Thursday, 1 May 2014

Chinese Water Deer

It`s an odd thing, yet despite my love of deer stalking and related subjects that Chinese water deer have really been off my radar. They have become very much a part of the British countryside in some of the Home Counties but to me they held no real interest. That was until I met Mr CWD himself. Charlie “Chinky” Harriman who works within the agricultural sector and has access to some pretty impressive estates and privately own land.

Chinese Take away


It`s an odd thing, yet despite my love of deer stalking and related subjects that Chinese water deer have really been off my radar. They have become very much a part of the British countryside in some of the Home Counties but to me they held no real interest. That was until I met Mr CWD himself. Charlie “Chinky” Harriman who works within the agricultural sector and has access to some pretty impressive estates and privately own land. A self confessed rifle nut, like me, Charlie has hunted all over Europe and Namibia in Africa but his guided hunts after CWD or Muntjac has earned him a great reputation of giving his clients a memorable stalk.

CWD (Hydropotes inermis) are really like no other deer and if you thought Muntjac looked odd in the British countryside then the sight of little beige coloured teddy bear faced deer lying up like hares in the fields is a real shock.

Having spent a day’s stalking involving some serious leg work and straining the eyes, I have to say I wish I had given this alien invader a little more attention as the day was exhilarating.

Natural History and kit needed

I am no expert but the CWD does have an interesting way of life which is fascinating for naturalist or shooters but not so good for land owners!
Bucks and does have no antlers whilst the bucks possess large front canines that are used for dominance, especially in the winter months as the rut is at its height in December.

The gestation period is about 180 days and they can have up to seven offspring which aids to their proliferation at colonisation. Charlie said that if you let CWD onto your land and do not start a proper cull plan immediately you can soon become over run with them. Seeing the numbers we did, I can believe him. But also despite having up to  seven young it is rare to see a Doe with more than two at her side , triplets occasionally but seemingly not needing too much woodland allows them to inhabit areas that Roe would not, perhaps.

They can be mistaken for Roe at a distance but once you have seen them up close that slightly slanted stance to the front, they are longer in the leg but more slight in build. They have rounded ears and almost white and shiny in the sun are a dead giveaway and the face is much more dominant with large eyes and shorter overall length too. The light pelage is also obvious although pelage can vary a lot as we saw from the 30 odd deer out when we stalked.

Rifle wise you actually have the advantage that you can use a .22 centrefire legally for CWD, this means that a soft or hollow point bullet of no less than 50 grains and a muzzle energy of not less than 1000 ft/lbs energy.
For CWD this actually makes sense as after the stalking on Charlie’s ground the typical habitat is that of wide open and big field’s edges by hedgerow. Shots can be close if you bump one but more often than not it’s a long shot and a fast .22 centrefire with a flat trajectory can really help.

My fellow stalker Julian had a custom built Accuracy International AX rifle but chambered in the .22-250 Ackley Improved round that spat out 55 grain bullets at 3750 fps for 1717 ft/lbs energy and when sighted at 100 yards was only 1.0 inches low at 200 yards, perfect for CWD.

Me, well I opted for my trusted .30-47L Predator that shoots a 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip producing 2814 fps and 2198 ft/lbs energy and what it lacks in flat trajectory it makes up for in wind bucking abilities and instant energy transfer to the vitals.

Absolutely essential are good binoculars , you will need them as spotting deer is 90 % of the sport and if they have built in laser range finders all the better as those long flat fields are very difficult to judge ranges without any real land marks or scale to them.

Also a good set of shooting sticks although I choose both these and a set of Harris bipods attached to the rifle that proved invaluable when the second CWD was taken.

Stalk 1

It`s rather like highland stalking which sounds a bit odd at first , but because the CWD will spend time in the middle of the fields where they feel safe you can actually see them and then plan a stalk. Rather like spotting a parcel of hinds or stags chewing the cud on the hill. When I am after Roe in the woods, it’s the deer more often than not that’s spots me first!

It`s not to say it`s easier, it`s not, you still have to stalk out of sight and downwind but at least you can observe , assess and plan a stalk on a animal that you know is there, although I did stalk a few mud clods, but don`t tell anyone, please.

First out with the bins and look, really look hard as movement is your first clue to a CWD nestled in the hedgerow, Charlie was right CWD held fast until an hour or two before dark and then started to move out on to the fields although some stragglers can be found in warm spots out of the wind in furrows earlier in the day. The weather was bright but absolutely bitter, 5 degrees with a really strong easterly wind that made it feel like -5 degrees. Advantage, we could stalk into the wind easily and to some degree disguise any noise but conversely that raw wind sapped your energy and noses and fingers soon turned to ice cubes.

