CHAR­LIE PORTLOCK

Char­lie Portlock of­fers his thoughts on get­ting the per­mis­sion of your dreams

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Suf­fer­ing from the old prob­lem of find­ing a per­mis­sion? Char­lie speaks from ex­pe­ri­ence and of­fers sound ad­vice on how to go about it

Per­mis­sion; the peren­nial prob­lem. Many read­ers will be fa­mil­iar with the chal­lenge of find­ing ground to shoot on. For some, there’s al­ways the op­tion of join­ing a syn­di­cate, but for oth­ers it will be long hours of driv­ing around the coun­try­side, cold call­ing on farm­ers and landown­ers who will more than likely be an­noyed to have their day in­ter­rupted by a cou­ple of strangers telling him that they can ‘do him a favour’ and take care of his rab­bit prob­lem. Let’s be frank. Firstly, no­body wants to share their shoot­ing per­mis­sion with other peo­ple and there’s no need to. Se­condly, knock­ing on doors is a waste of time; it’s an­ti­quated, in­con­ve­nient for all in­volved and largely in­ef­fec­tive. For some rea­son, in air­gun­ning there’s an en­dur­ing idea that per­mis­sion is hard to find. It’s not, if you go about it in the right way.

Crime

Many peo­ple don’t re­alise that coun­try­side com­mu­ni­ties are small, very well net­worked and gen­er­ally sus­pi­cious of out­siders. Many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties feel that their way of life is un­der threat in a gen­eral sense and they of­ten feel mis­un­der­stood by city folk. Add to this the in­creas­ing rates of ru­ral crime, and you can be­gin to un­der­stand why farm­ers and landown­ers are sus­pi­cious of any­body pok­ing around. Who are these peo­ple? Are they scop­ing my farm out for a rob­bery? This may sound a lit­tle para­noid, but the threat of theft is very real. In the past year, I’ve had boots and shoot­ing trousers stolen from my porch, the house down the road has had its tack room ran­sacked, a lo­cal farm me­chanic had over £10,000 worth of tools stolen, a sheep farmer had a two tonne gen­er­a­tor lifted from a re­mote barn – it was bolted into con­crete – and poach­ing is on the in­crease.

Per­haps the most per­ti­nent anec­dote for air­gun­ners comes from a farm two miles from me. In Septem­ber last year, my neigh­bour en­coun­tered a red Vaux­hall As­tra driv­ing down his track, nearly a mile long with clear ‘ No Through Road - Pri­vate Prop­erty’ sig­nage. With typ­i­cal Shrop­shire cour­tesy, my neigh­bour asked them if they were ‘ lost?’ and whether he could help them – lo­cal slang for ‘ Who the hell are you and what are you do­ing on my land?’ The two men and their lurcher said they were look­ing for some fish­ing pools (no rods vis­i­ble) even though this par­tic­u­lar spot is one of the high­est in the county, with no rivers or pub­lic pools of any kind for five miles. They turned around and left and my neigh­bour re­ported the num­ber plate to the po­lice who told him that the car had been re­ported stolen from a nearby town less than 45 min­utes ear­lier. These kinds of sto­ries are com­mon across the coun­try, and any in­no­cent air­gun­ner look­ing to find some land to shoot on is fac­ing an up­hill strug­gle from the get go if they think that cold call­ing a farmer, or driv­ing around pri­vate prop­erty un­in­vited is go­ing to earn them any brownie points.

Trust

So, given that per­mis­sion seek­ers will al­ready find them­selves in neg­a­tive eq­uity when it comes to mak­ing a good im­pres­sion, how ex­actly should we to go about it? Ev­ery­thing comes down to trust, and trust takes time. I’ll say this now; for­get about knock­ing on doors. It’s true that one per­mis­sion can of­ten lead to an­other, but this kind of op­por­tu­nity is based on a solid foun­da­tion. It’s a re­la­tion­ship built over many years, one that’s founded upon trust and mu­tual ben­e­fit. If you’re se­ri­ous about find­ing that per­fect per­mis­sion with mixed wood­land and pas­ture where you won’t be dis­turbed for hours, then you need to play the long game. My per­mis­sions started with beat­ing, play­ing cricket and join­ing in post-match drink­ing ses­sions in the lo­cal pub. By far the best way to build a port­fo­lio of per­mis­sions is to for­get about shoot­ing al­to­gether, at least ini­tially, and to at­tempt to build a re­la­tion­ship with the mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. Talk­ing about shoot­ing on a first meet­ing is a bit like ask­ing to bor­row money on a first date.

