Rus­sel Webb is help­ing out on a pheas­ant shoot

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Rus­sel Webb takes his FX Cy­clone to a pheas­ant shoot, for squir­rels, and rec­om­mends a West Coun­try gun shop

Un­for­tu­nately, it has been an­other dis­ap­point­ing month for me with re­gard to get­ting out on my per­mis­sion. The weather on my days off from work has either been too wet or too cold to make the 80-mile round trip to my Cam­bridgeshire per­mis­sion a worth­while ven­ture. In the past, I have tried to hunt there on bit­terly cold, frosty days, but if I am hon­est, I would have to say it has not been a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence – freez­ing cold toes and fin­gers do not add to the en­joy­ment.

The plea­sure I get from be­ing out on my per­mis­sion is not re­lated to the num­ber of rab­bits or pi­geons I shoot; for me, it is all about hav­ing land on which I can roam freely with my air ri­fle. My per­mis­sion of­fers me an es­cape from the pres­sures of fam­ily life and a job that I don’t en­joy, but I do have to pay the bills at the end of the month. The large, open, grain fields of the Cam­bridgeshire coun­try­side pro­vide lit­tle cover for stalk­ing, so the am­bush tech­nique I use re­lies on me ly­ing mo­tion­less on the ground for sev­eral hours, whilst await­ing the lo­cal rab­bit pop­u­la­tion to put in an ap­pear­ance. This is a won­der­ful way to spend a sum­mer evening, but on cold, frosty morn­ings in Fe­bru­ary it’s not much fun.

Glass half full

It is al­ways im­por­tant in life to view the glass as be­ing half full, and I am lucky enough to be able to look back on some of the great hunt­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties I had last year. One of these was when my shoot­ing buddy, Steve, ar­ranged for me to spend a day help­ing one of his game­keeper friends cull grey squir­rels on a pheas­ant shoot in Wilt­shire. Grey squir­rels do not just eat nuts and berries, they are also nest rob­bers and will not pass up the op­por­tu­nity to take an egg or a young bird if they get the op­por­tu­nity. Game­keep­ers work very hard to pro­tect their pre­cious broods of wild pheas­ants, so they do not like greedy squir­rels eat­ing the fruits of their labours. Grey squir­rels also steal grain from pheas­ant feed­ers, but this greed can be turned to the ad­van­tage of the air ri­fle hunter.

Game­keep­ers keep feed hop­pers filled with grain to help pheas­ants through the win­ter and try to stop them from stray­ing. The hop­pers pro­vide a rich source of food that the squir­rels quickly learn to take ad­van­tage of, es­pe­cially in the cold weather. As the area will be reg­u­larly vis­ited by hun­gry squir­rels, it’s an ideal lo­ca­tion for a squir­rel feeder, which can be used in the months when the game­keeper is not fill­ing the feed hop­per. I vis­ited the pheas­ant shoot dur­ing the sum­mer when there was an abun­dance of nuts and berries avail­able to the grey squir­rels, but they still couldn’t re­sist the temp­ta­tion of an easy meal from the feeder.

Pest con­trol

For this pest- con­trol mission, I used a vari­a­tion of the am­bush tech­nique that has worked so suc­cess­fully for me on my Cam­bridgeshire per­mis­sion. My plan was to sit down with my back against a tree, about 20 me­tres from the feeder, and wait for what I hoped would be a steady sup­ply of the grey ver­min. The tree would sup­port my back and also help to break up my sil­hou­ette, whilst my field tar­get cush­ion would pro­vide some com­fort to my bum dur­ing what I hoped would be a long and pro­duc­tive ses­sion.

Full cam­ou­flage cloth­ing, com­bined with gloves and a head net, is an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment for this type of hunt­ing.

“My per­mis­sion of­fers me an es­cape from the pres­sures of fam­ily life and a job that I don’t en­joy”

My FX Cy­clone had been sit­ting un­used at the back of the gun cab­i­net since the loan of a Scor­pion SE from BSA, so I de­cided it was time to get it out for this ses­sion on the squir­rels. The Cy­clone is fit­ted with one of my favourite scopes – the Hawke Sidewinder 4-16 x 50 with the su­perb mil- dot ret­i­cle – and I set the scope to its low­est mag­ni­fi­ca­tion be­cause I wanted a wide field of vi­sion to spot the squir­rels when they ap­proached the feeder.

