In the UK we are very lucky to have such a diverse choice of deer species; we have six in total which are Fallow, Sika, Red, Roe, Chinese Water Deer and of course the Muntjac, however only two are truly native – the Roe and the Red. The others are a mix of escapees from private collections like Woburn Abbey or reintroductions such as the Fallow Deer which were brought back to our shores around 55 B.C. during the Roman invasion of Great Britain, after they died out during the ice age.
The smallest of the above deer is the Muntjac (Muntiacus Reevesi) or Reeves Muntjac, sometimes referred to as the ‘Barking Deer’. It’s a species that’s loved and hated in equal measure depending on who you ask, often referred to as vermin, which is something that personally angers me; Muntjac are deer and should be respected, as they are protected in the UK under the Deer Act 1991. The most common argument (normally from the uneducated or short-sighted) is that because it’s a non-native deer it should be shot on sight or completely eradicated, but if this is the case then surely the same rule applies to the other four non-native species we have in the UK? Unfortunately, the government are planning to roll out an amendment to the bill “EU Regulation 1143/2014 the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019” which again is aimed squarely at the Muntjac, with effect from October 2019.
Whilst I agree that Muntjac can be destructive and are partly responsible for degeneration of plants and woodland environments, Fallow are responsible for millions of pounds worth of damage to crops each year, so let’s get things into perspective. It’s also been argued that Muntjac push deer such as Roe off people’s shooting grounds, but I’ve personally seen Muntjac and Roe cohabiting the same area for years with no obvious impact on either species. Intelligent, sensible management is the way forward, with many landowners failing to see the sporting opportunities Muntjac can offer and the welcome revenue that can be generated from clients wishing to stalk this truly amazing little deer. I will go into Muntjac Management and best practice on another occasion but wanted to highlight the ignorance and prejudice the Muntjac suffers, more so than any other deer in the UK and unfairly so in my book.
I’m surprised Brexit hasn’t been blamed on the Muntjac; should they leave the UK or remain? I vote remain!
Thankfully the estate I shoot on in Northamptonshire has a more enlightened attitude towards its deer management and over the last couple of years has opened the doors to clients, both novice and seasoned shooter alike offering accompanied stalking. Although the Muntjac has no legal closed season in the UK we shoot between the end of August until the end of April/May before the Bucks cast their antlers, then give them a welcome break to recover before the cycle starts once more, and with natural vegetation growing rapidly during the summer it makes stalking Muntjac nigh on impossible.
In between client bookings, I get the occasional opportunity to take the odd Muntjac for the freezer myself. A welcome text out of the blue from the estate asking if I fancied a sit out for a Muntjac or two had me packed and en route like greased lightning – I don’t need asking twice!
Todays approach is to sit up a covered tower overlooking a very productive area. Why not on foot you may ask? The reason is because it’s a working estate so there’s always the possibility of the gamekeeper driving around on the quad so by shooting from a tower you are shooting safely at a downwards angle and safety first is always the top priority for me. Sitting in wait also causes little to no disturbance; advantageous where Muntjac are concerned as they can be ultra-spooky when stalking on foot.
I have with me my ever trusty Blaser R93 chambered in .243 shooting 100 grain Norma soft points. With Fallow in the area (when in season) I prefer the punch of 100 grain ammunition, I’m not one for 75 for this 55 for that etc. Find what works and shoots well in your rifle and stick with it; remember the old saying (KISS) = keep it simple silly. So many people get hung up on bullet weight and choice – it’s ridiculous and unnecessary.
Tonight, I’m using a pair of Leica Geovid HD-R 2700 8×42 laser range finder binoculars coupled with a Leica Magnus 1.8-12x50i scope; this combination is truly fantastic! The binoculars allow me to accurately range the target – I can then utilise the Magnus to take the shot safe in the knowledge I’ve eliminated all the guess work out of the range. Usually this is not a problem with woodland stalking situations but some of the seats look down rides, a few of which are 300-400 yards long and can be deceptive. I’ve never been one for judging ranges accurately and when I’m out with clients I do not want them taking any shots beyond their comfort zone or worse still causing a serious injury because of any error on my part!
