Dave Barham

Dave Barham turns a blank morn­ing’s hunt­ing into a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence

Airgun World - - Contents -

Dave turns a blank morn­ing at his new per­mis­sion into a learn­ing curve

If you learn, you never blank. That’s one mes­sage I can­not stress enough to any­one who hunts or fishes. I dis­cov­ered a long time ago, through my fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, that if I can walk away from a ses­sion hav­ing learned some­thing that will help me on my next out­ing, then the trip was worth the ef­fort – it’s ex­actly the same with shoot­ing.

If you read Phil Hard­man’s ar­ti­cle this month, you’ll see that he rec­om­mends get­ting out there with­out your gun for a good scout around. It’s all about learn­ing your shoot­ing per­mis­sion to give you an ad­van­tage over your quarry, and I can cer­tainly echo his ad­vice.

A HORSEY PROB­LEM

I re­cently gained ac­cess to a new per­mis­sion through a very good friend of mine, Roger Cool­ing. His wife, Ju­liana, has a lovely horse called Har­vey, which is sta­bled just seven miles away from my house.

I re­ceived a call late last night from Ju­liana, ask­ing if I could pop over to the sta­bles and ‘take care’ of some prob­lem rab­bits. The fields ad­ja­cent to the pad­docks are home to a rea­son­able num­ber of rab­bits, but they have been edg­ing ever closer to the horses and have now man­aged to dig un­der the wire fenc­ing and ac­tu­ally en­ter the pad­docks.

It seems the draw of fresh grass and shal­low wa­ter troughs has proved too much of an at­trac­tion for the rab­bits, and they have be­gun to start dig­ging and scrap­ing holes in the fields where the horses roam free.

So what’s the prob­lem? Well, if the rab­bits were left to their own de­vices they could cre­ate se­ri­ous prob­lems for the horses – namely large holes that could end up break­ing a horse’s leg, which would prob­a­bly prove fa­tal for the horse.

LIKE A RI­FLE RANGE

It’s a strange set up, this shoot. There’s a long, thin strip of land be­tween the field where the rab­bits live and the pad­docks, akin to a long shoot­ing range. It’s this strip of land that I’m al­lowed to shoot on, mea­sur­ing ap­prox­i­mately 8 feet by 100 yards – crazy eh!

It’s a great lit­tle set-up though, with a large set of wooden steps that make the per­fect bench rest, and some­where to hide be­hind by the gate, too.

I can only shoot from the gate to­ward the open fields along the ‘ri­fle range’, be­cause there is a house and B road di­rectly be­hind me, so I can’t shoot the other way. I also can’t shoot from the pad­docks on the left, be­cause that would mean I’d be shoot­ing into some­one else’s land, so you see it’s a a weird sit­u­a­tion, and one that re­quires a bit of fore­thought, so I dis­cov­ered this morn­ing.

IS A BLANK RE­ALLY A BLANK?

I’ve just re­turned from a morn­ing’s hunt, empty-handed. I didn’t even see a rab­bit, let alone man­age to take a shot. A quick scout around af­ter I’d chucked in the towel proved to me that there are in­deed plenty of rab­bits there, and that they are most def­i­nitely ac­tive. Fresh drop­pings and re­cent scrapes are a clear sign, as are re­cent tracks. So why didn’t I even see one?

It was quite cool when I left the house un­der cover of dark­ness at 6am, my car said four de­grees, but that’s not cold enough for the rab­bits to miss out on an early morn­ing feed. By 8am the air tem­per­a­ture had risen to 14 de­grees, and when I’d given up at 12.30pm it was pos­i­tively roast­ing at 22 de­grees.

The only thing I could put my fail­ure down to was that the rab­bits knew I was there. I de­cided to check the compass on my phone and soon dis­cov­ered why I had failed.

The ‘shoot­ing range’ runs straight south to north, and this morn­ing we had a gen­tle

south-west­erly breeze, barely enough to make the tips of the long grass wob­ble, but ob­vi­ously enough to blow my scent straight through the hedge to my right, and into the field where the rab­bits live – school­boy er­ror!

A LEARN­ING CURVE

I’m 99% cer­tain that my fail­ure this morn­ing was com­pletely down to wind di­rec­tion. I should have known that; it’s rule num­ber one when dig­ging in and wait­ing for your quarry to come to you – al­ways have the wind in your face. I guess in all the ex­cite­ment of gain­ing a new per­mis­sion, and the ur­gency of the task in hand, I just com­pletely for­got about it – I am only hu­man af­ter all.

So, I’m sit­ting be­hind my desk now, writ­ing this piece, not full of woe be­cause of a blank morn­ing, but full of an­tic­i­pa­tion for what the com­ing days might bring. I learned a lot from this fail­ure.

I now know that I need to keep my eye on the weather for a north-east­erly breeze, so it car­ries my scent away from the fields. I also know that I might stand more chance by ar­riv­ing early evening, when the air tem­per­a­ture is warmer and the rab­bits might be more ac­tive than at first light, with our typ­i­cal au­tum­nal weather pat­terns.

Last, but not least, I’ve de­cided to keep a jour­nal of con­di­tions for this par­tic­u­lar shoot, so I can note the wind di­rec­tion and air tem­per­a­ture for fu­ture ref­er­ence to see if my the­o­ries are cor­rect. It’s some­thing I used to do re­li­giously when carp fish­ing many years ago, and af­ter time it helped me to build a pic­ture of what con­di­tions were best for the lakes I was fish­ing – it’s ex­actly the same con­cept with hunt­ing. Only time will tell, but in the mean­time I’ll just keep on learn­ing, and that means I’ll never have a blank ses­sion!

Har­vey is such a friendly old chap, it’s hor­ri­ble to think that a rab­bit hole could break his leg.

In some ar­eas, the rab­bits have clearly achieved their aim to get into the pad­docks.

Check­ing the weather con­di­tions and wind di­rec­tion af­ter the event – oops!

Empty bag, full head. No rab­bits to­day in Dave’s cool-box, but plenty of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence gained.

If you de­cide to keep a jour­nal it’s im­por­tant to record the day’s con­di­tions af­ter a fail­ure, as well as when you suc­ceed.

The iPhone compass is go­ing to prove in­valu­able to Dave on his next hunt.

The new per­mis­sion is just like a ri­fle range, with only one di­rec­tion to shoot.

This is a fresh dig, and it won’t be long un­til the rab­bits get un­der this part of the fence.

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