56 SHOOTING ETHICS
On a very sensitive subject, the editor gives us his view on killing game birds
Should airgunners take stray gamebirds for the pot? Phill Price gives his opinion on this sensitive subject
Few subjects will drive a wedge between airgunners and shotgun shooters more than killing game birds, most commonly pheasants, with our airguns. Game bird shoots spend serious money raising and releasing them so that they can enjoy their driven shotgun sport during the winter season, and they’re not happy if we’re seen to be taking birds that they’ve worked hard to supply. When the birds stray from their home on to our permission, though, can we ethically be taking them for the pot?
I guess the first and most important question is, what does the landowner of your permission say? If he says leave them, then the subject is closed. The next question is, does a 12 ft.lbs. airgun have the ballistics to kill a big cock pheasant cleanly? Answer, yes. A pheasant’s skull is no tougher than a rabbit and a well-placed pellet will kill it cleanly, although they do flap about terribly.
We also have to respect the game bird season. Pheasants may be legally shot from October the 1st until February 1st in England, Scotland and Wales. To do so outside of these dates is breaking the law.
What about your neighbours?
Then we come to neighbourly relations. If the hard-working gamekeeper next door hears you bragging in the pub about killing his pheasants, he’s not going to be happy. He’ll be striving to keep his birds near to home, so killing them before he can tempt them back with feed will boil his blood. However, if you don’t know of any shoots local to your land, then taking the odd one for your Sunday roast may be less likely to cause upset. As ever, I’d strongly recommend having a well-trained gundog at your side, just in case something goes wrong, but that applies to all our quarry, except rats and squirrels.
Near the end of the shooting season, some estates try to reduce the number of cock pheasants that can be very aggressive when the next year’s poults arrive. Efforts are made to reduce their number, and if you’re asked to help, then you can go ahead with a totally clear conscience. Similarly, a friend told me of a situation where pheasants from the shoot next door were coming into a farmyard and pecking open silage bags, costing the farmer some serious money. My friend was asked to shoot them to protect the feed, just like he would any other type of damaging bird around the yard.
Discretion is needed any time you consider killing a pheasant. Is it in season? Do you have permission? Are you making enemies? If not, then okay, but my advice is to think twice before pulling the trigger.
Most pheasants are taken with shotguns but are they fair game for us too?