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“Born to Kill”

For anyone who wants to manage deer and not just shoot them. I felt I should share an experience that I had when I first started managing deer. How my  human emotions ran into conflict with my role as a deer manager. Managing deer is just like being a farmer but in the wild. Your role is to ensure you have the healthiest animals to breed from and you need to look out for injury and disease.

I had the opportunity to watch a young buck and doe during the rut in a small area of ground behind my house that is surrounded by woodland on two sides and is effectively a deer lawn. I spent some time with my still and video camera recording their antics. I was so please when I realised the doe was heavily pregnant and I was looking forward to seeing a young fawn born some where close to the house that I could observe on a regular basis.

I had lost her for some time and was concerned that something might have happened to her. Weeks went by and then suddenly a doe appeared. It was now late June and I thought it was the same doe as I had been looking out for. Several days latter when I was out with the dog I saw her in some long grass some distance away. She had not winded us and I just waited, suddenly she got up and walked about 100yds away and I could just make out a small fawn in the grass below her. I could not get a photograph so I backed off intending to return again. Unfortunately there was some heavy farming work going on in the field that week and she did not return to that area.

I spent what spare time I had looking for the doe and fawn in the woods behind the field but only saw her briefly twice more. It was now late November and I seldom see deer in this area again until February and that seemed a long time away.On the third week in February I saw a mature buck and doe with a male fawn obviously born last year.  Was this them I thought, it looked like her or was it because I wanted it to be.  I looked at the fawn closely and could see two spikes on his head covered in velvet.

I watched him at least twice a week as deer would now regularly come into the small area of ground to browse on the hedge roe of hawthorn and dog rose. This was “my deer”, and I had great pleasure in just observing him. I

was becoming quite concerned as he was developing into what is often called a murder buck. His antlers were growing longer and curving inwards. The reason being is that during the rut when he fights for his right to mate, even with a more mature and powerful animal, he has no points to lock with the other buck’s antlers. This can result in the other deer sustaining a serious injury, such as loosing an eye or a wound to the chest or stomach, even being killed. After discussing the situation with a much respected friend and deer manager Leo Naylor who has a wealth of  knowledge and many years of experience, it was now time for me to put aside my emotional feeling about this young buck and put into practice the principals of deer management for the good of the herd. It looked as though I was going to have to cull him to protect the other males from potential injury. It is easier to make this decision with animals that you manage and have not formed any emotional attachment to. However, this young deer was “my buck” I really did not want to shoot him

I went out several times to shoot him but each time my heart was ruling my head. I found excuses not to shoot him. ‘The back stop was not good enough’. ‘He was pumped up, near the boundary, vary aware and likely to run into the nature reserve’. ‘I think I can hear somebody out walking’. However, the day came for the perfect shot, 60yds, good backstop, totally unaware and I was down wind. I knelt down in

some nettles with my bi-pod fully extended, took careful aim for a neck shot, slipped of the safety catch and squeezed the trigger. As I did not want to do this, I must have blinked and did not see his reaction to the shot. In that split second the deer had vanished. My anxiety went up, what had I done? Surely I could not have missed, had I wounded him? I quickly chambered a second round and stood up. I could not see him. As I walked towards were he was stood, I could see his motionless body and his russet coloured coat amongst the grass. The job was done, a well placed shot and a quick clean kill.