Jamie Chan­dler re­lies on his trusty BSA Light­ning springer to feed the fam­ily

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Jamie ven­tures out into the frozen wastes, and bags a fine rab­bit for the pot

If, like me, you’re in a pas­sion­ate, volatile, deep, long-term, lov­ing re­la­tion­ship, but you also share your life and world with a sig­nif­i­cant other, then things can, and from time to time do get a bit com­pli­cated. In my case the pas­sion­ate, volatile re­la­tion­ship is with shoot­ing, and my world is ob­vi­ously shared with my wife, which on oc­ca­sion can lead to a col­li­sion.

At least twice a week I faff around openly, gath­er­ing to­gether mag­a­zines, check­ing fill pres­sures and top­ping up air reser­voirs, bag­ging up the ri­fle and all the rest of the gub­bins, kiss my wife good­bye, wait for the oblig­a­tory ‘ tree suit’ com­ment and leave the house, off on an­other airgun ad­ven­ture and with ‘ Her Lady­ship’s’ bless­ing; sim­ple!

The other times tend to be rather more clan­des­tine af­fairs. I’ll slink out of bed at about 5am, creep into the gun cup­board and slip down the stairs as qui­etly as a church mouse. There is no chance to check fill lev­els the night be­fore, and the tell­tale ‘whoosh’ from a bleed valve sounds like the equiv­a­lent of a land-mine in the early morn­ing still­ness. Each creak of the floor­boards re­ver­ber­ates like a Tiger tank through the Ar­dennes, and our pet se­cu­rity rab­bit is ready, on guard, to thump a warn­ing at the first sign of any­thing dis­turb­ing its fire­side nap, so speed and stealth are the key to a suc­cess­ful exit with­out get­ting caught. On these days, and as much for the pure plea­sure of shoot­ing them as for their ready-to- go virtues, self- con­tained recharg­ing sys­tem, and ‘no air fill­ing re­quired’, I’ll reach for a trusty springer. All my trou­bles seemed so far away … Yes­ter­day was just one of these days, and whilst nor­mally it would take me three­quar­ters of an hour to fill, check and gather shoot­ing bits, I was up and ready in un­der 20 min­utes, with the trusty BSA Light­ning XL SE bagged up, a padded tin of Air Arms Di­ablo Field pel­lets and rangefinder ready in my pocket, plus a flask of cof­fee. I was ready and head­ing out af­ter an early morn­ing rab­bit or squir­rel.

I’m writ­ing in mid-Fe­bru­ary and although spring is try­ing to break win­ter’s last blast, the morn­ings are still cold, down to -5 de­grees Cel­sius, and that can ruin a trip out if you’re not pre­pared with the right cloth­ing to keep out the cold, es­pe­cially when sit­ting still in am­bush. To counter the freeze, I have a cosy, lay­ered cloth­ing ap­proach that keeps me as warm as can be in the cold and wind, whilst not break­ing the bank. On my legs, I start with my favourite

Jack Pyke VX long johns – they are like warm toast on your thighs – then a pair of thick cords that are silent when you move, and keep me warmer than cargo pants or jeans. If it’s re­ally cold or wet, I’ll pop on some Jack Pyke over-trousers for ex­tra warmth, or just my waxed cot­ton gaiters over Hunter’s boots and thick wool socks,

“I’ll slink out of bed at about 5am, creep into the gun cup­board and slip down the stairs as qui­etly as a church mouse”

giv­ing me easy, silent move­ment, but im­por­tantly, re­tain­ing as much heat as pos­si­ble.

On top, again lay­ers are the key. I man­aged to pick up a bar­gain 100% merino wool base layer, which is thin and yet as warm as snug­gling up to the New Zealand sheep it came from, with­out the smell. On top of that, I nor­mally go for a wool shirt, a merino wool jumper bought from a town hall sale at a steal for £ 25.00 re­duced from start by putting on a jumper, fleece then jacket, you are telling your sub­con­scious that you are tak­ing steps to warm up and won’t per­ceive as much cold as you would oth­er­wise, this was the wis­dom of my Alevel psy­chol­ogy lec­turer, and I still think it works now.

Fi­nally, I’ve said it be­fore, but a bit of old camp­ing mat folded in two in your game bag is an ab­so­lute saviour for the warmth of your pos­te­rior if you are am­bush­ing, or just sit­ting and watch­ing. It will keep out the cold and damp, giv­ing valu­able ex­tra time to bag your quarry, with­out be­ing a has­sle to carry.

