28 ED­DIE JONES

Ed­die Jones walks us minute-by-minute through a pro­duc­tive hunt­ing day

Air Gunner - - Contents -

A day in the life of the inim­itable Ed­die - this time he’s on a mission for squir­rels

This month’s fea­ture was by re­quest from a reader who wanted to know about my day’s hunt­ing in a bit more de­tail. I know many read­ers think that there is no way we can go out and shoot the num­bers of quarry in a morn­ing that a lot of hun­ters get in a week, but rest as­sured, with a lot of plan­ning and pa­tience you can get good num­bers your­self.

I was one of those non-be­liev­ers all those years back when I read the mag­a­zines re­li­giously. I wanted to learn the trade and failed mis­er­ably many times, but I was not put off. I would tell my­self, ‘ These guys are hoard­ing days of quarry for the pics. There’s no way that they can shoot so much in one ses­sion’, but I was wrong. I was in­ex­pe­ri­enced in field­craft, I had no pa­tience and I was in denial. All I wanted to do was walk around and ex­pect quarry to jump out in front of me to shoot at. I still get a lot of those days when all the care­ful plan­ning in the world fails mis­er­ably, and I might only get one shot off, or I shoot like an id­iot, but that is down to me and no one else.

Watch and learn

Over the years, I have stud­ied an­i­mal be­hav­iour. I look at the ar­eas where I see more feed­ing ac­tiv­ity, and the times when that hap­pens; when the birds like to go to roost and so on. There is so much that needs to be looked at to get what I call a ‘pro­duc­tive hunt’. Many a time, I have had peo­ple ask what they are do­ing wrong when they only get one pi­geon or one squir­rel and they feel de­flated about it. I al­ways re­ply with the same an­swer, “You are be­ing suc­cess­ful. You’re go­ing out af­ter pests and shoot­ing one.” There is no bag limit on what we shoot. We try to find as much to shoot as pos­si­ble, but that takes years of get­ting to know your quarry and their habits. Once you’ve achieved that, you will turn a suc­cess­ful hunt into a pro­duc­tive one.

Re­mem­ber last month? The weather was well against us and rain and fog ham­pered me and my dad all day, but we per­se­vered. Yes, we had an ad­van­tage when we got the ther­mal-imag­ing spot­ter out, but we hadn’t given up, and we turned the day around and made it pro­duc­tive. How many of you wouldn’t even have got the ri­fle out in those con­di­tions? The best ad­vice I could give any­one who wants to get the best out of hunt­ing is to go out and study what you’re af­ter. Get out three or four times a week, but leave the ri­fle at home. Prac­tise get­ting close to your quarry, rather than wor­ry­ing about shoot­ing it. Look for eas­ier ways of ap­proach­ing your best spots, and even clear paths to them. The more work you can do to make it eas­ier, the more pro­duc­tive your ses­sions will be.

So, back to the day’s shoot­ing for this month’s fea­ture. I had de­cided to go back to the ground that I shot last month, but this time, to shoot the larger two woods. The vis­i­bil­ity was a lot bet­ter, so I’d have less trou­ble spot­ting the squir­rels higher up in the tall trees, and I’d take pic­tures as a sort of time­line to show how good or bad my ses­sion was.

Go get ‘em

I ar­rived at the farm around 8am. I’d been in­formed by the farmer that trees had been cut in the first wood where I in­tended to shoot, and he had no­ticed a few squir­rels run­ning about. That was a good sign and gave me con­fi­dence of some sights straight away. At 8.25am I en­tered the north side of the wood, walked 30 me­tres into the oak plan­ta­tion and I could al­ready hear some scratch­ing of tree bark as a squir­rel ran up one of the trees. It sounded as though it wasn’t far in front of me, so I spent time scan­ning the trees. I’d been look­ing for a good ten min­utes when I no­ticed a light grey colour, 40 yards away and as I looked through the Sidewinder I could see that it was a squir­rel’s tail, wav­ing slightly in the steady breeze.

