Dave Barham

Dave is forced to post­pone a long-awaited squir­rel-hunt­ing trip, but finds in­spi­ra­tion in the Pound Shop in­stead

Airgun World - - Contents -

There I was, sit­ting at my desk when my pri­vate mes­sen­ger sprung into ac­tion. It was my old mate, Mick Ball, ask­ing me if I fan­cied help­ing him to clear a few squir­rels from one of his per­mis­sions. Need­less to say, I jumped at the chance, but un­for­tu­nately I ended up jump­ing just a tad too high on this oc­ca­sion.

Af­ter our lit­tle con­ver­sa­tion I went down to my shed to dig out a few es­sen­tials for the fol­low­ing day’s shoot, and whilst I was shift­ing a cou­ple of large boxes, I felt my back go ‘ping’. Nooo! Not now! As I stood up, I felt an elec­tric shock of pain course through my lower back and I knew in­stantly that I wouldn’t be go­ing shoot­ing the next day.

You see, I have a re­cur­ring back prob­lem, which flares up with­out warn­ing a cou­ple of times per year. It all be­gan when I was just 18 years old, whilst dig­ging bait for a boat-fishing trip. I was strad­dling a bait hole, with a hefty iron fork full of mud, when I turned to dump it on the mud be­side me. Sud­denly, one of the ten­dons in my lower back gave way. I left my bait bucket and fork where they lay, and had to crawl on my hands and knees for nearly half a mile back to the beach. That episode put me in bed for eight days, the pain was ex­cru­ci­at­ing, and I’ve never fully re­cov­ered.

It was just bleedin’ typ­i­cal that it de­cided to play up the day be­fore a very much-needed hunt­ing trip. I crawled up­stairs to my pit, necked some painkillers and Di­clofenac, then PM’d Mick to tell him my bad news.


The next evening, Mick called me and told me how his day had gone.

“You must have known, mate, I only man­aged to shoot one squir­rel. I think they’ve been shot at be­fore, Dave. They were very twitchy and ex­tremely wary,” he told me.

Well, that got me think­ing about a trip I’d made to Texas many years ago. I was stay­ing with a fam­ily friend in a huge house in the mid­dle of nowhere, with more trees and squir­rels than you could shake a shoot­ing stick at. There were loads of what looked like bird feed­ers dot­ted around the tree­tops, and af­ter a cou­ple of days ob­ser­va­tion I dis­cov­ered that they were, in fact, squir­rel feed­ers. They were all home-made, and Rick, the guy I was stay­ing with, told me that he’d put them up years ago in or­der to keep the pop­u­la­tion down with his trusty .22 rim­fire - that was some ri­fle, I can tell you, it held about 20 rounds in a tube mag­a­zine! Those squir­rels were ex­tremely con­fi­dent af­ter years of feed­ing, and I won­dered if it would work over here on Mick’s per­mis­sion. That would be my mission as soon as I could get out of bed again.


A cou­ple of days later, I was up and about, al­beit still in a lot of pain, and hunched over like Quasi­modo. I hob­bled down the gar­den and found an old deck­ing board, then grabbed a saw, some screws and my elec­tric screw­driver, then hob­bled back to my bench.

A quick search of Google on my iPad soon had a dozen or more pic­tures up with the ex­act type of feeder I was look­ing to build, and from there I just winged it and made it all up as I went along. I’m re­ally happy with the re­sult, and I can’t wait to see if the squir­rels take to it. For now, un­til I can get over to shoot with Mick, I’ve put it up in my mate Jim’s gar­den – where there are three grey squir­rels that visit reg­u­larly. You can’t get a bet­ter field test than that.


1 x deck­ing plank 1 x sheet of clear plas­tic / per­spex 1 x 3-inch hinge 1 x sanding block or pa­per Screws


Step 1 Mea­sure a 10-inch length of board and mark it out square, us­ing the square on your saw for ac­cu­racy.


With a fine-tooth saw, slowly cut the board to size. (I’m glad I could sit down for this bit). Then re­peat the process to give you two 10-inch sec­tions.

“only been up for a day and the squir­rels started to use it”


Sand the cut end with a sanding block to re­move any sharp edges or splin­ters.


Mark out a sec­tion mea­sur­ing 6in by 4.5in, cut it out, then flip the deck­ing board over and use that piece as a tem­plate to mark out an­other.


Flip­ping the board will en­sure that you have both side sec­tions of the box with match­ing pat­terns. It’s im­por­tant to make sure that they look ex­actly like this, so the large grooves sit on the in­side of the box.


That’s the saw­ing done for now. You should have four pieces that look like this.


Be­gin as­sem­bly by screw­ing the back­plate to the base. Use a thin drill bit first, to make pi­lot holes in or­der to stop the board from split­ting.


Make sure your screws are long enough to go a good way into the board. I used two-inch-long screws for added se­cu­rity.


Three screws should be enough to se­cure the base to the back­plate.


Now it’s time to add the sides. Again, us­ing drilling pi­lot holes be­fore putting the screws in.


Re­peat this process with the other side, putting three screws in each piece on the back­plate and base for se­cu­rity.


Grab your­self a large wood bit. This will be used to drill a hole at the top of the back­plate.


Drill a hole in the cen­tre to­wards the top of the back­plate. This can be used to hang the feeder from a hook in a tree.


Mea­sure the dis­tance be­tween the grooves on the in­side of the box, al­low­ing a tiny bit ex­tra so that the front can slide into it, then mea­sure the depth.


I didn’t want to buy a whole sheet of

Plex­i­glass for £20, so I bought this tub from the pound shop – re­sult!


Mark out the front di­men­sions on the clear plas­tic, and cut it with a Stan­ley knife whilst us­ing your saw as a guide. NEVER use a plas­tic ruler for this, or you could lose a few dig­its.


Slide the clear front into the grooves and you’re al­most done. It’s a good idea to cut three or four front sec­tions, just in case of any stray pel­lets when shoot­ing.


Now it’s time for the lid. I had this old piece of pine cladding in my shed, which is lighter than the deck­ing board – it makes it eas­ier for the squir­rel to lift it up. Mark it out with ¼” over­lap on each side.


Cut the lid out, sand it down and then at­tach the hinge to the top.


At­tach the other side of the hinge to the back­plate of the feeder and you’re done.


You can buy a big bag of peanuts like this from most ‘cheap’ shops. This one cost £3.99 for two ki­los.


Lift the lid of your feeder and fill it right up with peanuts. That’s it, a job well done.


I’d only had my home­made feeder up for a day and the squir­rels started to use it, so lift­ing that lid is no prob­lem for those wily tree rats. Now to make full and con­struc­tive use of my feeder!

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