On a very sen­si­tive sub­ject, the ed­i­tor gives us his view on killing game birds

Air Gunner - - Contents -

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?

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