JAMIE CHAN­DLER

Jamie Chan­dler asks: Does the size of the bag de­fine our en­joy­ment of the hunt?

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Can you en­joy a day’s hunt­ing with just ‘one for the pot’ as a re­sult? Does the size of the bag af­fect your en­joy­ment?

It seems to me that my wife has a lot of bags. There must be over 15 at cur­rent level, which in our tiny cob cot­tage, means they’re ev­ery­where. Th­ese bags are left dot­ted around the house like well-placed land mines, wait­ing for an un­sus­pect­ing victim – me – to come along and in­evitably find them­selves en­tan­gled in a shoul­der strap, trapped by a clasp, or hit on the head by a fall­ing purse. There are big bags, lit­tle bags, leather, wool and can­vas bags, and all al­legedly have a spe­cific pur­pose or oc­ca­sion, but to be hon­est, I’m pretty sure that she only ever uses one.

To my wife, it might seem the same with me and air­guns, but as we all know and keep telling our­selves, that’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent and far more in- depth than some­thing that you carry your phone in … and your purse, and random bumpf col­lected since the dawn of time. It some­times as­tounds me that some­one who has a far higher in­tel­lect than I could ever hope for, can be­come com­pletely un­stuck by the de­ci­sion on which bag to take to what, and why a new bag seems to be needed for every wed­ding, chris­ten­ing or other ma­jor event. I sup­pose there must be some­thing in it, but it ut­terly passes me by.

Why am I so fix­ated on my wife’s choice of used tis­sue trans­porta­tion? Well, apart from the near loss of a leg, an eye and an al­most fa­tal trip down the stairs in the past week, due to hand ( bag) mines, it seems to me that bag size can and pos­si­bly is, be­com­ing a fix­a­tion for many of us air­gun­ners out there. Just by flick­ing through Face­book groups, we are bom­barded with pho­tos of mul­ti­ples of game, taken with air­guns and claimed to be at some out­landish and oc­ca­sion­ally im­plau­si­ble, if not in­hu­mane dis­tances. In the last cou­ple of months, I have writ­ten about ‘30 rats shot’ and ‘over 20 pi­geons taken from a roost­ing wood’ and per­haps it gives the im­pres­sion that big bags mean bet­ter hunters, which is sim­ply not the case. It flags up some big, eth­i­cal ques­tions and can leave those not hav­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to be trig­ger happy, feel­ing that they are do­ing some­thing wrong in the field.

HEFTY RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY

For me, it all comes down to why I hunt in the first place; I hunt as I hope many of you do, for the pure en­joy­ment of har­vest­ing food. When I head out hunt­ing, my in­ten­tion is to come back with some­thing in the bag for me, or some­one in the vil­lage, to en­joy pre­par­ing for din­ner, not sim­ply to go out killing as many things as I can. Ob­vi­ously, if it’s pest con­trol in or­der to keep a landowner happy, then the more I can show I’m do­ing a good job the bet­ter, but un­less it’s rats or crows, ev­ery­thing I take will be head­ing for the pot some­where, and that has al­ways been my main driver. Tak­ing the life of a sen­tient crea­ture comes with a hefty re­spon­si­bil­ity, not only to en­sure that the shot is hu­mane, but also in what hap­pens af­ter.

An­other ob­vi­ous fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing po­ten­tial bag size is the amount of avail­able game on any spe­cific plot of land. You might have thou­sands of acres to shoot over, but

few wood­lands, a low rab­bit pop­u­la­tion due to myxi or the dread­ful RVHD2 dis­ease that has cer­tainly dec­i­mated some of my nor­mally over-healthy rab­bit pop­u­la­tions, so bag­ging one woodie or stalk­ing one rab­bit would be a great suc­cess in it­self.

You might also be the first per­son to try to solve a rab­bit prob­lem on a few acres of over­run horse pad­docks, of­fer­ing the po­ten­tial for a large amount of shots in a con­fined space on the first few vis­its, and a great deal more po­ten­tial to get a big bag, but cer­tainly with­out the skill and ef­fort re­quired in the pre­vi­ous ex­am­ple.

