THIRSTY WORK

Mick Gar­vey ac­cepts an in­vi­ta­tion from a reader – and has a tree-men­dous day’s hunt­ing

Airgun World - - Contents - MICK GAR­VEY

Back in May at the bril­liant North­ern Shoot­ing Show, I had the plea­sure of meet­ing and chat­ting with a few read­ers. Steve was one in par­tic­u­lar, and he lived rel­a­tively close to me in Der­byshire. I passed on some ad­vice re­gard­ing his squirrel shoot­ing and he ac­tu­ally in­vited me to a day’s shoot­ing with him, which I ea­gerly ac­cepted. I find it so in­ter­est­ing to see how oth­ers carry out their pest con­trol, from feed­ing to hide build­ing, and also how the species act on dif­fer­ent per­mis­sions.

Within weeks, the call came from Steve. Firstly, he thanked me for the ad­vice, which he had fol­lowed and he told me that his tree rat num­bers had in­creased from tens to high teens. Ob­vi­ously, this got me champ­ing at the bit for some of the ac­tion, and we agreed that I would make the 45-minute jour­ney the fol­low­ing week­end. We stayed in con­tact be­fore­hand, and Steve brought me up to date with all the events of the week, in­clud­ing what he’d been feed­ing, what the ac­tiv­ity had been, and how the feed­ers were emp­ty­ing rapidly. It was great to be in con­tact with some­one who has a sim­i­lar en­thu­si­asm for the job, and we built up a good rap­port be­tween us over that week.

IM­PRES­SIVE DIF­FER­ENCE

I de­cided to use the sub-12 ft.lbs Im­pact in .177, with the fixed 10x Sidewinder for the day, and I spent a few hours at South York­shire Shoot­ing Club – the Idle­back shoot­ing chair peo­ple – check­ing the zero and pel­let test­ing. For some un­known rea­son, the Im­pact ap­peared to be clip­ping, and a strip-down of the shroud re­vealed marks from the pel­let on the end cap. I re­moved the in­nards from the shroud and fit­ted the end cap from my un­used .25 Im­pact shroud and this sorted the prob­lem.

I also tried the Air Arms Di­ablo pel­lets in 4.51 against my usual 4.52, and the

“we sat in the gar­den with the early morn­ing sun­light stream­ing down on us”

dif­fer­ence was im­pres­sive. The group­ing with the larger Di­ab­los was ex­cel­lent, but the smaller di­am­e­ter edged it suf­fi­ciently for me to make the change. The 35-yard range at SYSC was set up with a .177 com­pe­ti­tion prac­tice tar­get and the re­sults spoke for them­selves.

I also had time to talk with Trevor, the man be­hind the Idle­back chair, and the staff, and I have to say what a great, friendly place! The up­stairs is now com­plete with an­other set of lanes to com­ple­ment the down­stairs lanes, and there’s a well-stocked shop with ev­ery­thing you need, from scopes to guns to pel­lets, a very en­tic­ing cafe with plenty of food choice, and an ex­cel­lent sup­ply of shoot­ing mag­a­zines. It makes me yearn for rainy days when I can come here in­stead of get­ting soaked in the field. With ev­ery­thing in tip-top work­ing or­der, I was ready for the shoot-out with Steve, and after I’d sent an email to ASI re­gard­ing a health check-up for the shroud, I was happy.

GUIDE PO­SI­TION

Steve met me on his drive­way with the of­fer of a ba­con sand­wich, and we sat in the gar­den with the early morn­ing sun­light stream­ing down on us. It was go­ing to be a hot one, for sure. We dis­cussed the com­ing day and the tac­tics we would de­ploy. Steve was keen for me to do all the shoot­ing, although he was

tak­ing his trusty HW110, in case we were over­run with the skin­nies. It seems the norm these days, for the per­mis­sion holder to do this. I have done it my­self, and on the many oc­ca­sions when I’ve been in­vited out, the host is al­ways keen to take more of a guide po­si­tion, and quite of­ten the day doesn’t stack up to ex­pec­ta­tions – which is a con­cern for the host. Steve had been hav­ing some great days re­cently, with a day’s best of 19 skin­nies, but was con­fi­dent that there were plenty still in the area be­cause the feed­ers were be­ing emp­tied in rel­a­tively short time. Hav­ing said that, I knew he was feel­ing the pres­sure about the day pro­duc­ing some good hunt­ing.

“It’s never ever a prob­lem,” I told him. “Just be­ing out here is enough.” My stan­dard re­ply, as you know!

SOME­THING SPE­CIAL

The drive from my host’s house to the per­mis­sion was short, but the area was beau­ti­ful and even at this early hour the tem­per­a­ture was be­gin­ning to soar. The woodland is very se­cluded and try­ing to find it by my­self would have been a prob­lem, but after work­ing our way through a cou­ple of gates and down a wind­ing track, we ar­rived. We loaded our­selves up with our kit and set off in the di­rec­tion of the first hide.

