ROOST SHOOT­ING

Jamie Chan­dler helps out a farmer friend - roost- shoot­ing wood­ies on his land, to avoid nui­sance to the pub­lic

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Like so many oth­ers over the last week, I’ve been com­pletely snowed in. Nor­mally, I would have started to crawl up the walls with the need to get out and dis­ap­pear with the air­gun for a day, but fate had dif­fer­ent plans as the long week of drudgery, in­ter­spersed with amaz­ing fun in the snow, dragged on. Imag­ine my ut­ter joy then when Tom, the farmer, called me with a cun­ning plan and po­ten­tially awesome in­vi­ta­tion for the next day and a co­in­cid­ing thaw that took the snow from a foot deep to a pud­dle in less than 12 hours. Free­dom was upon me!

As my mum (she buys the mag­a­zine to help, but doesn’t read the shoot­ing bits!) and other kind souls might re­mem­ber, Tom and I had an amaz­ing time last month pop­ping rats in his seed store. We man­aged to ac­count for 30 on the night I was with him, Tom kept hold of my BSA Scor­pion SE and red torch, and man­aged to bag an­other 70- odd over the next week, or so – Tom, for all his pow­der-burn­ing bravado, has qui­etly be­come a bit of an air­gun fan. Whilst per­haps not a full-blown, outed con­vert, Tom has started to see where air­guns could ac­tu­ally prove a bet­ter op­tion than his bang sticks, and this in­vi­ta­tion was ex­actly that.

PUB­LIC AC­CESS

Tom’s farm is beau­ti­ful, but criss- crossed at cer­tain points by sin­gle-lane pub­lic roads used by cars, horse rid­ers, walk­ers, jog­gers and cy­clists, who come out from the nearby town. This can prove frus­trat­ing for him as a farmer be­cause pest con­trol can cause ten­sion with the lo­cal road users. If he puts bangers in the woods or fields run­ning along­side th­ese roads, or heaven for­bid, he shoots there, com­plaints from road users flood in faster than he can drive his es­cape trac­tor. Whilst al­ways car­ried out in a strictly le­gal man­ner, pest con­trol like roost-shoot­ing to pre­serve his crop, has all but ceased in some ar­eas due to the cho­rus of self-right­eous, out­raged dog walk­ers whose badly trained dogs have run off as the own­ers tres­passed into the wood and were scared by a gun­shot. Tom has a thick skin, but there’s only so much com­plain­ing any­one can take With ‘ Now That’s What I Call Com­plaints’ Vol­ume 40 re­peat­ing on his brain’s in­ter­nal playlist, Tom’s in­vi­ta­tion was to shoot a pop­u­lar pi­geon-roost­ing wood, that bor­dered one of the sin­gle-lane roads, with air­guns. He had watched pi­geons flight­ing from the newly sown bean field, straight into the firs at the cen­tre of the wood. The plan was that if he and I sat amongst the firs, four hours be­fore sun­down, we could have some ex­cel­lent sport whilst mak­ing a dent in an un­wanted guest pop­u­la­tion, and with­out caus­ing a noise nui­sance tele­phone hot-line. I cer­tainly wasn’t go­ing to say no to that!

SPRINGER POWER!

Armed with my .22 Scor­pion SE and bring­ing Tom a .22 BSA Light­ning SE XL, at his re­quest to have a go with, plus a tin of AA Fields in 5.52, I ar­rived in plenty of time to check ze­ros and for Tom to get used to the re­coil of a springer, drop­ping 20p-sized groups out to 35 yards. As his side­burns

“Tom has a thick skin but there’s only so much com­plain­ing any­one can take!”

al­lude, Tom is a bit of a tra­di­tion­al­ist in most things and he wanted to use a springer be­cause he felt that the al­most ef­fort­less, clin­i­cal ac­cu­racy of the Scor­pion SE left him want­ing per­haps a bit more ‘soul’ from the ex­pe­ri­ence. I agreed whole­heart­edly with that sen­ti­ment, but with the po­ten­tial to fill the freezer and per­haps win an­other in­vi­ta­tion based on the suc­cess of the af­ter­noon, ef­fort­less clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion was ex­actly what I wanted. That and the ob­vi­ous ben­e­fit of a multi-shot in not fum­bling for pel­lets in a cold wood, to those of a fewer-fin­gered dis­po­si­tion like me

