Airgun Hunter - Summertime Stories
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- Last updated: 27/04/2020
With all the recent floods and the longest period of wet and dismal weather I can ever remember, I thought it was time for a summer throwback, to help us remember that better weather will come, the sun does shine, and we will hopefully soon be back in shorts.
While this day wasn’t too sunny, it was plenty warm enough for shorts and T-shirt, which is good enough for me. I had a call from the owner of my local pet farm/zoo and he informed me that there was some shooting to be had. The farm is always a good place to indulge in a bit of pest control with plenty of opportunities each time I go. I have found that the best way to hunt here was simply to walk-n-stalk, especially when there are multiple species that need controlling. My tactics would differ if I was hunting just one, whether that be Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw or Squirrel.
I arrived on the farm armed with one of my all-time favourite rifles, the Weihrauch HW100KT in .177. I opened the car door and the first thing I noticed was the raking squawk and chatter of Corvids. It sounded like they were everywhere. The sheep fields are generally a hot spot for them. From what I’ve seen, it looks like they pick through the dung, looking for an easy meal. I figured this would be a good place to start. The need for camo was minimal due to the normal, everyday footfall around the place. Also, I didn’t much fancy getting a sweat on. I made my way over to one of the fields, hugging the hedge line as I went, in an attempt to keep my approach reasonably stealthy. I kept my eyes and my ears open. I could hear birds in the field but I needed to get just a few yards closer. I spotted some movement through the hedge; a Jackdaw was hopping around on the grass. I couldn’t thread a pellet through as the branches were too dense. I needed to get over to the fence. There, the ground opened up and I could get a good view. If I was lucky, a solid rest too.
My trainers aided my approach, they were very quiet with foam soles that absorbed any sound of gravel underfoot. I was soon there and I could see the bird, so I set up, slowly and deliberately. All that was left to do was wait for the right moment. The Jackdaw stopped. With the crosshairs already on target, I fired. The pellet struck the 25 yard bird right behind the eye, sending it into a frantic flap, flipping two or three backward rolls before stopping a few yards from where it was hit. It was dead the instant the pellet struck but the nervous system is scrambled and the muscles fire uncontrollably, hence the random gymnastics.
I left the bird where it was and took some cover in case another shot from other passing Jacks presented itself. The skies remained empty, so I broke cover and continued my walk. The air was still on this lovely evening that couldn’t have been spent any better. I wandered into the woods, even if there were no opportunities in there it’s a great place just to go and relaxed in the warmth. As I entered, I had my eyes in the treetops, looking out for any tell tail signs. I spotted a tail hooking a tree, giving away the position of a sneaky Squirrel, thinking he’d got the better of me. I needed to get round to the other side though, before I could think about taking a shot. I wasn’t wearing a jacket, so hanging it up with a branch and creeping round the side of the tree was out.
Why? Well, in most cases, they think it’s another person, so often they will stay put, just banking that they haven’t been spotted. I just had to do my best, so I gradually made way round, keeping a look out for the head. It was sitting tight. Soon enough, I had a line of sight to the head. I raised the rifle for a free hand shot. The angle was pretty steep, so some hold under was needed, to allow for the reduced effect of gravity on the pellet. I squeezed the trigger and the Squirrel dropped almost at my feet. A small victory for the woodland and other wildlife.
I placed it where I could pick up on my way back and continued my line through the woods in the same direction. Nice and slow, making sure to keep my eyes peeled for any signs of activity. I spotted a Pigeon in my peripheral vision coming into land into one of the treetops. I lost it for a second, as I turned my head to get an exact location. Thankfully, I picked it back up after spotting the ends of the landing branch bobbing up and down. Sticking with the theme of head shots, I decided to go for one more.
This one wasn’t as easy as the last two. It needed a little holdover, due to it being a good 40 yards away. Looking through the scope, I could only really see the head poking through a gap in the leaves. That’s all I needed. The shot was on and I crouched into more of a kneeling position. I was glad of a wooden fence post for support, which aided the shot greatly. Getting an accurate reading on the laser range finder was tricky, due to all the twigs between me and the pigeon, so the range was part science, part intuition.
With 1.5 Mil-Dot holdover, I settled the gun. I took up the first stage of the trigger, happy that the odds were in my favour. With a little more pressure added to the blade, a dull ‘plub’ came from the silencer, sending the pellet at 11.4 FT/LBS towards the Pigeon, once again connecting perfectly and the bird dropped to the woodland floor. That one would complement the squirrel well on the BBQ tomorrow. The disturbance of the woody dropping from the canopy startled another tree rat. I had been so focused on what was above me and neglected opportunities that may have been right in front of me on the ground.
It darted up a tree and disappeared. I wasn’t convinced it had gone far, so moved in to investigate. Squirrels on this permission are sometimes easy targets and sometimes not. This one took some work. I had a quick scan of the tree but couldn’t see any sign. I was about to give up, when I heard a bark. This is a sound of distress and warns other animals that danger is about. Bizarrely, it increases the danger for that individual, as it blows its own cover. If you don’t know what this sounds is, I would recommend YouTubing ‘squirrel bark.’
Ever since I have tuned into this sound, I have been able to bag a few more than I would otherwise have done. I froze and started my search once again, this time with more of an idea of its location. The barking continued and came from the tree next to the one I was studying. It was looking directly down at me, sat on a very short stump of a snapped branch. I smoothly raised the gun and pinned the crosshairs centre mass. The pellet entered the engine room with a decent ‘thud’. The squirrel stopped and just rolled out of the tree and landed softly. The bag was starting to fill but I had one more trick up my sleeve.
I decided to use the dead Squirrels and Jackdaw to create a decoy situation to try and lure in another few Corvids. I returned to the first field and went out into the middle. From there I set up the Squirrel belly-up to make it obvious it was dead. I then set the bird up next to it, giving the impression that the Jack was feeding on the body. This would hopefully catch the eye of other birds passing over and they would join in too. Once everything was set, I dropped back and got into the prone position to wait. It wasn’t long before a Magpie came into the tree on the other side of the field at 52 yards. It was looking down at the decoy with great suspicion. With everything still and my position solid, I decided to take the shot. 2.5 Mil of holdover for a heart and lung shot and the bird dropped down into the hedge below. I made the retrieve but time was ticking on. I picked up all my shot quarry and posed for the customary finishing photo.
I called it a day at that. It’s amazing how fast the time goes when the weather is fine and there’s good shooting to be had. I had almost forgotten that I hadn’t yet had my tea but once I started thinking about it, hunger set in quick. With it being a Saturday it was pizza night. The perfect way to finish off a good afternoon’s shooting. Now, bring on the spring and summer!