I po­si­tioned my­self be­hind a tree that ob­scured the squir­rel’s view of me, and slowly walked to­wards it. I was around 25 yards away and I rested against a tree to see if the squir­rel was there. I got a good view

“I po­si­tioned my­self be­hind a tree that ob­scured the squir­rel’s view of me, and slowly walked to­wards it”

of its head; I think the squir­rel was look­ing for me too, when I was be­hind the tree, and it gave me a nice clear shot. By 8.45am, the first squir­rel was in the bag.

I left the squir­rel where it landed, to re­trieve later be­cause I had for­got­ten my game bag con­tain­ing my gloves and head net, so car­ry­ing them would have been awk­ward. I set off again and as I neared some ch­est­nut trees, I no­ticed some nuts that had been stripped, and they looked fresh. There were also three dreys in view, so this was a promis­ing lo­ca­tion, if they were feed­ing here. I de­cided to sit it out near the feed­ing area and wait to see if any­thing came my way.

Pa­tience

I’d been wait­ing for nearly an hour when I saw two squir­rels run­ning through the trees to my right. I watched them get­ting closer and then they headed for the floor. Luck­ily, the cover was not thick here, so I sank to my knee and waited. At 9.55am, the first one made a mis­take and started to scratch the floor where it has hid­den its win­ter nuts. It stopped for a sec­ond to look around, and that was all the time I needed. The other squir­rel ran up a tree and hid.

I took the pic­ture of the shot squir­rel and started to look for the other; it didn’t take long un­til I saw him in a small fork near the top. I had a few branches to get the pel­let through, but I was sure it was pos­si­ble, and at 10.08am, the squir­rel fell to the floor. The shot was good and an­other clean kill. I took a pic­ture with the two to­gether, but as I got up I saw an­other head­ing my way. I didn’t move, but watched the squir­rel for a short while through the scope; it was get­ting closer and I was just wait­ing for the shot. Bingo! I had one chance as it stopped to jump to an­other tree. What a re­sult! I knew some­thing had to turn up here be­cause the nut skins were quite fresh and although it was nearly an hour wait, it was worth it. Pic­ture taken, I moved on.

Alarm call

I had now walked a mere 30 yards, and I spot­ted an­other. It was near the edge of the wood, and it had seen me, given the alarm chat­ter to in­di­cate that it knew I was there and started to run through the trees quickly, to­ward some conifers, so I give chase. Usu­ally, if you can get in front of them they stop and try to hide and this one luck­ily had read the script. I found where he was and took the shot, but I missed. I didn’t see a branch three feet in front of me, through the scope, and I was nowhere near the squir­rel.

Thank­fully, the squir­rel didn’t move and I got a sec­ond chance. I made no mis­take and he joined the rest for the next pic­ture. My day con­tin­ued in this, in­cred­i­bly pro­duc­tive way, and as you can see, I’ve cre­ated a time- line with my mobile phone to doc­u­ment the kills. I have to say that this felt a bit too close to brag­ging for my per­sonal com­fort and I haven’t in­cluded pho­tos of all of the squir­rels I shot, but I think it pro­vides a good idea about how the day’s hunt­ing un­folded, so it was a worth­while ex­er­cise.

The fi­nal squir­rel dropped to a kneel­ing shot taken at 25 yards and I called it a day at just af­ter 2pm. It was some day, though!

I guess I’m now in ex­actly the same po­si­tion as the hun­ters I used to read about, when I thought ‘ they can’t do that!’ but these days I know it can be done, and far more im­por­tantly, I un­der­stand a whole lot more about how to do it!

And so it be­gins!

Things were re­ally mov­ing now!

By 10am, num­ber two was in the bag

Just 10 min­utes later ...

The squir­rels were on the ground as much as in the trees

As long as my marks­man­ship held up, I knew I was on for a good day

And still they came! Six in the bag and plenty more to come

That’ll do for the day - and what a day it was!

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