The HD-R 2700 binoculars are virtually identical to the top of the range HD-B the only real difference being that the HD-R’s don’t have the facility to be able to programme your specific rifle and chosen bullets BC (Ballistic Coefficient or Curve). However, they do have built in inclinometer, temperature and atmospheric pressure sensor – mind blown! An interesting point to note is that Leica were the first company to bring range finder binoculars to the civilian market in 1991 so they know a thing or two when it comes to binoculars and optics. Incidentally the 8×42 offers a wider FOV over the larger 10×42 but this does come at the cost of losing a little extra magnification, but this is a worthy trade off I’d wager?
The Magnus is perfectly suited to woodland stalking with a magnification range that allows me the flexibility to wind down if stalking in thick woodland at close to medium range or even driven shooting on the continent, or I can wind up the magnification to X10 – X12 for longer range shooting. It also offers a massive FOV, coupled with perfect edge to edge clarity and 91% + light transmission; the Magnus is the perfect tool for just about every deer stalking situation you will encounter in the UK, with other models available that include IR and non IR and BDC turrets as well as ZM / VM rail mounting options. It’s worth noting the Magnus sports “Aqua Dura” coated lenses as do the Geovid HD-R 2700’s; this is a Leica patented lens coating that wards off water, oils, scratch resistant against dirt and grit, anti fogging and top notch!
This kit will change my shooting in more ways than I could have dreamed of; I personally think the phrase is overused but this really is a “game changer”. I look forward to telling you more about how I get on with this equipment in real world situations from an honest, true grass-roots shooter in future articles, so watch this space.
After settling down and waiting for things to quieten down I scan the vicinity ranging notable location markers as a reference, prior to any deer putting in an appearance. To be honest as the morning wore on I was beginning to think that it wasn’t going to happen for me this morning then the shrill bark of an obviously angry buck grabbed my attention; in fact it made me jump out of my skin as he must have been no more than 80m from me! Try as I might I couldn’t locate exactly where so I gave a few peeps on the cherry wood call; I soon got into a bark off with the buck that made the mistake of stepping out onto the ride to investigate or challenge the upstart that dared to wander into his territory, I think he must have caught my wind as I made my way to the seat earlier? He was so intent on being passive aggressive to the invisible threat he didn’t see the real threat that was looking directly at him. The crystal clear sight picture in the morning sunlight was truly superb, slowly placing the cross hairs of the Magnus on his heart/lung area I had plenty of time to compose myself and let the shot fly, the Norma soft point slammed home and he was done for falling where he stood – result!
I chose not to break cover straight away, making the most of the situation. A real eye opener was the optical quality of the HD-R glass coupled with the Magnus offering over 91% light transmission it made the session an absolute pleasure. I’ve used most of the big names and all claim to be usable at first light and right up to last light, but I have felt that some are a little lacking in this regard. It’s all a matter of personal choice but I can honestly say Leica is the best glass I’ve used to date. All I will say is if you don’t believe me do a side by side comparison and judge for yourself, (I did) and you will not be left wanting in terms of build quality precision, back up service and after care. In fact Leica manufacturing far exceeds current European recommended standards!
I was about to concede that the session would end Pete 1 Muntjac 0, when a second buck presented shot number two at 125m I quickly accounted for another great cull buck, ending with the full time score 2-0 to Pete! The venison will be very welcome indeed; free range organic low fat, high in omega three and as healthy as it gets – truly superb and well worth the trip out! My new Leica combo well and truly christened passing all tests with flying colours! – Superb, a delight if you will.
To book a session for Muntjac Fallow or Roe with Pete:
Call: (+44) 07399 534159 at PJM Sporting
Please join MHG on Facebook – Muntjac Hunters Group
To check out Leica’s full range of products go to www.leica-sportoptics.com