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Stalking the elusive Muntjac with Jonathan Scott

Posted on: 1st May 19 at 3:08 pm by Realtree Global

As a New Zealander, generally my hunting opportunities are based upon local species. We have 6 species of deer in New Zealand (Fallow, Red, Sambar, Rusa, Sika and Wapiti-elk), many of which were introduced in the 1800s. So far, I’ve only managed to successfully hunt the first two plus Himalayan Tahr, Chamois, Feral pig and Wallabies. However, when during a recent visit to the UK, the opportunity arose to catch up for a hunt with Steve Wild at Team Wild, it was too good to miss.

Steve took me to one of his permissions in rural Northampton. Our target species for the day was to be Muntjac, (a native of South Asia). They were initially imported by the East India Company and introduced at Woburn Abbey in the 19th Century. However, a number escaped from both Woburn and Whipsnade zoo early in the 20th Century, rapidly spreading throughout England and Wales.

Muntjac Deer

Although small (approx. the size of a spaniel or young Labrador), Muntjac are generally browse-feeders but also predate upon the bark of young trees and saplings, resulting in damage to native trees. They also breed all year round, with no fixed rut season. As a result, Muntjac have become considered an invasive species and need to be controlled to keep the population spread down and restrict their damage to the environment. Muntjac are considered an ancient deer species, they have short antlers and retain two small tusks which are used for fighting with other males for the right to sire with a doe.

Muntjac deer stalking

Attired in the new Realtree Timber pattern, Steve used his local knowledge and experience to guide me around a number of woodlands in the area. We mainly kept to the rides (fire-breaks or constructed tracks) within the woodlands, concentrating on the edges where thicker portions of hedge or bush would hold the tiny Muntjac. These animals are adept at skulking around to avoid detection. If disturbed, they will sneak off very quietly and stealthily to announce the human’s presence with a dog-like bark. Unlike the larger deer species such as fallow or red, Muntjac do not tend to sleep during the day but feed throughout and can be caught-out in the open patches of the rides or clearings.

Since it had been a warm spring, much of the autumn leaves on the forest floor were already dry and we had to take a great deal of care to avoid sounding like we were walking on cornflakes. Several muntjac were spotted throughout the day but they were either Does with a follower at foot or simply too quick to engage with an ethical shot.

Having covered most of the rides of one larger wood, we preceded to stalk the forest edge where grassy paddocks merged. One of the most difficult aspects of the hunt was managing the wind. Steve utilised a powder spray on a regular basis to indicate wind direction to ensure we were hunting into the wind where possible. Though outfitted in the best camouflage pattern clothing for the environment and trying our best to be light-footed, any change of wind was a sure-fire way to spook our quarry. Indeed, on one stalk we spotted a buck in the undergrowth but as we positioned ourselves for the shot, a swirling air current inside the forest suddenly carried our scent towards him and he rapidly disappeared with the typical shrill bark.

Steve changed tactics and we ventured out on to the edge of the paddock and forest margins. Here, the wind direction was more predictable as we made our way along the edge, periodically checking likely spots for a deer.

Very suddenly our day changed for the better.

Through the trees, looking back into the woods and along a ride we spotted a buck Muntjac feeding. We quietly entered the forest where we were hidden in the darkness of the tree cover, blending in perfectly into the background with our Realtree Timber patterned clothing. Steve set me up for the shot, ranged the animal and I settled in behind the rifle.

Realtree timber clothing

I adjusted the magnification of the Hawke scope to 10x, slowed down my breathing and placed the target spot just in front of the deer’s left shoulder as it was quartering towards me. I took one or two slow breaths, breathed out and squeezed on the hold. We heard the clear sound of a hit from the 150gr Hornady SST from Steve’s Blaser in 308 win calibre. The muntjac dropped immediately without even taking a step. A clean ethical kill. I had shot my first muntjac at 162yds. Handshakes and big smiles all around.

I unloaded, and we waited a few moments before following up to the quarry. We took the obligatory photos and Steve performed the gralloch in the forest.

Jonathan Scott stalking muntjac in Realtree Timber camo pattern

Gralloching Muntjac

It was interesting to see how a UK professional like Steve does this. He checked the condition of the offal to ensure the animal was healthy and safe for human consumption. As a New Zealand hunter, when we field gralloch a deer we only check for obvious signs of Tb. In most of the alpine hunting we don’t even do a gralloch, as we only take the backstraps, loin steaks and meat from back legs; its simply too heavy to carry out a whole red deer when operating in the wilderness at 1100m above sea level. Tb is rare in New Zealand and generally the condition of the animal’s body and eyes are used to determine if the deer was healthy enough to take for meat.

how to cool Muntjac deer

We hung the animal in a tree to cool and proceeded towards the high seat. Here we could observe the main rides in the hope another deer might present a shot. As we waited the only species moving around were squirrels and pheasants, feeding on grain from the game feeders. As darkness fell, we headed home for the evening. A great hunt, with important memories and great company. We had earned our deer.