Charlie lend us slowly along the low hedgerows skirting the fields defined by deep six foot drainage ditches and then huge expanses of flat and I mean flat fields. This one estate in Buckinghamshire was 6000 acres. We rounded a headland and Charlie soon spotted an odd shape in the field, we both strained to define the blob at 384 yards and stalked in closer with Charlie’s dog, Ozzie a black Lab leading the way. Easing slowly forward with the hedgerow behind to disguise our silhouette 384 soon shrunk to 300 yards then 250 and at 200 we stopped and had a better look. Sure enough the characteristic hump of a CWD curled up in a shallow furrow in the old rape field but head tucked in to barrier the wind but ears still mobile.

Julian and Charlie then crawled closer to 150 yards and set up for the shoot off the bipod as the ground was open now and any attempt to cross it would alert the CWD of our presence. Because the fields are so flat you have to be extra careful of a safe back drop and a fast expanding .22 centrefire bullet actually makes very good sense.

As the deer raised its head Julian wasted no time and a 55 grain Sierra cleanly dispatched the deer without moving with a neck shot. When we recovered and gralloched the deer Charlie found it actually had male and female sexual organs so we concluded Julian had shot half a buck!

My First CWD

Now it was my turn and a steady stalk on to the next field yielded some more fine glassing from Charlie as he spotted yet another odd shape in the field. Sure enough another CWD bedded down in the field, only showing half it body and head. This deer however was alert and I had to inch my way forward to a convenient pylon in the field to get a shot. I could not us the bipod as the angle was to shallow and dangerous so I had to rest on my sticks and cradle the Predator rifle against the pylons superstructure. Here’s where a big .30 calibre comes into its own the range was only 81 yards but the howling wind was really blowing me about , so a neck shot was out of the question but the heart lung area was just on the margin of the stubble of the field. As the CWD slightly rearranged its sitting position , I took the opportunity and that 125 grain Ballistic Tip hit home  hard with the deer not moving an inch accept the head slowly moving backward and then down. Mine was doe with a lovely light beige coloured pelage and I was a CWD virgin no more.

CWD galore

With two in the bag and the light fading slowly once where the fields were empty suddenly CWD were emerging from the drainage ditches and hedgerows like rabbits. In  a wood the deer would be there but you could  not see them, here where you could see up to 1000 yards the same number of deer were clearly visible. We stalked onto a promising CWD by walking a very long margin across muddy fields that stick to your boots and made every step just that bit heavy and that rifle bite just that bit more into the shoulder. We spooked an emerging Doe at 10 yards which kept us on our toes and as we crossed another ditch Charlie and dog Gus stopped in unison, “Monster buck” slowly making clear a thicket some 250 yards ahead. We all slipped slowly down the bank and Julian positioned himself, still down wind to get a shot with a safe back drop of a soil heap. We waited as the Buck edged slowly across the fields, you did not need binoculars to see his tusks hanging down from his jaw like scimitars. My old heart rate was pumping as some dog walkers laughing some distance away their voices carried on the wind and the buck skipped towards us! Julian waited for him to turn side on and that was his mistake as he presented a perfect shot and Accuracy International `s muted report from the MAE sound moderator was instantly followed by the sound of the bullet striking and the buck dropped on the spot.

When we recovered him he was indeed a monster and a very good medal head with over three inch tusks. I had one more doe to conclude the evening and that thermos of hot chocolate was so welcome.


When can you go out and see 30 deer in a night and enjoy a totally new experience, I have been stalking for 30 years and I felt a new stalker again with all the excitement of a new challenge, really get sport and I am hooked as I have already booked another trip with Charlie.

Another benefit is that CWD is probably the nicest tasting venison you will eat and with flesh paler than normal venison but twice as delicious.

Charlie can arrange a stalk to meet your own requirements with mornings or evening’s stalks and CWD ranging from cull beast up to medal class bucks if you wish. Muntjac and Fallow can also be arranged. 


Chinese Water Deer

Muntjac (Buck)

Chinese Water Deer

Bruce with his Chinese Water Deer

Out Stalking

Stainless Steel MAE Moderator

MAE Moderator

By Bruce Potts


He can be contacted on 01494 757131 or 07702 886137 and I promise you will be amazed at the quality and quantity of CWD on his extensive stalking grounds.
Article and images by Bruce Potts

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