MICK GAR­VEY

SNOW JOKE

Airgun World - - Contents -

Hav­ing spent the last few months night shoot­ing, I have man­aged to ne­glect my gen­eral day­time ver­min con­trol and I think the wood­pi­geon and squir­rel pop­u­la­tion have been un­der the mis­taken be­lief that all was now safe for them to restart their shenani­gans around the wood­lands and crop fields. Well, they have en­joyed their respite, and now it’s time to get back to work.

I’ve spent the last few months spent mostly with the FX Impact and so it was time to give the Wild­cat a run out. The ‘Cat is a supremely ac­cu­rate air­gun and cou­pled with the Hawke Airmax and Air Arms Di­ablo 18 grain pel­lets, I felt I had every­thing cov­ered. I had also de­cided to give my old Jack Pyke ghillie suit an air­ing. It’s made from camo net­ting and burlap strips, so it would pro­vide me with ex­cel­lent cam­ou­flage against the holly bushes where I ex­pected to be spend­ing most of the few hours I had.

First, though, I had to visit the woods to check on the pheas­ant feed­ers, carry out any re­pairs and fill the two feed­ers at each end of the wood, plus the cen­tral ones. I opted not to take the ‘Cat with me, so I could con­cen­trate

on the job in hand and this ended up be­ing a wise de­ci­sion be­cause four of the feed­ers had been torn apart by bad­gers – I’m as­sum­ing. There is a large head of th­ese short-legged om­ni­vores here, and I have pre­vi­ously recorded their ac­tiv­ity with my trail cams around th­ese feed­ers. Tops and bot­toms had been torn off all the low-mounted feed sta­tions, so I was in no doubt of the cul­prit. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t an is­sue with th­ese mem­bers of the mustel­idae fam­ily, quite the op­po­site to be hon­est. I of­ten watch them for hours when out fox­ing with my full­bore out­fit and on more than one oc­ca­sion I have had a bad­ger chase a fox in my di­rec­tion – which is al­ways help­ful.

THEY WERE WATCH­ING!

So, with this for­give­ness in mind, I set about restor­ing the feed­ers back to their for­mer glory. The weather had taken its toll on the hinges. A cou­ple still con­tained grain from my last out­ing, and even worse, some of this grain had man­aged to mu­tate into a sort of sour por­ridge, so a to­tal strip down was nec­es­sary to empty the con­tents.

I had taken spare parts for the re­pairs and luck­ily, the steel-bod­ied ones needed lit­tle at­ten­tion. I knew and could ac­tu­ally feel that I was be­ing watched, and it was like some sort of ‘80s hor­ror movie with the odd rus­tle behind me then a fran­tic flap­ping of wings a pi­geon was spooked by my pres­ence. I sensed move­ment to my left or right, so I’d look up only to see a ghostly, grey ap­pari­tion dis­ap­pear into the sur­round­ing bram­bles and holly

“The odd jay was mak­ing its pres­ence known, along with pi­geons com­ing in”

bushes. They were watch­ing all right, and they knew what I was do­ing. I like to flip the lids and scratch around on the ground as loudly as pos­si­ble, at the same time spread­ing my feeder mix and tread­ing it in. They come to recog­nise th­ese sounds and associate them with the feed I sup­ply, and the only time this could work against me is when they are feed­ing freely and I miss a shot – it does hap­pen! This would associate the feed­ers with dan­ger, but luck­ily, it doesn’t hap­pen too of­ten, and with the equip­ment I have at my dis­posal I’m con­fi­dent it won’t be hap­pen­ing any time soon.

Once every­thing was re­paired, topped up and eased up, I de­cided to give it half an hour in my favourite hide. This place has every­thing; chair, drink shelf, foot rest, leaf-cov­ered trel­lis, a good back­drop behind me from a holly bush, and a per­fectly po­si­tioned gun rest for shots to the feed­ers and over­look­ing beech trees. The odd jay was mak­ing its pres­ence known, along with pi­geons com­ing in to the huge beech trees from a hard day’s feed­ing on the newly sprout­ing rape­seed. I had al­ready de­cided that squir­rels would be my main tar­get the fol­low­ing day, and I had spot­ted a cou­ple play­ing a game of chase fur­ther down the wood. It wouldn’t be long be­fore they found the feed and spread the word to all their mates … I hoped.

PADDY-FIELD CON­DI­TIONS

A nice early start was de­layed by tor­ren­tial rain, and I was glued to the lounge win­dow look­ing for that break in the skies that the weather­man had promised. It came even­tu­ally, and I was off like a shot. I had lost a good three hours, but the tree rats would have been tucked away wait­ing for the same break as me, so it should be all even. The rain had been re­placed by heavy snow flur­ries, but to be hon­est, I don’t mind the snow – it’s much prefer­able to rain, in my book.

The ground was re­ally wa­ter­logged and I had to park up quite a way from my usual spot be­cause the tyres on the truck were not the best for th­ese con­di­tions. I took the long way round, along the hedge line rather than the more di­rect route, and as I ap­proached the stile, I could clearly see a grey feed­ing on one of the re­main­ing pheas­ant feed­ers. I was prob­a­bly around 80 yards away and the lie of the land wasn’t in my favour with its un­du­lat­ing sur­face. There was only one thing for it – a belly crawl to get within a shootable dis­tance, which was go­ing to be nice in pad­dy­field con­di­tions, but that was what had to be done and so the crawl be­gan.

