A GREY DAY
Russel Webb is helping out on a pheasant shoot
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.
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