Dustin Murdock

Sika hind harvested on22 May 2020, on a clearing in the silver/red beech bush of the upper Mohaka River.

“Before shooting she looked skinny. I could see her hip bones clearly and her ribs a bit while she fed in the sunshine. The clearing was heavily grazed and I think deer numbers in the area are generally high or too-high.

She was with her 5-6 month old fawn which grazed continuously (plenty old enough to survive without mum). After watching for a while, we decided to take her for meat.

Following the shot a yearling hind came into view and hung around for quite a while. The presence of both her yearling and her fawn suggested she bred the last two consecutive years.

On close-up inspection her condition was probably average as she looked better than on the hoof – but certainly not fat. Her cheek pouches were full of grass, as expected. Her paunch was a mix of grass and green leaves suggesting she had fed in the bush probably coming to the large clearing after the sun warmed the hard frost.

This whole autopsy thing is new to me, and I couldn’t identify most of the stomach contents. In preparation for my new career as an amateur biologist – I carried a lightweight, digital luggage scale and recorded 15.3 kg without guts, head and hocks.

Her lower teeth were well worn, 7 years old at a guess, and these are sent to Alan Jackson for a full report. I could not identify a small foetus to confirm if she bred again this season.

In summary, I suspect this old hind is still producing young every year. This suggests the bush may not be over-browsed. She is likely thin from the drain of a young fawn more than lack of food in the bush.

Detailed assessment of her condition softened my view that the area has “too many deer.” I feel it was definitely good to help chip away at the hind population and to pass up the young, curious stag earlier in the morning.

Despite watching her and the fawn for 10-15 minutes we failed to notice the yearling hind – which would have been a better deer to harvest – both for the environment and the freezer.

Dustin Murdock

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