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Airgun Hunter: A Mixed Bag

Airgun Hunter: A Mixed Bag

It’s a real privilege being able to test and evaluate air rifles and general shooting related kit and it’s great trialling different guns up at my local farm shoot. There will always be vermin around on any farm or smallholding and keeping on top of it is vital if the place isn’t going to get overrun with pests. Feral pigeons aren’t in the huge numbers that they once were on my shoot, as hitting them hard in the early days really paid dividends and persuading the farm staff to repair a gaping hole in the side of one of the barns has denied the winged invaders an easy path to a cosy home.

WINGED INVADERS

Unfortunately, another pest seems to have increased dramatically over the last few years and that is the ring necked parakeet. Now, unless you live in the South East of England, you’ll probably think I’m pulling your leg but these non-native birds have bred like mad over the last 20 years. So much so it’s now possible to see flocks of hundreds at a time and they generally roost in tall trees such as poplars.

They cause a huge amount of damage throughout the areas in which they live but apple orchards in Kent and Sussex really suffer when the birds appear in the spring and strip buds from the trees. I’ve seen them decimate conker trees as well and a flock will move through the trees stripping away the outside of buds to get to the soft, juicy centre. They can be quite aggressive too and I’ve seen them chase off blackbirds and magpies in the past. I’ve even seen them nesting in what were previously woodpecker holes; a mob of parakeets soon evicting the previous occupants! They can be a real nuisance in domestic gardens too and bully other birds away from bird tables and feeders.

I decided long ago that I’d try and reduce their numbers whenever I came across them but they’re usually buggers to shoot, as they seem to disappear amongst the leaves of the trees they’re in; it’s especially bad in spring when the leaves are a light green colour, which matches the bird’s plumage perfectly. I’d heard quite a few up at the farm in early summer, so I decided I’d try and bag a few on my next visit.

UP AND AT EM’

I was armed with a .22 calibre BSA Ultra SE, which was ideal for a wander around the farm and I’d got up really early, to make sure I was ready for when the birds started to arrive. I put out a few FUD pigeon decoys near a cattle feeder, along with a plastic crow. I set up camp below an oak tree and I could hear the parakeets screeching as they flew in. That was when I hit a problem; I just couldn’t see the little devils, even though they were only just above me! It’s amazing how difficult it can be trying to pick them out, even with a monocular! I only got lucky once when one of the birds flew onto a more exposed branch. A Crosman Premier pellet to the side of the head killed it instantly but it did the usual and clung to the branch it was perched on for what seemed like ages. Luckily it dropped onto the ground, as I’ve had them lodge in trees before.

COMPOSTING

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I could still hear a couple of parakeets above me and they’d not been bothered by their mate falling of his perch. No matter how I shuffled about, I just couldn’t get sight of one, so decided to try my luck near the compost heap, which proved to be a wise move…

All sorts of stuff gets dumped on the compost heap and it’s often a good spot for ambushing vermin such as rats but it wasn’t rodents I could see as I approached. There were a couple of crows picking through the leaves and general farm waste, looking for their breakfast. Crows are usually off as soon as they see a human but on this occasion I was in luck, they were more intent on squabbling over something. Their dispute allowed me to get within 25 yards, so the first corvid in my sight went straight down, which caused its companion to take flight. I thought I’d sit tight for a while and sure enough, after a couple of minutes, a shadow overhead signalled the return of crow number 2. I knew not to look skywards, as a flash of human skin is just the thing for startling quarry; I often wear a facemask whilst hunting to prevent this but I’d left it on the bonnet of my Land Rover! Sitting still paid off though and a flash of black in the corner of my eye alerted me to the presence of the hungry scavenger checking out his dead mate. A shot to the back of the head may not be a gentlemanly thing to do but I’m not a gentleman when it comes to a safe, humane shot; so that made 2 crows in the bag.

FERAL SURPRISE

Some animals are just too stupid for their own good and this was in my favour this day, as when I went back to the Landy to retrieve my facemask and have a swig of coffee, a feral pigeon landed virtually at my feet! It started to peck around on the concrete, eating spilt animal feed and gradually moving away from me. Pigeon’s heads seem to be constantly moving, so a headshot can be quite tricky but as it’s the shot I prefer to take on all quarry, I just had to wait a while. At about 15 yards the pellet’s impact was quite loud, which caused another, unseen feral, just round the corner to fly away and land near the cattle feeder in the field nearby.

I tried getting as close as I could without being seen but that part of the farmyard offered no concealment, so I just had to take it really slowly and wait until the pigeon was head down in the hay surrounding the feeder. I was just getting comfortable on the gate, using my beanbag seat as a rest, when the bird suddenly flew away. I was sure I’d been ultra stealthy (and had my facemask on again!) but it wasn’t my fault, as some sort of bird of prey had just flown overhead. My intended target soon returned though, so that was 1 parakeet, 2 crows and 2 feral pigeons in an hour and a half; not a bad haul but there was to be one more victim.

I’d just started to pack away my shooting gear, as the farm staff would soon be arriving but as soon as I’d put the little BSA in its case, another parakeet flew down onto one of the bird feeders. I soon had the rifle out again and I fed a couple of pellets into the 10-shot mag. Braced against a shed, I knocked the green menace off the mesh tube with a clean headshot. I just had enough time to retrieve my kill and pack away again, before I heard the main gate open.

It had been a lovely, productive morning at the farm and the contents of my gamebag would come in handy a couple of nights later as (rather smelly!) fox bait.

CONTACTS

BSA Ultra SE Multishot and Essential 3-9 X 40 scope: www.bsaguns.co.uk
Crosman Premier pellets: www.a-s-i.co.uk, 01728 688555
FUD Decoys: www.bushwear.co.uk, 0845 226 0469
Lightweight mesh balaclava: www.jackpykeshop.co.uk,01636 672023
Beanbag seat and double pellet pouch:www.customsportingmatsandhides.co.uk, 01268 655179

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