ONE OF THOSE DAYS?
Despite his best efforts Jamie Chandler is having ‘one of those days’
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.
HERE AT LAST
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