De­spite his best ef­forts Jamie Chan­dler is hav­ing ‘one of those days’

Air Gunner - - CONTENTS -

Had a day when ev­ery­thing goes wrong? Jamie Chan­dler tri­umphs over ad­ver­sity

A s I write, it’s the end of June and if the weather over­lords have some­thing ter­ri­ble in the pipes for around the time you read this in Au­gust, you might have to cast your minds back to when it was 30 de­grees dur­ing the day, and still a balmy 23 de­grees at 10pm. It’s been warm, the hottest day of the year, and al­though I love the heat, I don’t work at my op­ti­mum in it – and that in­cludes hunt­ing, but to­day I just had to go.

It started well, in fact bet­ter than that. I’d com­pleted an 18- mile moun­tain- bike ride over the lo­cal downs and zero checked the .22 BSA Scor­pion SE with Air Arms Field 5.52s in the gar­den, all by 9am, and whilst the day was rel­a­tively cool. I had planned to be at the wood for about 11am to meet the keeper, and things were all look­ing good.

Is­sue one came skip­ping down the road at about 10am when I re­alised that my trusty, an­cient DPM- pat­terned boiler suit, ideal to wear over shorts and a T- shirt in the heat, had been re­moved in a bru­tal, Kim Jong Un- style, jack­ets’ cup­board purge by Her Royal High­ness. It’s true I only wear this when the weather gets re­ally warm, so it sits folded on the shelf for 48 weeks a year, but it serves an excellent pur­pose when re­quired. Sadly, the boiler suit was deemed pretty tatty, worn in places and had out­done its use­ful­ness. Feel­ing sud­denly acutely aware of my own fit within that de­scrip­tion, I chose some­thing else!


Is­sue two came and gave me a jaunty pat on the back as my sec­ond out­fit choice and I left the house; a large flint had em­bed­ded in my car tyre and as I looked at the pan­cake- shaped wheel in front of me, my heart just sank. Whilst

rarely ad­mit­ting it, hav­ing a mi­nus score in the digit de­part­ment can have its draw­backs when faced with the oc­ca­sional, ba­si­cally sim­ple task such as chang­ing a tyre, which then cat­a­pults me into reliance on road­side break­down ser­vices and their avail­abil­ity. So, phone out and first call to the keeper to ex­plain I was de­layed, and an agree­ment to meet in­stead at 4pm; sec­ond call to break­down re­cov­ery, to be told that as I was safe and at home and they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a very high de­mand due to the hot weather, I was not a pri­or­ity and there­fore could be wait­ing up to three hours – not the best re­sult, but at least help was on the way.

Af­ter four and a half hours, a cou­ple of phone calls, and an ad­mis­sion that my orig­i­nal re­quest for help had been en­tered wrongly into the sys­tem, caus­ing my call out to be recorded as dealt with and so not re­quir­ing fur­ther help, a very friendly road­side an­gel turned up and res­cued me. Late, but in re­newed high spir­its I was in my sweat box of a car and head­ing down the road.


On ar­rival at the ground, some 35 miles away from my house, I met the keeper who by then had other things to do and lit­tle time for a grand tour. He showed me to the wood and sug­gested that I sim­ply choose a feeder and sit nearby – the squir­rels would be there at some point.

Left to my own de­vices to find my way around, I stuffed the Scor­pion’s mag­a­zine, pel­lets and a head net into my jeans pocket; a bot­tle of wa­ter, my rangefinder and folded camp­ing mat for a seat went in my game bag and I set off into the squir­rels’ lair.

My en­trance was not a dignified ex­pe­ri­ence. There was no clear path, and bram­bles and sting­ing net­tles were up to chest height, so it was slow, hard go­ing. The 10-minute strug­gle was worth it, though, as I crashed through and found my­self in a beau­ti­ful, peace­ful wood­land. Dap­pled light fil­tered through the trees, and a gen­tle breeze aided the shade in of­fer­ing much needed es­cape from the heat, and all the stress to get there just melted. I fol­lowed a ride down un­til I came across a feeder

“they had turned ag­gres­sive, dom­i­nat­ing the feed­ers and pre­vent­ing the pheas­ants from eat­ing”

that of­fered a good view to it from 20 yards away un­der a tree. The feeder was a steel drum with a lock­able lid, such was the prob­lem they had had with plas­tic feed­ers or steel ones with wooden lids. The squir­rels just gnawed through and binged on the feed in­side. Now, they had stopped that and had turned ag­gres­sive, dom­i­nat­ing the feed­ers and pre­vent­ing the pheas­ants from eat­ing, hence my op­por­tu­nity to cull them to­day.

