The Clay Menace
Jamie Chandler wins a new permission, the hard way
Jamie Chandler takes advice from a fortune cookie and gains a new permission
AChinese fortune cookie once told me, ‘ If you only look to the front, you miss more than you see’. Whether you believe in Chinese proverbs covered in a crispy baked shell or not, when it comes to airgunning, I think the wise words of mass-manufactured goodness spoke the truth. Apart from the obvious benefit to looking around when out hunting, we have all spent time and patience treading the well-weathered path up farm driveways, through golf club entrances and into stable offices looking for shooting opportunities and leaving rejected. It turns out there are other ways, and those yummy, biscuit- covered words can work here as well.
Along with airguns, I also love my shotgun and run an inter-pub clay shoot that attracts about 40 guns. We’ve shot at various grounds, but really love the chilled atmosphere, amazing views and continually changing trap challenges of exEngland shooter and fantastic host, Des Sturgess’ Acorn Shooting School. Des also runs a famous driven shoot on the estate, that produces 250 - 350 bird days for those with deep pockets, and over the last few months I have also hounded him for tips on how I can improve my own interpretation of shooting.
During a discussion on our second visit in June, Des had to disappear to change a trap cable. When he returned, he grumbled to an employee that, ‘ the rabbits have chewed through another cable.’ Instead of going in straight away with, ‘ I can help’, I decided to let mutual trust build further - patience can be prove rewarding.
Meanwhile, at the CLA in July I met Edward King from ASI, importer of FX Airguns, and through a discussion of my passion for another of their brands, AYA shotguns, thought I would ask if I could have a try of an FX rifle. Keen to ensure that I got the best option, even with my missing fingers and left-handedness, Edward offered the FX Cyclone with tactical stock in .22.
This seemed the perfect time to
“The rabbits where clearly running a fair distance to chomp through Des’s cables”
approach Des about his wire-loving rabbits. After an initial wariness based on an airgunner Des had let on once, who turned out to be more interested in running dogs (my thanks to you for making it harder for the rest of us), Des gave me the green light, based on my visits with the clay shoot, and the fact that I knew some of the guys who worked on the 2000-plus acre estate for which Des has the shooting rights. With Des showing me around and following the rabbit runs, we noticed that they went from the clay ground into a hedge on the neighbouring stables on one side, and some water meadows on another. The rabbits where clearly running a fair distance to chomp through Des’s cables, but neither he nor I could find any burrows bordering the clay ground itself. With secondary permission agreed with the stables, and Des placing boundaries on a ‘one time trial’ basis, the hunt day was set!
I’d zeroed the Cyclone at my regular permission, and although never having been a fan of tactical stocks, I really liked it. The rifle was solid yet light and well balanced, screaming quality. It shouldered brilliantly and offered over 120 regulated shots in .22. The magazine offered eight shots, which in hunting terms is plenty, although when plinking I had to remember to count only eight. The closest comparison I could draw on was my Air Arms S410; the trigger, balance and build were of similar excellent feel but the Cyclone had two extra bonuses. The Biathlon cocking lever was first. I’ve never been a fan of side levers, but this wasn’t one, it was different. The bolt was fast, quiet, and easy for even my shortened hand to load and have a potential second shot away, which due to the second bonus, it was. The second bonus was when I put the moderator from my BSA R10 on it. The Cyclone was breathtakingly quiet and matched with AA Field 5.52s, the revolutionary smooth-twist barrel was extraordinarily accurate, and favourably comparable to other top-end rifles I’ve used, just much quieter.
As I turned up to start the trial hunt, I thought the water meadows would offer the best opportunities. All the signs suggested it, and whilst not having an opportunity to recce properly, it could well produce some sport if the poo piles proved correct!
I listened to a late, clay-shooting lesson banging away in the background, and hunkered down in my Jack Pyke waterproofs to avoid yet another extraordinary soaking offered by our summer. I waited ... and waited … and I was about to call it a washout after two hours and dusk drew in, when two trap- cable chompers appeared from the hedge at 50 yards, in full flight, charging away then dashing toward me, both
“The rifle was solid yet light and well- balanced, screaming quality”
screeching to a stop 25 yards from me, at full alert. I lined up, flicked the safety, took up the first stage and let my shot go. I watched through the scope as my target dropped, but no crack. I’d missed cleanly by hurrying the shot.
I quickly cycled the Cyclone’s Biathlon lever and due to the almost inaudible shot, the second rabbit was still there at attention, but very wary. I released the second shot and this time the pellet hit perfectly, and the dusk was punctured by the crack from the pellet’s arrival at target, the muzzle report barely whispered. A few minutes later, and the reason for the long- eared menace’s tension became clear; a beautiful dog fox marched out and only a yell from me prevented my harvest becoming his dinner!
I met Des as we both left, him smiling at my sodden state. He extended a second chance the next evening, because of the weather, and we agreed I’d try the paddocks because the horses had been moved.
Weather or not
The showers were still amazing in their suddenness and ferocity as I waited on day two, watching rain flow off the peak of my cap in the hope of impressing Des. On arrival, I had disturbed two rabbits before the torrent, and watched as they ran in, so I knew where to ambush and waited 30 yards away up the hedge. As the rain eased, 45 minutes in, both trap trashers came bounding out playfully. I lined up on the one nearest the hedge line, the shot was true, and it rolled over with barely a twitch. The second dashed back toward the hedge, but a quick cycle and the Cyclone was ready to whisper goodbye as the rabbit stalled for a last look. Two rabbits bagged in 15 seconds; certainly worth the soaked wait.
I called Des to say ‘ thank you’ as I left, and he offered me the chance to have a crack at the squirrels on his feeders, from a hide or high seat, later in the autumn, and to come again in a couple of weeks for another hunt for rabbits - amazing!
This potentially brilliant new permission, and the deadly performance of the FX Cyclone, has proven to me that the cookies are wise. It’s easy to tread the most popular paths and end up blinkered, narrowing your opportunities and missing many others, but if you take a look around once in a while and think more individually, you will find fantastic options that can so easily be missed by others. Go ask the cookies!
“Two rabbits bagged in 15 seconds; certainly worth the soaked wait”
Below: I was able to operate the side lever easily
Bottom: Sitting and waiting proved the right approach
Background : It’s a beautiful place to hunt Bottom: The balance and fit were spot- on for me Bottom left: A brace from the paddock was a good start
Below: The water meadow provided another rabbit
Above : Once the silencer was fitted the Cyclone was nearly silent
Right : Here we are then