So, back to yes­ter­day, and I ar­rived at the farm with day­light just about break­ing in a milky, lightly over­cast sky. A bit­ing east­erly wind was blow­ing at about 15 mph, but tucked up in my lay­ers, only my hands were re­ally ex­posed to it and as I have done from child­hood, I used the ends of the sleeve to wrap up my trig­ger hand, and wore a mit­ten, fash­ioned from a spare neo­prene glove do­nated by some­one whose dog had sav­aged the fin­gers, and the match­ing other, on my for­ward hand. Waste not want not, and all that! A quick, three-shot zero check and I was happy and ready to head out.

First, I headed west, with my back to the east­erly breeze, wide and away from my tar­get bank, then swung back in to the wind giv­ing me a rare chance to get into a strong am­bush point on a war­ren that was sur­rounded by a horse­shoe of dense cover on all other sides. The pre­vail­ing west­erly breeze nor­mally meant that any ap­proach blew my scent straight over the war­ren, whereas to­day’s con­di­tions loaned them­selves to a po­ten­tial am­bush. Keep­ing my body low, us­ing the con­tours of the ground and be­ing very care­ful with my foot­fall, I ap­proached the war­ren, choos­ing

£75.00, and my Shooterk­ing fleece, which is smart enough to not look out of place when I’m buy­ing petrol, but cov­ered by my Jack Pyke Hunter jacket, be­comes as warm as an elec­tric blan­ket and an­other layer to de­fend against wind and damp. With a Thin­su­late hat and bal­a­clava if it re­ally gets cold, I’m pretty much ready for any­thing.

Top tip

My last top tip is this: If you can, try to keep off, or take off a top layer or two be­fore jump­ing into the car. If you warm up whilst wear­ing ev­ery­thing in the car, and then cool down again out­side, your brain will not regis­ter as much ben­e­fit, and half of the bat­tle is in your mind. On ar­rival at your per­mis­sion, if you get out of the car and my am­bush spot un­der a small scrub tree that blended well with the English Oak camo pat­tern of my jacket and 3D leaf head net. I sat my­self qui­etly down on my game bag, placed the open tin of ten pel­lets by my side for easy reach, and waited.

Sun­light kiss

I had only zoned out for about 15 min­utes as the first kiss of sun­light came over the hori­zon, and a doe rab­bit came bolt­ing from my right, came to a sud­den stop at about 25 yards, and dropped her head to eat. I moved gen­tly to shoul­der the ri­fle, watch­ing the rab­bit in­tently. It lifted its head and I froze, then it re­turned to eat­ing and I moved

“this was the wis­dom of my A- level psy­chol­ogy lec­turer and I still think it works now”

again, the slow game of ‘dead li­ons’ went on for what seemed like eter­nity.

Fi­nally, I had the ri­fle on aim and the crop rob­ber’s head bang on zero. I gen­tly squeezed the trig­ger, heard and felt a nudge as the pis­ton sent 11.5 ft.lbs. of propul­sion down the bar­rel and be­hind the skirt of the AA Field pel­let. A ‘ thwack’ less than half a sec­ond later, and my view through the scope con­firmed that the bunny was bagged. I quickly broke the bar­rel, re­cocked and waited again to see if an­other would show.

Af­ter about an­other three- quar­ters of an hour, three mag­pies came scream­ing and leapfrog­ging through the cover to my left. I gen­tly bought the gun on aim and squeezed off an­other deadly pel­let, only for it to smash into an unseen twig in the way, send­ing the mag­pies scream­ing sky­ward. I called time, hav­ing had an ex­cel­lent morn­ing and with some­thing for the pot to show for it.

The great thing about springers, apart from the fact that they are al­ways ready to go, and are self- con­tained, is the sim­ple sat­is­fac­tion you get from bag­ging one rel­a­tively easy shot and miss­ing an­other. It’s al­most like the dif­fer­ence be­tween cook­ing a meal from scratch or bung­ing a ‘finest’ some­thing in the mi­crowave – both de­li­cious end re­sults, but one pos­si­bly more so!

Us­ing the con­tours of the bank and the cover around me, I dis­guised my ap­proach as best I could

The BSA Light­ning XL SE has all the ac­cu­racy and weight ben­e­fits of a PCP, but you never run out of air

I first headed west with my back to the east­erly breeze, wide and away from my tar­get bank, then swung back into the wind.

Just the one, but enough for me

If I only take a few AA Field Di­ab­los in my padded pel­let tin, then I can’t knock too many over!

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