunday morning. CWD expansion into the EA fens was mostly courtsey of the white van brigade.

Atb Clem