Jerry Moss is adjusting his tactics as autumn looms large
Jerry gets ready for autumn and shares the information gleaned with the gamekeepers on his permissions
At the time of writing this, we are into late August already; how the months fly past. Usually, this time of year is difficult, for a few reasons; firstly, when working woodlands and forests you are in pheasant shoot areas. In the Eden Valley, there are plenty of them, from lads’ syndicate small shoots, to the bigger commercial type, so you have to work around these, especially when the pheasant poults are first put out into the release pens. Sensitivity is required because this can be a very stressful time of year for the gamekeeper.
At the same time, I can be of use to the gamekeeper by keeping an eye out on what’s going on in the areas where I am working; watching for vermin, such as stoats, foxes and so on; giving the keepers a hand with shifting a bit of feed about; reporting any poults I see in areas away from the pens in the first week or two … It all helps and builds the trust required.
THE KEEPER’S FRIEND
Luckily, I have worked this area for many years now and most of the keepers are fine with me being in the woods at this time of year, and at the end of the day they know I am not going through like a steam train, but more sneaking about armed with an air rifle, whether that be sub-12ft.lbs. or FAC-rated. The birds really are not bothered by my presence – in fact, more times than not they are inquisitive about what I am doing. If I have any squirrel feeders around the pens, I tend just to sit and watch these, and it’s surprising what else will turn up whilst just waiting. Of course, as the year moves on and the shooting season starts, I am well away from the area on a shoot day because my presence wouldn’t go down well.
NATURAL FOOD BOUNTY
All the natural food is ripening now, so the squirrels, whether red or grey, are onto this and not visiting as regularly to the feeding areas that I have set up. Trapping also becomes nigh on impossible because the squirrels are simply not hungry. Yes, you will still pick up the odd one at feeders and in traps, but it’s time consuming. This year, the hazelnut crop here is not bad, along with beech mast, and spending time sitting in beech trees can prove fruitful. It can be frustrating, too, but listening and watching for the feed dropping will give away their location, so that I can then home in on these areas and wait for the chance of a clean shot.
At the time of writing, cones on the conifers are still green and yet I am seeing the ones on the forest floor stripped out. I’m not seeing many acorns at the moment, but the big oaks can often deliver later in the season, and I watch and wait.
Another factor, moving into September and October, is squirrel dispersal. Every year at this time, my phone gets busy with people calling me to report they have seen a grey running along a country road or in their garden. This is due to a good network being in place whereby people are aware of our work because of signs in place asking people to report grey squirrel sightings to us, or to local media. Also, of course, it is more unusual to see a grey squirrel around here than it is a red squirrel.
THE BIG PICTURE
These reports all help us to build up the picture, and depending on where they are seen, can lead us into new areas to check out. Squirrels moving about can be hard to catch up with because they haven’t settled and are looking for new territory, so I’m expecting a frustrating few weeks ahead. Every year, though, the reports slow down toward the end of October into early November, and then it’s ‘game on’ again. Most of the natural food and leaves have fallen to the woodland floor by then, so the squirrels have to come down more from the trees in search of food, and at the same time, my feeders will start playing their part again.
Lastly, I have just received a demo
“I have worked this area for many years now and most of the keepers are fine with me being in the woods”
scope from Optics Warehouse www. opticswarehouse.co.uk after talking to Shaun Ellis, Sales Director, about a scope I had seen on their website that intrigued me. It is certainly something that I haven’t seen before. I’ve already fitted and zeroed it on my FAC FX Wildcat, and first impressions are a thumbs up, so I will talk a little more about this scope next month, once I have had more time to use it.
I put our awarenes signs where they’ll be seen most often
Collecting shot squirrels can be time consuming
The pheasant poults aren’t disturbed by me sneaking about