I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing muntjac. The stocky little beasts are more like pigs than deer, and as much as I enjoy shooting them, there is something vaguely surreal about finding them roaming free in the British countryside.
Even when they are settled and calm, they dart around like insects, scuttling between mouthfuls of food and rotating their pink, shell-like ears. We saw a particularly fine buck when I was down in Norfolk, and there was something disarmingly appealing about him as he browsed through the field in the sunlight to the tune of grey partridges. Despite all the dung flung at them by foresters and farmers, I like these deer, just as I would secretly admire any species that dares to confront man’s total intolerance of any inconvenience posed by nature. I quite understand that they are a pest, but there is a real charm to them. Seeing one flee from cover in a sunken carr, I laughed out loud at his ludicrous gait and his expression of grave and concentrated sauciness.
As it happened, I was lucky enough to shoot two young deer when I was down, and having shared the spoils with a friend, I now look forward to the much vaunted venison. Muntjac is a delicious meat, but I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that it is better than roe.
While staying down South, I saw my first Chinese Water Deer. It was a momentary glimpse before it vanished into the beets, but I was left with the impression of a miniature pantomime horse mingled in part with a plush teddy bear. These deer certainly warrant much closer investigation with both camera and rifle, and I hope to be able to write more about them in due course.