Chinese Water Deer: Hunting “Vampire Deer”
Looking for a distinctive trophy animal that is fun to hunt, has delicious meat, and can be packed out in a kitchen bag or soft-sided ice chest? You need to look no further than the Chinese Water Deer. This miniature variety of deer has no antlers—however, males sport tusks. Yeah, you read that right. Measuring up to 4-inches, they are reminiscent of fangs (hence, the nickname).
Hunters familiar with these critters consider them a unique animal to add to their walls and dinner plates.
Traits and Facts
As mentioned, Chinese Water Deer are small in size, weighing in at about 30 pounds and topping out around 3 feet in length. They are yellowish during the summer and greyish brown in the winter. The species are native to East Asia, but with populations shrinking, hunting them is banned there. Still, as they are viewed as a nuisance, they’re poached, and no real care is exercised over their population and habitat.
Conversely, the species was introduced in Britain during the late 19th century and are hunted and healthy in number today. Chalk up another one for the merits of conservation.
Chinese Water Deer are drawn to swampy habitat, as well as high grasses around agricultural fields and mountains. They are grazers, and their diet is mostly made up of grasses. Active during the morning and evening, they retreat to heavy cover when the temperature heats up. These exotic animals are territorial and are known to fight when threatened. When pressured, they will issue a warning bark followed by a screeching sound. Further, they will attack competing males, and the skirmishes can be quite vicious.
And what about the meat? Under good grazing conditions, this species obtains a substantial layer of fat, much like a lamb, yielding good texture and flavor. Simply put, Chinese Water Deer venison is superb.
Hunting the Chinese Water Deer
The most popular place to hunt this diminutive yet elusive animal is Britain, where they join five other deer species including roe and fallow deer. Hunting the Chinese Water Deer can be quite a challenge as they’re not only proficient runners but good at swimming. If pressed, they can swim for miles to find secluded areas. They are skillful at concealing themselves in even nominal cover. These traits, along with their small size, can test any hunter’s will.
In the UK, Chinese Water Deer are commonly pursued via spot-and-stalk (called “stalk hunting” there). The season extends from April through October.
Due to the deer’s specific habitat, hunting is limited to particular areas featuring reed beds, rivers, and grasslands. Today, some of the best Chinese Water Deer hunting can be found in locations around Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire. Additionally, you can go after them year-round on a few ranches in the Hill Country region of Central Texas. Though they can be hunted safari-style and from blinds, spot-and-stalk hunting for the elusive deer species is particularly fun and challenging – especially with a bow.
Since the only way to distinguish the males from females is to see the tusks, quality optics are recommended. Chinese Water Deer don’t require strong calibers. In fact, in England, calibers typically range from .22 rimfire up to .308. However, by many accounts, the lower end isn’t enough and .308 and up can damage their carcasses. The sweet spot is the 25.06 to .243 range. Bowhunters can expect extremely challenging stalks and shots of 50-yards and up are likely. It can be done with patience and hard work. Still-hunting from a stand in the morning and evening is another good option.
If you’re looking for great venison and a fantastic conversation-starter in your trophy room, this small species of deer is your ticket. The wildly resilient and extremely wary “Vampire Deer” is waiting. And it doesn’t require silver bullets.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.