Beat­ing

Beat­ing is an in­for­mal and so­cia­ble way to meet lo­cal peo­ple, landown­ers, farm­ers and game­keep­ers, and will give you the chance

to get to know the gate­keep­ers in your lo­cal or re­gional net­work. All of our ci­ties are bor­dered by coun­try­side and even if you live in a city cen­tre, you’re still not much more than a 40-minute drive away from the coun­try­side and a work­ing shoot.

Con­tact the Na­tional Game­keep­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion (www.na­tion­al­game­keep­ers. org) to find out the lo­ca­tion of your lo­cal shoots. A shoot is al­ways short of beat­ers and once you’ve got a sea­son of shoot­ing un­der your belt ( Nov-Feb) you’ll prob­a­bly find that you have some new per­mis­sion to boast about. It pays to be pa­tient, not pushy, so let peo­ple get to know you as a per­son be­fore they know you as an air­gun­ner. You may get asked if you do any shoot­ing and if so, that’s you’re chance to say that you’d like to do more. Let this mo­ment come nat­u­rally.

Sport

If you play any kind of team sport, a quick search of lo­cal clubs in your near­est ru­ral area can yield lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties for some ex­er­cise as well as some airgun net­work­ing. Ru­ral teams are of­ten fairly small and will wel­come new ad­di­tions who can make up the num­bers. Again, con­ver­sa­tions about shoot­ing are best left to oc­cur or­gan­i­cally be­cause if you bring your ri­fle with you to the first train­ing ses­sion you may not be in­vited back.

Over-de­liv­ery

How­ever you get that ini­tial boot in the door, be sure to over- de­liver. Think about the other small things that you can do to make your landowner’s life eas­ier. Pick up lit­ter. No need to make a song and dance about it, but carry a bin bag in your pack and col­lect a lit­tle bit each time that you’re out. They’ll no­tice that the place is ti­dier with you around, and if they catch you in the act they’ll thank you for it. Also, let them know if you no­tice any­thing sus­pi­cious and keep them in­formed about any new dam­age to fences and gates that could lead to sheep or cat­tle es­cap­ing.

Don’t get cocky

There’s an en­dur­ing myth that with­out our help the coun­try­side would fall apart and crop pro­duc­tion would plum­met. This is com­plete non­sense, of course, but it has led to some shoot­ers think­ing that they’re do­ing the farmer a favour by ‘pro­tect­ing his crops’. The farmer doesn’t ac­tu­ally need us to pro­tect his crops and likely has his own em­ploy­ees, fam­ily or friends to do these jobs for him. The air­gun­ner can be part of that so­lu­tion, but we’re not the sil­ver bul­let that the farm­ing com­mu­nity has been wait­ing for. It pays to be humble no mat­ter how much you paid for that lovely Air Arms ri­fle.

Of­fer Some­thing

Buy them a bot­tle at Christ­mas and al­ways of­fer to help if you see them hav­ing trou­ble with an en­gine/cow/roll of wire etc. Re­mind them re­peat­edly that if they need a hand at any point with any labour­ing etc., that they can give you a call. If you have a trade, be sure to let them know. Any­thing from plas­ter­ing to fix­ing me­an­der­ing lap­tops can be use­ful, so have a think about what your skills are and be ready to of­fer them. That way, when you ask about bring­ing a friend along or ex­plor­ing that swathe of wood­land over the hill, they’ll be much more likely to help you out. One good turn de­serves an­other and the cir­cle of gen­eros­ity will keep grow­ing.

Bridges

Bridges can be crossed in both di­rec­tions. If we take the time to de­velop our re­la­tion­ships on a hu­man level be­fore we start talk­ing about shoot­ing, then we’ll find our lives that much richer and our shoot­ing per­mis­sions that much more abun­dant. At best, the cold caller will only ever be seen as an oc­ca­sion­ally use­ful tool for pest con­trol, at worst he’ll be an an­noy­ance on a busy day. By build­ing con­nec­tions and in­te­grat­ing with ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties we’ll be start­ing our shoot­ing jour­ney from a po­si­tion of trust. It might be­gin with a sim­ple bit of rat­ting around the barn, but it could end with some sum­mer deer­stalk­ing and an in­vi­ta­tion to the Keeper’s wed­ding. Play the long game and reap the re­wards. You’re so much more than just a per­son with a ri­fle; be sure to let peo­ple see that.

Is this your dream?

A re­la­tion­ship works both ways

Beat­ing; prob­a­bly the best way to find per­mis­sion

None of us want to share and we don’t have to

Find­ing per­mis­sions is eas­ier than you think

Crop dam­age. Airgun hun­ters are part of the so­lu­tion

This book will help you to find per­mis­sions

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