Now, this was some­thing spe­cial, Steve had quite ob­vi­ously spent a lot of time check­ing out the land here, to pick the per­fect spot for his hides and feed­ers, us­ing known dreys as the epi­cen­tre of each area. The feed­ers were very sim­i­lar to my own, but with an open top at the front to al­low ac­cess to the feed in­side. There was also a large feed­ing area at­tached to the base of the feeder to al­low the greys to sit in com­fort whilst gorg­ing. The feed­ers had been topped up with a good mix of maize, wheat, sun­flower seeds along with my rec­om­men­da­tion of peanuts, and it was quite ob­vi­ous there had been plenty of ac­tiv­ity re­cently with the scat­tered feed all over the place. The squir­rels will go for the peanuts first, but as my trail cams have shown me, they will then turn to the other feed items, and the con­stant ar­rival of feed­ing songbirds is a great at­trac­tor for not just the squir­rels, but

“The heat was be­com­ing in­tense, es­pe­cially in the hide, and my wa­ter sup­ply was be­ing hit”

jays and corvids that are in the area and watch­ing.

The hides are an­other thing of beauty, fully en­closed with in­tri­cate trel­lis work made from the many fallen branches from the woods, and we ac­tu­ally laughed out loud when we saw there was a bird’s nest in­side. The outer cover was just a tarp’, but over the years it had be­come part of the woodland, with leaves and var­i­ous other fo­liage set­tling on it. All in all, it was a very good set-up and Steve had ob­vi­ously put plenty of thought into this area of his hunt­ing.

DULY DIS­PATCHED

It was time to get on with the shoot­ing, so we both sat in the hide, I was as­sured that 7.20am was the guar­an­teed ar­rival time, but to­day must have been a lie-in day be­cause the first thing to ar­rive was a jack­daw at 7.35am. This was duly dis­patched with a sim­ple head­shot at around 25 yards.

An­other 30 min­utes passed be­fore the first skinny turned up for break­fast, and I had the crosshairs of the Sidewinder im­me­di­ately on its skull. This is where Steve and I dif­fer; I pre­fer to take the shot as quickly as pos­si­ble and be ready for the next one, whereas Steve has a more laid-back ap­proach and waits un­til the squirrel set­tles with its food – both meth­ods equally ef­fi­cient, just dif­fer­ent sides of the same coin, I guess. Any­way this was dropped on the spot then it all went a lit­tle quiet.

NO DRAMA

A move to the next feeder was on the cards and it was ob­vi­ous im­me­di­ately that there were more here than on the pre­vi­ous one. They were com­ing down the tree to the feed sta­tion, and I was strug­gling to see them be­cause the seat was set up for Steve, who is some­what shorter than me. No drama, though – my host was on it and I had a run­ning com­men­tary on the ar­rival of the next three tree rats. All I had to do was wait for them to show in the din­ing area. Three con­sec­u­tive shots saw the three drop; one rolled into a small stream ad­ja­cent to the feeder, one landed be­hind the tree, and one fell flat on its face on the feed tray. Steve was very happy, to say the least, and the ex­cite­ment in his voice was hard to ig­nore.

LOST HIT

The heat was be­com­ing in­tense, es­pe­cially in the hide, and my wa­ter sup­ply was be­ing hit hard. We de­cided on an­other move, back to area one, but we had lost the skinny be­hind the tree. We’d heard some com­mo­tion ear­lier from crows and jack­daws up in the canopy, and won­dered if a fox had been round and taken the fallen tree rat. It has hap­pened to me be­fore, and to Steve, so we marked that as a lost hit, but back at the first area, we took an­other two skin­nies and to top the day off, two jays. This made my host’s day be­cause he’s never taken more than one in a ses­sion.

In sum­mary, the heat af­fected the day’s hunt­ing, but not spoiled it. We took six skin­nies, two jays and a jack­daw, and we en­joyed the day im­mensely and chat­ted con­stantly. Maybe next time we will cover both hides si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and hit the greys even harder. We met up with the landowner and he was amazed by how well we had done in the heat. I was told I was wel­come back any time with my host. We dropped off the day’s tak­ings at a lo­cal bird-of-prey cen­tre and I was in­formed later that week that they were over the moon with them. An­other great day, with ev­ery­thing shot at be­ing dropped and an­other in­vi­ta­tion to pi­geon shoot over cut wheat and bar­ley with de­coys – Steve as my host. I sim­ply can­not wait! I

First one to break­fast.

My view was lim­ited, but I had ex­tra eyes to­day.

Enough feed for a feast.

A must for ev­ery feed sta­tion.

Hous­ton ... we have a lodger.

Gotcha!

Mine host and his Teu­tonic HW110.

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