The first thing I no­ticed as we got to the cen­tre of the wood was that the firs were tall – I mean re­ally tall! Tom had stood in the wood watch­ing a few days be­fore and as­sured me that the pi­geons came in low, would land on the sur­round­ing de­cid­u­ous trees, then flap half­way up the firs to roost in the warmth, out of the wind blow­ing at the top. The fresh signs all over the floor backed up his state­ment and also his de­ci­sion not to worry about face veils. The pi­geons were used to be­ing here and see­ing the odd tres­passer, yet not be­ing too dis­turbed, so along with the gloom of the wood, the pi­geons’ per­cep­tion of danger was quite low.

SHOOT­ING THE BREEZE

We stood to­gether, watch­ing and wait­ing whilst shoot­ing the breeze. It’s mo­ments like this that make shoot­ing with a friend, for me. You’re out with a fo­cused pur­pose, but there with your mate, laugh­ing at ridicu­lous stuff like friends do, and all the while your heads are turn­ing like owls, try­ing to get the up­per hand in find­ing the first of your quarry. I pinged trees as dis­tance ref­er­ences with my rangefinder as we waited for the ac­tion to start.

Tom sud­denly spun his whole body,

leaned against a tree, brought the Light­ning to bear and froze, like a pointer on its quarry. He flicked the safety, drew a breath and launched an AA Field with a ‘ thwock’, fol­lowed by a crack and the tell-tale sounds of a tum­ble. He had scored first blood with a squir­rel I didn’t even see, that dropped like a stone from mid­way up a fir brunch. With a wry smile Tom broke the bar­rel to reload; he had taken his first quarry in 12 years with a springer. The game was on.

Ten min­utes later, I got my first chance with an easy pi­geon at 25- odd yards and em­u­lat­ing Tom’s stance, I leaned against a tree, us­ing a branch to steady the ri­fle, shot and watched as per­haps over­com­pen­sat­ing for the tra­jec­tory, I aimed a lit­tle low, hit­ting the boiler room and not the head, but drop­ping the pi­geon with­out a flut­ter. One-all, and mine was the rea­son we were there.

We sep­a­rated out a bit, back to back, call­ing when pi­geons went over and fol­low­ing them in with our bar­rels. I sat with my back to a tree, shoot­ing off a knee be­cause it felt far stead­ier to me.

FAST AC­TION

The ac­tion was get­ting faster, with a shot every five min­utes or so, but what amazed me was that for every shot at a seen pi­geon, four or five unseen would clat­ter to the sky. The pi­geons were so de­ter­mined to roost here, and with such con­fi­dence that those that rose cir­cled and joined the next flight com­ing in, al­most obliv­i­ous to the air­pow­ered, whis­per- quiet danger that waited be­neath, drop­ping their de­li­cious, feath­er­cov­ered col­leagues. I could hear Tom be­hind me, clearly in a zone – fir­ing, break­ing, load­ing and ready in sec­onds. He was truly lov­ing the Light­ning and stand­ing gave him a 360- de­gree arc of fire.

We shot on past sun­down un­til the pi­geons stopped com­ing and the gloom got heavy. In to­tal we bagged 22 pi­geons and a squir­rel. I con­ceded Tom had bagged four more than me, but 22 was way above what I’d en­vis­aged from 30 shots, and an ut­ter blast of a time, to boot!

We left cold but happy, hav­ing had a crack­ing af­ter­noon. Talk­ing of leav­ing, I look for­ward to get­ting the Light­ning back from Tom some­time soon – ap­par­ently, ‘ it could well be use­ful around the yard’!

“We shot on past sun­down un­til the pi­geons stopped com­ing and the gloom got heavy”

Above: Both the Light­ning XL SE and Scor­pion SE proved deadly in the field. In­set: It’s for all to see, even if ig­nored by many!

Tom pointed out the most likely spots pi­geons would aim for

The floor of the wood was cov­ered with fresh signs of pi­geon

Shoot­ing off one knee is far stead­ier than re­ly­ing on a tree rest for me

Like a pointer on its quarry, Tom span and rested the Light­en­ing

A bril­liant af­ter­noon’s bag and one that left the PCP/ Springer de­bate with­out con­clu­sion

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