I must have cov­ered 50 yards, pop­ping my head up every so of­ten to check my line of sight, and more im­por­tantly, that my tar­get was still there. It was, and I had a clear shot from around 30 yards, but with no bi­pod it was a case of sup­port­ing the ‘Cat with my left arm, just slightly off the ground. A few quick, short breaths, then an ex­hale, and boom! It was game over for the grey. I watched it fall straight into the spilled feed, with the min­i­mum of twitch­ing. I was smil­ing. I was back and had made my mark with the first shot of the day. Check­ing the shot made me smile again – a per­fect head­shot had taken the squir­rel and switch-off would have been im­me­di­ate.

I climbed the fence and en­tered the wood, caused a small flock of wood­pi­geons to take flight from a nearby beech tree. I stood mo­tion­less and watched as they cir­cled the far end of the wood and set­tled back in an­other beech tree far be­yond my reach, but at least they hadn’t fled the wood com­pletely and I was hope­ful of pick­ing a few off later.

PRIME AREA FOR GREYS

My first stop­ping-off point was the feeder on the wind­ward side. There were signs that the greys had been feed­ing, but af­ter 30 min­utes and no sight­ings, I was off to the lee side where the shel­ter of­fered might en­cour­age them to feed more freely.

No sooner had I ar­rived than my eyes were at­tracted to move­ment above the freshly re­paired feeder. There was a screech like no other bird, and the jay had given away its ex­act po­si­tion. Steadily, I lifted the ‘Cat and

saw the jay take flight, but not away – it went straight to the feeder – and with the cross hairs mo­tion­less on its skull, the Di­ablo was sent for­ward through 35 yards. The jay never knew any­thing about it and fell to the ground with not even a flut­ter. I left it where it had landed and stud­ied the area, wait­ing for more move­ment. This is a prime area for the greys and I just knew they would turn up – it was just a case of be­ing pa­tient. A sound to my right told me that I had vis­i­tors, and when I peered over the top of the bram­bles, I could see a grey, bushy tail held high above the ferns that had died off. Head down, the tree rat was busy dig­ging and mov­ing ever closer to the feeder I had so lov­ingly pre­pared for him. Within sec­onds, he was at the base of the tree, but he didn’t even get to sam­ple the of­fer­ings this time as an­other 18 grains of Air Arms finest was sent his way, and the third kill of the day was se­cured.

Be­fore I could even check over the fallen squir­rel, an­other popped its head up just be­yond the fallen one. It sat and sniffed the air, then ca­su­ally hopped over to check out its mate. I kept the Airmax on the sec­ond squir­rel, loaded an­other pel­let into the bar­rel, squeezed off a shot and an­other was down with an iden­ti­cal head­shot.

LONG SLOW TREK

I let an­other 20 min­utes pass be­fore re­triev­ing my quarry and then moved on to my main hide and the spot where I ex­pected to in­crease my tak­ings by a good amount. I reached into my pocket for a mag’ to re­place the al­most empty one – four shots and a cou­ple of zero checks – be­cause I like to have a full, or nearly full mag’ when set­ting up on a known hot spot. My pock­ets were empty! Fran­ti­cally, I searched every pocket, and any­where else the mag’s may have been, but no they were gone. I was gut­ted. I hate los­ing things, es­pe­cially my shoot­ing gear. Im­me­di­ately, I made the de­ci­sion to retrace my foot­steps to try to find them. I would lose valu­able time, but I needed to find them. I have al­ways been con­fi­dent with the mag’s in my pocket, and never con­sid­ered a mag’ holder. In fact, when I had a Kal­i­brGun Cricket, I ac­tu­ally re­moved the mag’ holder be­cause I was more con­cerned that I would lose them from the holder rather than my pocket. Any­way, I made the long, slow trek back to the truck, luck­ily find­ing my own foot­prints in the snow and mud, but with no luck. I re­traced my foot­steps back to the woods and checked the area where I had crawled for the first squir­rel, again with no luck. I had lost around two hours search­ing for th­ese flip­pin’ mag’s so time was run­ning out. I had three in the bag, along with the jay, which isn’t a bad to­tal, but I knew there were more to be had, and in­deed there was.

EVENING FEAST

Once I’d in­stalled my­self back in the hide, it wasn’t long be­fore the squir­rels started to show for their evening meal. They al­ways come from the same area when com­ing to th­ese feed­ers, either from di­rectly behind, or from the left, and I spot­ted their ap­proach eas­ily through the Quan­tum ther­mal spot­ter. I ended up taking an­other six, plus a pi­geon, be­fore call­ing it a day and mak­ing the slow trek back, again search­ing for the lost mag’s and again, with no luck. So, on sec­ond thoughts, I will be look­ing at a mag’ holder for the ‘Cat. I have seen some al­ready and will be car­ry­ing out some re­search on what’s avail­able. Next stop, the Bri­tish Shoot­ing Show, and by the time you read this, I hope I’ve met loads of you and we’ve all had a fan­tas­tic three days!

Be­tween here and as far as you can see, lay a cou­ple of Wild­cat mag’s.

A 50-yard belly crawl in the snow. Was it worth it? Of course it was!

Things are sprout­ing here in the woods, as well as in the fields.

Run­ning re­pairs on the feed­ers. I think the ‘ghilli­ness’ of the suit has taken root on my face.

This is my hide; there are many like it, but none are the same as my hide!

Four hours’ shoot­ing, and two hours’ lost in search­ing time, for a change of opin­ion.

My comfy hide with all mod cons.

I’d al­most for­got­ten how good th­ese ghillie suits are.

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