59 JAMIE CHANDLER
Jamie Chandler relies on his trusty BSA Lightning springer to feed the family
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.
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.
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!
The BSA Lightning XL SE has all the accuracy and weight benefits of a PCP, but you never run out of air
Using the contours of the bank and the cover around me, I disguised my approach as best I could
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!