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Ifind my­self set­ting about this month’s write-up with a sad and heavy heart be­cause a very good farmer friend has passed away un­ex­pect­edly. John Sav­age gave me one of my first per­mis­sions and, with­out doubt, I have en­joyed so much suc­cess on this land. John was very in­spi­ra­tional to me and for many oth­ers. He had en­dured se­vere set­backs as a young man, but fought back with un­ri­valled tenac­ity to make his fam­ily name one of the big­gest in the area. The fact that the Bakewell mar­ket held a twominute si­lence in his hon­our speaks vol­umes for the man. No one had a bad word for John and I lost count of the times when I stood chat­ting with him whilst he sat in his Range Rover over­see­ing his grand­sons and great­grand­sons work­ing the fields. I wish I could have one last chat with him.


One last­ing mem­ory I have is when I was in­vited to a pheas­ant shoot, and de­spite all the ad­vice from the grand­sons I was not get­ting any­where near the birds – shot­guns just weren’t my thing then. On the last drive of the day, John came and parked by me and asked me what the prob­lem was. “Just strug­gling to con­vert from ri­fle to shot­gun,” I said. Well, af­ter a five-minute talk on how he’d deal with this par­tic­u­lar stand, I was ready and I soon had a rather high bird in my sights. Lead­ing the pheas­ant with just the right amount, I let rip and stood open-mouthed as the last bird of the day fell two feet away from John’s car door. We both cracked up laugh­ing and it was de­cided later that this shot was the best of the day. I have never for­got­ten that ad­vice and my shot­gun shoot­ing has im­proved since then, but George Dig­weed has noth­ing to worry about.

I’d like to take this opportunity to let John’s fam­ily know that my thoughts are with them at this time. He was a man amongst men and, as I said be­fore, an in­spi­ra­tion to many. Thanks John, for ev­ery­thing.


With th­ese thoughts still run­ning through my mind, I de­cided to go back to the very first day that I shot on John’s land, that I called the ‘killing fields’ be­cause it al­ways pro­duced plenty of sport. I had de­cided to by­pass the squir­rel feed­ers and hides and tread the route I used to take years ago, which meant sit­ting out un­der trees over­look­ing known squir­rel haunts and maybe pick­ing off a few pi­geons. I ar­rived at the brow of the hill with the slight breeze in my face and was de­cid­ing which path to take when the gate at the bot­tom opened gen­tly with a small gust of wind; ‘a sign’, I thought, maybe I was be­ing guided to the best area.

The smell of spring was in the air, beau­ti­ful and sweet. I re­ally love this time of year when ev­ery­thing is start­ing to come back to life. Daf­fodils were in full bloom, blue­bells were start­ing to show and all this growth was mask­ing the old, crunchy, fallen leaves from last year so my progress through the wood was silent and I felt as if I was al­most glid­ing through the path­ways. I had hoped the beech trees would be sprout­ing their leaves, but no, not yet. Pi­geons and squir­rels love th­ese leaves, and the ac­tion can be non-stop once they have the

taste. I spot­ted many pi­geons get­ting jiggy with each other and man­aged to pick one off as it chased its cho­sen mate though the up­per reaches of the beech trees. The fa­mil­iar thud of pi­geon hit­ting the ground was all the ‘wel­come back’ I needed, I’ll never tire of that sound.


Since be­ing here last, a lot has hap­pened to this lit­tle wood, namely storm dam­age. I used to sit un­der a huge beech tree that had great el­e­vated views to­ward a pheas­ant feeder and the squir­rel runs to the left. The storms had taken down an­other large beech tree from half­way up the trunk, and it had fallen di­rectly where I used to sit, which could have been nasty, so this van­tage point was now use­less and I had to sort my­self a new spot. There seemed to be a lot of light com­ing through the tree­tops and it wasn’t un­til I breasted the slight in­cline that I saw an­other fallen bough. This time it was a two-foot di­am­e­ter bough that had fallen onto an­other tree, al­most up­root­ing the sec­ond one, but form­ing a sort of nat­u­ral bridge be­tween the two still stand­ing trees.