Again, you might have per­mis­sion to hunt over a golf course, in many ways sim­i­lar to horse pad­docks, where the ver­min pop­u­la­tion is used to liv­ing rel­a­tively close to hu­mans. Again, this is a mas­sive ad­van­tage over a squir­rel drey, or rab­bit war­ren, whose res­i­dents are only aware of hu­mans when they’re be­ing hunted. So, per­haps big­ger bags, like in my ar­ti­cle on roost shoot­ing, are in partly to do with luck and should be en­joyed as ex­cel­lent sport when achieved, but not ex­pected, and if you have no use for the food they pro­vide, shouldn’t be reached for in the first place.

ESSENCE OF AIR­GUN HUNT­ING

If, like me, you are an avid reader of our own Char­lie Portlock’s ar­ti­cles, then you

will have read with bated breath about some of his stalks, tak­ing all af­ter­noon to iden­tify from afar one po­ten­tial rab­bit as a tar­get, then stalk­ing into it us­ing all avail­able cover at his dis­posal, then get­ting a lit­tle closer by watch­ing his prey’s body lan­guage and fi­nally tak­ing a shot. This to me is the ut­ter essence of air­gun hunt­ing. The get­ting out, ob­serv­ing, plan­ning, wait­ing, stalk­ing and fi­nally lin­ing up the shot, are where the real chal­lenge lies; the shot and bagged rab­bit is al­most a byprod­uct or re­ward for the ef­fort made.

One ex­am­ple of ‘mas­sive ef­fort, small bag, huge re­ward’ hunt­ing came the other day when I was out with my trusty BSA Light­en­ing XL SE af­ter a call from the farm man­ager, de­mand­ing help with rab­bits on a cer­tain field mar­gin. The field was quite re­mote and the ground far too wet to get near with the car. Af­ter walk­ing some way over heavy, wa­ter­logged soil, I could see four rab­bits feed­ing com­fort­ably in the mar­gin and at the field edge. It was 4.30 in the af­ter­noon and all my ‘good bag’ bells were chim­ing.

I tar­geted the clos­est and very care­fully stalked in, keep­ing as close to the hedge and us­ing shadow as much as I could, freez­ing when­ever the rab­bit or any of its com­pan­ions raised their heads. It was slow, adrenalin-pump­ing, mus­cle-aching stuff, but af­ter 20 min­utes, I was within 40 yards and kneel­ing, slipped the Light­ning off my shoul­der for my fi­nal ap­proach. One of the rab­bits caught the move­ment and all four bolted to the hedge and out of sight. I moved silently for­ward 10 yards and sat up, wait­ing with ex­pec­ta­tion of a reap­pear­ance. Noth­ing, not so much as twitch came from the bushes and so I walked off the cramp by head­ing back to the car, keep­ing my eye out for op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Nearly at the car I watched a pi­geon land on a branch some 50 yards away. I froze; I was in the open and in plain sight. I silently dropped to a knee and ever so, ever so slowly started to knee crawl, clos­ing the dis­tance, ex­pect­ing the pi­geon to lift at any mo­ment. I got to about 30 yards, knees aching from the crawl, re­gained my breath and watched the pi­geon, still turned away from me. I raised the Light­ning, over the moon that the safety was silent, and aimed dead on the pi­geon’s shoul­der blades. A slight nudge, a ‘ thunk’, and a dropped pi­geon bought the drama to a close and I re­trieved my prize. Five hours out, two truly in­tense stalks and one, rather small pi­geon to show for it, and I was de­lighted.

It just shows that with air­guns, it’s the ef­fort you put in that de­fines the out­come. A mas­sive ef­fort and a small bag gives just as much joy as lit­tle ef­fort and a big bag. Ask my wife, she can tell you all about bags!

Drop­ping to one knee I stayed still and hoped not to have been seen

De­spite the steep an­gle my shot was true

Stalk­ing just one pi­geon was all that was on of­fer that day

Trig­ger con­trol is vi­tal to any sucess­ful shot

I still love us­ing a break- bar­rel springer

Per­haps one pi­geon might seem small bag but I was sat­is­fied Horse pad­docks full of rab­bits can make for easy work

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