I've had no firmware issues with the 180mm f/2.8D on a D800. Although I don't use it very often, I've also had no issues with my Angenieux-derived Tokina 28-70mm f/2.6~2.8 on that body.
I also own a non-D 135mm DC. You can certainly leave the Defocus control set to zero and ignore it, which is the way I use mine in any dynamic shooting situation. Other people report obtaining better results with a non-zero default setting. While I've used mine for landscapes, I've never used it as a wildlife lens.
My own concern in using it that way would be longitudinal CA, or color fringing in the out of focus area. Wide open at portrait distances, the fringing is quite noticeable which objects 1-2 feet behind the focus point.
"There is no real magic in photography, just the sloppy intersection of physics and art." — Kirk Tuck