I even­tu­ally found a nice spot where I could get com­fort­able and have a com­mand­ing view over my cho­sen area. I knew the squir­rels would be there, due to the give­away drey, which I could see was def­i­nitely this year’s model. I had even toyed with the idea of break­ing out the old .177 Theoben Mk1 Rapid that used to grace th­ese woods years ago, but thought bet­ter of it be­cause it prob­a­bly needs a ser­vice and a whole set of ‘O’ rings, so the .25 Im­pact was the cho­sen ri­fle once again, and I don’t think I have a bet­ter gun in the cabi­net.


I had been scan­ning the tree­tops with the Air­max for around 15 min­utes when I had the feel­ing some­thing was above me, and as I slowly looked up, there was a tiny, young squir­rel about three feet up on a slen­der branch. There was no chance of get­ting a shot that close so I just watched it scratch­ing and clean­ing it­self, and it even­tu­ally scarpered up the tree when I reached for the cam­era. This wasn’t all bad be­cause it was now clear that the ‘ju­vies’ were out of the fam­ily home and mak­ing their own way in life.

I re­sumed my search with the scope and found my­self face-on with an­other young­ster. This time it was sit­ting at the base of an oak

tree, around 40 yards away, and even through the scope set on 10x mag., the head looked tiny and I took a cou­ple of ex­tra looks over the top of the Im­pact be­fore tak­ing the shot. I re­ally needn’t have wor­ried be­cause the Air Arms Di­ablo smashed its way through the skull, killing it with im­me­di­ate ef­fect – the first young­ster of the year. This was fol­lowed by an­other young squir­rel from the same tree, but around half­way up. This too dropped life­less to the ground – both were males.

The weather was im­prov­ing all the time and I was down to my thin fleece and gilet, which seemed to blend in quite well with the chang­ing fo­liage; Feather­lite tech­ni­cal trousers and wellies fin­ished off the out­fit and at no stage did I feel cold or sweaty, which shows how im­por­tant it is to get the lay­er­ing right.

Af­ter pick­ing off a huge, male squir­rel from some holly bushes, I de­cided to stretch my legs and see what else was around. There are many pheas­ants left over from last sea­son and get­ting close to them for a few photos proved rel­a­tively easy. I even got to see a blue tit pluck­ing fur from one of my stashed squir­rels, ob­vi­ously tak­ing it for nest­ing ma­te­rial – and an­other fox, which I’m hop­ing to be tak­ing care of at a later date.

I found an­other van­tage point that gave me a prone po­si­tion to shoot from, and it wasn’t long be­fore I saw move­ment against the sky­line. I tracked the squir­rel from around 100 yards out and was treated to some im­pres­sive ac­ro­bat­ics from the adult grey be­fore hav­ing to cut his per­for­mance short. I had been hop­ing for more wood­ies, but they must have been feed­ing on one of the re­cently ploughed fields a few miles away, maybe they’d be back to roost.


Babs, my long-suf­fer­ing bet­ter half, would be com­ing over later and I wanted to get all wrapped up in readi­ness for her to help me with some photos. She was bring­ing Zeva Blue with her, too, be­cause he loves a run around the woods and fields. This new po­si­tion looked to be the best place and be­fore long I had taken an­other two well-fed wood­pi­geons, giv­ing me three al­to­gether, and four greys, and just as the last one fell, Babs ar­rived with the cam­era and Zeva.

Hav­ing taken care of the pho­tog­ra­phy she was off home, but not be­fore telling me to stay for as long as I wanted. Well, that will do me fine; she could be a keeper un­less she reads this and then I’ll be a goner! All jok­ing apart, she sup­ports me 100% with ev­ery­thing I do and is al­ways with me at ev­ery show that I at­tend.

I stayed for an­other hour or so and man­aged to take an­other three squir­rels, one of which was an­other young­ster and they were all males, as were all the oth­ers from to­day, but with my cam­era and tri­pod gone I had to make do with the phone cam­era for the fi­nal photos.

For John ... you are sadly missed.

Above: Storm dam­age to my old shoot­ing area.

Above: My good friend, John, and his grand­son, Tom.

Above: Storm dam­age to my old shoot­ing area.

Pheas­ants ga­lore.

Above: Zeva get­ting in on the act.

Above: Young­ster feed­ing.

Above: Ac­ro­bat­ics up high.

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