... in teaching mode
“I spent the next 60 minutes explaining the dos and don’ts of airgun shooting”
Ihave to say, the last few weeks have been incredibly frustrating because of the terrible weather we have been experiencing. I have spoken to a few shooters, including our very own Phil Hardman, and the persistent rain has delayed the harvest and subsequent decoying over the stubble fields for just about all of us. My fields in particular haven’t come close to being cut and although it will happen it is still disheartening, especially when you see hoards of woodpigeons sitting statue-like on telephone lines, and tree lines, as if gathering for the feast, but I’m hoping that soon the crops will be cut and we’ll all have bumper bags off the stubble.
An old friend and ex-neighbour, Mark, wants to get into airgunning with his young son, so he contacted me and asked if I could help him with introducing Elliott to the world of airgun hunting, and general outdoorsman activities. I told him that this would not be a problem. I actually relished the opportunity to bring new blood to our sport, and as it happened, they were not the only two.
Working to a budget when finding a good multi-shot PCP set-up was going to be difficult, and the top-of-the-range guns, such as the FX Wildcat and Impact, were out of the question, although once the airgun fever sets in I wouldn’t rule them out for the future.
We decided on the Artemis P15, the latest offering from SMK. It has seen some great reviews recently on the beloved Facebook, and for the price who can argue? The set-up was completed with a Leapers scope, and finally a dive bottle from SDS in Sheffield who must be working at a loss when you look at the price of their complete kits.
A farmer, who I shoot for, also contacted me with the same request for his wife, who wanted to turn her attention to the rat population that had taken residence in the chicken coops, so I recommended the same dive bottle, along with a Photon XT from Scott Country International, and once set up, I handed another P15 to the second pair of happy customers. I will be keeping you informed on how the ratting goes because I will be joining them on a few sessions very soon.
Mark, Elliott and I had zeroed the new set-up at the local SDS range the day before our planned outing, and they were really impressed; £1 coin-sized groups at 23 yards is good for first-time shooters, and they went home excited about the following day.
When I got back, my neighbour popped her head over the fence and told me that her two grandsons had been watching from the bedroom window when I’d been setting up the Photon, and Connor – the eldest – just kept saying over and over, “I wish … I wish …”
“Send them round.” I told her, and before I had even set up the target, the doorbell was ringing.
Connor, along with his younger brother, Callum, stood there all wide-eyed and excited. I was impressed with their enthusiasm and led them to the back garden where I spent the next 60 minutes explaining the dos and don’ts of airgun shooting. They listened intently and I
knew that they’d taken everything in, as had Mark and Elliott earlier. The next hour saw them rattling off a few mags through the sub-12 .177 Impact, with some pretty impressive results, and this reminded me of how good the Impact was compared to the new kid on the block, the P15, and how it was going to take something very special to replace it. To be honest, I don’t see anything on the horizon.
I took the opportunity to visit my woods that afternoon, and fill a few feeders in the hope of luring in a squirrel or two. Now, I have said before that rabbits are at a premium on my permission, but they have been making a bit of a welcome comeback recently, and as I crested a slight rise, I spotted two hares with what I thought was a young hare, a leveret, but no – it was a decent-sized rabbit and sitting perfectly sideways on at 40 yards. I had the .177 Impact, and once I had loaded the magazine it was a formality for the 8.4 grain Air Arms pellet, and with the slightest of kicks, a beauty of a rabbit was down. Within five minutes I had another in the Sidewinder’s crosshairs, and the Impact didn’t disappoint, making it two from two in five, and a happy hunter. I filled the feeders, and with no sign of any grey menaces I headed home to prep the rabbits.
Sunday saw me up at silly o’clock and with the Hilux loaded I set off to pick up my two guests. I had already made the landowners aware that I wouldn’t be alone; they are very particular about who shoots on the land because there have been few people shooting hares, which is a big no-no here and rightly so, in my book, they’re magnificent animals that create little damage to this land.
After running though the boundary lines and safe backdrops with my pupils, I led them through the woodland to my new hide overlooking my favourite feeder area. I sat with the guys for a few minutes and explained where to expect the squirrels to appear. Mark really wanted to bag a rabbit and Elliott was just happy to be out with his father and me, and maybe get the chance for a shot or two at some vermin. Elliott was eager to tell me that he was a black belt in karate and his mum was one of the instructors at his club; this was quite interesting because I used to do a bit myself back in the day, but that was a while ago and not to be revisited any time soon – if at all. I left the duo to it, happy in the knowledge that they were 100% safe, and trekked between two other feed areas at both extremes of the wood, hoping to pick off a tree rat or two.
I was to be disappointed because nothing showed itself. The trees were full of pigeons, but with the heavy foliage it was virtually impossible to spot them unless you saw one come in. I did manage to drop a jay that had been calling for a while and landed on my feeder once it thought the coast was clear – you have to be very sparing with movement when waiting on jays because they are alert at all times.
I was on my way to the next area when I heard a shot from the hide, but I could tell that it was a miss. As I approached the hide as stealthily as possible, I could see that Mark still had the scope to his eye, which I took as him still having the target in his sight. He briefly looked sideways to me, nodded, and I returned the gesture and checked the area in front of him. I could just make out a grey sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree and then I heard the shot and witnessed the tree rat fall stone dead to the ground.
They were both eager to check out the kill, but I had to hold them back until I could guarantee it was indeed dead. Too many times, I’ve seen an assumed lifeless squirrel take a bite at an unsuspecting hunter,
resulting in vicious damage to one of their pinkies. Once death had been confirmed, they couldn’t wait for a few pictures and it was whilst we were doing this that a pigeon landed plainly in view around 20 yards away in a hazel tree. As quietly as possible, we set up Elliott with a straightforward shot between the shoulder blades, and the pigeon never knew what hit it, obviously preoccupied with the newly sprouted hazel nuts scattered on the floor below. It now occurred to me why the squirrels hadn’t shown in numbers – they had been feeding on the hazels and preferred these to my bait. Maybe, I’ll increase the amount of peanuts in the mix to get them coming, this might be a while, though, because the harvest shooting will keep me occupied soon, I hope.
Mark was beaming with his first kill and explained that the reason he had missed the first shot was that Elliott had hiccoughed, so the grey had bolted from right to left and then stopped to check out the noise. It sounded like a typical F1 driver’s excuse to me, but at least he hadn’t wounded it – a miss is better than wounding, any day. Once his squirrel had been stashed in his bag to show to his wife and daughter, we set off happy with the couple of hours spent in the woods. The company had been great, and I felt like I was helping a young lad to grow towards becoming a hunter. We crested the same rise as I had the day before and I spotted a couple of ears poking above the long grass. “Rabbit,” I called, and pointed it out. We had the P15 single-loaded and the cross hairs on our quarry in double-quick time. The 16 grain Air Arms Diablo that I had also recommended hit home, and Mark’s dream came true. He had got his rabbit and I had introduced six people to our sport ... doesn’t get much better than that! I
My two protégées for the day.
A bit of time on the range will pay dividends.
The natural hazel nuts are hard to beat.
Elliott certainly looked the part.
Kung fu ninja.
It’s not all about the shooting, there’s prepping too. If you shoot it you have to be prepared to prep it.
Two for the sub-12 Impact/Sidewinder in .177.