MICK GAR­VEY

HOT ON THE TRAIL

Airgun World - - Contents -

Once again, the crazi­ness of work and per­sonal life has taken prece­dence over my pest con­trol du­ties, and I’ve been on the back foot try­ing to play catch-up. We have a huge project near­ing com­ple­tion at work that has taken far too much of my time, and my fa­ther passed away in hos­pi­tal, but I was lucky enough to be with him at the end to say our last good­bye. He was a great an­i­mal lover and would never un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of the pest and ver­min con­trol that I carry out, so we never dis­cussed it at any length and now we never will, so rest in peace, Peter, and say hi to mum for me, al­though I’m guess­ing you will be get­ting an ear-bash­ing right now.

I had other plans dashed too, due to rea­sons beyond my con­trol, but they are on­go­ing, al­beit be­hind closed doors and I hope to be bring­ing you more de­tails of what should be a very in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing un­veil­ing in due course.

So, with ev­ery­thing al­most sorted, I had a call from my friend, Steve – one of our read­ers who in­vited me out with him ear­lier this year. His landowner had be­come con­cerned by the amount of squir­rels he had seen re­cently, and the dam­age they were do­ing to the wood­land, not to men­tion the havoc they wreaked on the pheas­ant feed­ers, plus the res­i­dent song­birds and their chicks. Now, Steve had been tend­ing to his feed­ers with the rec­om­mended peanut mix and had seen the feed go­ing down rapidly al­most overnight and was even get­ting to within a few me­tres of them whilst re­fill­ing, so things were look­ing good, and with most of the nat­u­ral food now gone my host pre­dicted a red-let­ter day, which usu­ally places the kiss of death firmly on the event.

WORTH­WHILE AD­DI­TION

My good friends at Scott Coun­try In­ter­na­tional had asked if I would be in­ter­ested in do­ing some side-by-side field test­ing of the FLIR range of ther­mal spot­ters, and I am a big fan of the Pul­sar range, but I had heard a lot of good things about the new FLIR ther­mals and I was quite ea­ger to give them a whirl.

The first two to ar­rive were the Scout 111 640 and the LS-X, both a sin­gle monoc­u­lar plat­form, the Scout be­ing at the higher end of the mar­ket. Iden­ti­cal in out­ward ap­pear­ances apart from the colour – the Scout is beige and the LS-X all black – they have a real qual­ity feel to them and the but­tons have a pos­i­tive click when op­er­at­ing. No in­struc­tions came with the units, but I re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to check out the In­ter­net and re­lied on ‘wing­ing it’ just to see how easy or dif­fi­cult it was to get to grips with them.

A few min­utes out in the gar­den con­firmed how easy it was to nav­i­gate the con­trols, and all done sin­gle-handed. One par­tic­u­lar de­sign I liked was the eye­piece fo­cus­ing; rather than a ro­tat­ing ring be­hind the eye­piece, there’s a dial on the side of it that gives sat­is­fy­ing clicks

“I would never have spotted this with­out the ther­mal, and I could now track its progress”

when ad­just­ing – this might have some­thing to do with me be­ing an elec­tri­cian. We love a pos­i­tive click to a switch.

Once ev­ery­thing is set up with these FLIRs, it’s just a de­ci­sion on which colour pal­ette to choose. I al­ways go for the white hot, or black hot as a sec­ond choice, but ev­ery­one’s dif­fer­ent and many pre­fer the red hot or vari­a­tions of it. I de­cided to use the Scout and let Ste­vie crack on with the LS-X – he’d never used a ther­mal be­fore so this would be a bit of an eye-opener for him. Ther­mals re­ally come into their own at night, but make no mis­take, they are a very use­ful tool in the day­time too, for iden­ti­fy­ing your quarry at dis­tance and giv­ing you time to pre­pare for their ar­rival. Any­thing that will give you the edge is a worth­while ad­di­tion to your ar­moury.

THER­MAL TRACK­ING

At ex­actly 6.45am, I was knocking on Steve’s door and was greeted by the smell of bacon siz­zling in a pan. What a great host! Fif­teen min­utes later we were head­ing to­ward our ren­dezvous with the skin­nies of Der­byshire. Plans had al­ready been made and I was on the first hide which over­looked two feed­ers, one around 25 yards straight out, and the other be­hind me at around 30 yards and down­hill. Steve took care of busi­ness a few hun­dred yards away on an­other hotspot that had been show­ing huge squir­rel ac­tiv­ity. I passed over the FLIR LS-X with brief in­struc­tions, and we went our sep­a­rate ways.