I got comfy un­der my tree, but still to­day wasn’t go­ing to go per­fectly. I re­alised my head net had come out my pocket, prob­a­bly caught on some bram­bles as I walked in. I shrugged it off and chose to let op­ti­mum field­craft and still­ness be my core strength. Sadly, the sud­den on­slaught of mos­qui­toes had other ideas, and within min­utes they were swarm­ing me. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing flies were both­er­some, but noth­ing in com­par­i­son to the over­whelm­ing hordes of hor­ri­ble lit­tle bitey, vampire nas­ties.

The mozzies started co­or­di­nat­ing at­tacks; six landed in one area on my trousers and started prob­ing for weak­nesses, whilst half a dozen buzzed my head and the oth­ers aimed for my ex­posed wrists. I swot­ted four or five, but was in­ter­rupted by the un­mis­tak­able bark of an ag­gra­vated squir­rel, in this case sit­ting on a tree trunk above the feeder and aware of my flail­ing pres­ence. I stopped my bat­tle and brought the Scor­pion to bear straight on the squir­rel’s head. I let the pel­let fly and at 20 yards with lit­tle wind, the deadly im­pact sent the squir­rel smash­ing to the ground with an in­stant ‘lights out’, ter­mi­nal hit.

My post- shot, Zen- like stu­por was quickly de­stroyed by the sound of an­other mozzie at­tack com­ing to­ward my ear. I know re­pel­lent would have been a good idea, but nor­mally a head net suf­fices well enough for me. I had only been there an hour, but the cloud of mozzies had re­ally be­come quite over­pow­er­ing. I vowed to stick it out as long as I could be­cause I’d waited a long time to be here and I didn’t want to cry off early af­ter hav­ing been so late ar­riv­ing. I held fast, swat­ting as qui­etly as I could in the vain hope of not dis­turb­ing any more grey men­aces. squir­rel, and not one, but two came rac­ing into sight, head­ing for the feeder. I brought the Scor­pion up and watched, keep­ing as still as pos­si­ble, as one went un­der to feed and the other sat atop. A nip from my left hand caused an in­vol­un­tary swipe, and that caught the eye of the squir­rel sat on the feeder. It froze and I took the op­por­tu­nity, drop­ping it cleanly with a head shot. Again, the mozzie hordes seemed to tre­ble in num­ber as I tried to sit it out for a third in the bag. Af­ter 15 min­utes the horde found my face and I de­cided to quit and head for some in­sect re­pel­lent. I had man­aged an hour and 15 min­utes, and that was as long as I could muster. I went to re­trieve the squir­rels and af­ter look­ing at the flies that were swarm­ing them so soon, I opted to of­fer them as fer­ret food to a friend in­stead of keep­ing them for the pot.

I called the keeper this evening to ex­plain that I had quit ear­lier than ex­pected, with­out re­ally com­ing clean about only be­ing there just over an hour. He laughed about the mozzies and told me that he’d been

“My post-shot, Zen-like stu­por was quickly de­stroyed by the sound of an­other mozzie at­tack”

eaten alive when troop­ing through in shorts, but he in­vited me back next week. So in all, two squizzers in and an in­vi­ta­tion back – a pretty good way to end a bad day re­ally!

At 29 de­grees C, to­day was cer­tainly a scorcher!

ABOVE: The sun­dap­pled wood­land was a wel­come re­treat from the heat

BELOW: The Air Arms Field Di­ab­los have al­ways proven excellent through my Scor­pion

BELOW: The squir­rel sat bark­ing at me as I brought the Scor­pion to bear

ABOVE: The Keeper had al­ready taken steps to squir­rel-proof the feed­ers

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