Hav­ing got my­self com­fort­able, I put a mag­a­zine into the Cy­clone, set the safety, and waited for the wood to set­tle down af­ter the dis­tur­bance caused by my ar­rival. I had left the Pri­mos trig­ger sticks at home be­cause I in­tended to try us­ing the clas­sic field tar­get sit­ting po­si­tion that I’ve seen friends at my club, Mid­shires Marks­man,

use so suc­cess­fully in com­pe­ti­tions. Af­ter about 30 min­utes, I heard a rustling noise in the trees, which I was cer­tain an­nounced the ar­rival of a squir­rel. The squir­rel had run down the back of the tree with the feeder on it, and was cheek­ily eat­ing the grain be­fore I could bring the ri­fle up to the ready po­si­tion. Hav­ing been caught slightly off guard, I took a cou­ple of deep breaths and then brought the scope cross hairs to rest be­tween the squir­rel’s eye and its ear. I took the safety off, gen­tly touched the trig­ger and sent the Air Arms pel­let on its way. The squir­rel dropped off the feeder and thrashed around briefly in the un­der­growth, and when I ex­am­ined the body later, I could see clearly where the pel­let had en­tered its head, caus­ing a quick, hu­mane death. Shortly af­ter­wards, an­other squir­rel joined the first on the ground and I be­gan to feel qui­etly sat­is­fied with the way the ses­sion was go­ing.

We all miss some­times

Un­for­tu­nately, I then had two clean misses in the next hour when fa­tigue started to set in, which made me re­alise that the field tar­get sit­ting po­si­tion is not suit­able for long hunt­ing ses­sions. The fa­tigue com­bined with a full blad­der brought the ses­sion to an end, but I was happy with my re­sults. I had made a small in­dent in the lo­cal grey squir­rel pop­u­la­tion and whilst sit­ting mo­tion­less I had been able to watch a roe deer and its fawn feed­ing in the woods. It is these happy mem­o­ries that get me through the cold, un­pro­duc­tive win­ter months.

Whilst in the West Coun­try, I vis­ited a gun shop that had re­cently opened, Coombe Farm Sport­ing which is based in the Old Pump House, Coombe Farm, Crewk­erne, in Som­er­set. The busi­ness has a mas­sive se­lec­tion of guns, am­mu­ni­tion, shoot­ing ac­ces­sories, coun­try cloth­ing and footwear. It is run by Ju­lian Fair­burn who has over 25 years ex­pe­ri­ence in the gun trade, most re­cently as the Area Sales Man­ager of GMK, the com­pany that im­ports Beretta shot­guns into the UK. As you would ex­pect, the shop had nu­mer­ous high- qual­ity shot­guns on its shelves, in­clud­ing a matched pair of Browning shot­guns cost­ing £ 67,000, but there was also lots to in­ter­est the air ri­fle hunter. The shelves con­tained prod­ucts from all the top PCP man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clud­ing Air Arms, Daystate and Weihrauch.

Ju­lian started his shoot­ing ca­reer with a Relum Tor­nado, pro­gressed to a BSA Air­sporter and now uses a Weihrauch HW 100 KT for pest con­trol. Over a cup of tea, Ju­lian ex­plained that he wants to pro­vide the best-value prod­ucts avail­able to his cus­tomers, in their price brack­ets. There is also a range at the shop where cus­tomers can try out an air ri­fle be­fore they pur­chase it, which I be­lieve is es­sen­tial for any­one think­ing about buy­ing a top- end PCP. The shop is sit­u­ated in the land­scaped grounds of a work­ing or­ganic farm and has plenty of free park­ing. If you are in the area and need to pur­chase any­thing air ri­fle re­lated, I would rec­om­mend that you call into the shop and have a chat with Ju­lian.

“a cou­ple of deep breaths, and then brought the scope cross hairs to rest be­tween the squir­rel’s eye and its ear”

It was great to be able to watch this roe buck feed­ing

My old FX Cy­clone/Hawke Sidewinder combo proved a suc­cess

A very ‘rough and ready’ feeder but it did the job

When am­bush­ing squir­rels a comfy seat is a ne­ces­sity

Ju­lian al­ways has time to share his knowl­edge with his cus­tomers

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