I had lit­er­ally been in po­si­tion for a few min­utes when the first guest ar­rived at the lower feed sta­tion and set about his pre-set meal for one. I hadn’t even had a chance to check the zero on the FX .25 Im­pact/Hawke Air­max combo, but I was con­fi­dent that at this range a head­shot would be guar­an­teed. Need­less to say, I was right and the first skinny hit the deck from the feed plat­form with the help of my num­ber one choice pel­let, the Air Arms Di­ablo 25 grain.

I turned my at­ten­tion back to the feeder in front and gave the FLIR a quick scan round – so many song­birds were out there mak­ing me take a sec­ond look to make sure they weren’t the grey men­ace. A heat source from some 100 yards away had me check­ing the scope and, sure enough, there was a skinny sit­ting in the fork of a tree, clean­ing it­self. I would never have spotted this with­out the ther­mal, and I could now track its progress to­ward me. Ten min­utes later, it was down.

LOST COUNT!

I was in con­stant con­tact with Steve in the other hide. We were match­ing each other, shot for shot, and well within the hour we both had seven apiece. This got me think­ing about the Aim­cam shoot­ing glasses I was us­ing last month, and how well they would work in this sit­u­a­tion; maybe with a slightly higher mounted cam­era, and a larger lens on the cam­era to bring the sub­ject a lit­tle closer. Most of our quarry blends in with the back­ground, as op­posed to the blue skies of shot­gun­ning, or the tar­get back­ground in pis­tol shoot­ing, so bring­ing the tar­get closer to the shooter would cer­tainly help. I ac­tu­ally perched them on my

“I was con­vinced it would even­tu­ally slow down and my fi­nal tally would be around 20”

fore­head to get the over-scope view I needed – it would be great to stalk the skin­nies with the adapted Aim­cam glasses!

Any­way, back to the task in hand. We had been there un­der two hours and I had bro­ken my pre­vi­ous best amount – I now had 15! I was con­vinced it would even­tu­ally slow down and my fi­nal tally would be around 20, but they kept com­ing, and not just for me, but my host was also hav­ing a great day al­though I was creep­ing slightly ahead. It seemed that ev­ery time I checked out the feeder be­hind me, there was one wait­ing for me, and vice versa. I had re­ally lost count by this time. Ev­ery skinny that came to the feed in front of me, came down the tree as Steve said they would, and to­wards the end of the day they were be­com­ing slightly wary at the huge pile of skin­nies that was build­ing up, al­though not once did any bolt from the area. I only missed one when I didn’t al­low for the sin­gle mil dot, due to the close­ness, but I watched it re­turn from the now leaf­less tree­tops and I didn’t make the same mis­take twice.

NEW BEST BAG

I ac­tu­ally got time to ad­mire some of the wildlife and got busy tak­ing a few snaps of var­i­ous song­birds in­clud­ing my favourite of all, the lit­tle Robin, al­ways around and al­ways near, and a spotted wood­pecker also made an ap­pear­ance. Three fe­male pheas­ants made a fleet­ing visit and in the back­ground the ever-present jays were mak­ing their pres­ence known. Just be­fore two o’clock, we took a walk around the rest of the per­mis­sion, but had no luck re­gard­ing any quarry.

We de­cided to give the hides the last hour or so and see if we could im­prove our tak­ings, but I never saw an­other skinny and Steve took just one more from his po­si­tion. So, with dark­ness clos­ing in fast, we gath­ered all our kit and headed back to base camp for a few photos and a well-earned drink. My host had bagged 14, plus a jay and a crow, and I had wal­loped my pre­vi­ous best by tak­ing 27. The landowner was go­ing to be very happy as will the lo­cal bird-of-prey cen­tre that uses most of Steve’s tak­ings. What a sim­ply fan­tas­tic day, with ev­ery­one happy!

My next call is in the Lake Dis­trict where an­other call to arms has been sounded, but this time it’s for our old friends, the rab­bits, with my ever-faith­ful guide and good friend, ‘The Grumpy Old Man’. See you next month! I

Multi-cul­tural feed sta­tion.

What’s go­ing on here then?

… and re­lax – the fi­nal 27.

The view from the of­fice to­day.

To­tal: 41 skin­nies, one jay, one crow and two happy shoot­ers.

We’ve got these ladies’ best in­ter­ests at heart.

You’ve got to love the robin.

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