Airgun Hunter: Getting Started
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- Last updated: 27/06/2017
Working in an air rifle shop, I get asked lots of questions. The same is true with my You Tube channel: ‘How do I start hunting? How do I get permission? How come I can’t hit a bottle at 40 yards?’ I also get lots of questions about gear. Sure, £1000 scopes and rifles are fantastic but in most cases, are they really needed? Let’s face it, you can spend a lot of money and still have a frustrating, uncomfortable and unsuccessful day. So, for good reason, I am going to ignore the main pieces of equipment and highlight some smaller details which have made a significant difference to my shooting experience, for relatively little expense.
Ignoring the rifle and scope, one of the most important and under-rated little bits of kit is a quality pellet pouch. So many times, I have forgotten mine and the day is inevitably more hassle. For the first few years of my air rifle journey I was very happy to plink away with a simple tin of pellets by my side. When I started hunting, and giving no thought to possible problems, I’d throw 20 or so pellets in my pocket and I’d be on my way.
This is OK but there were a few drawbacks. For one thing, fluff would always seem to find itself in the back of the pellet skirts and this was not ideal when looking for supreme accuracy and fast loading. Also, blowing out each pellet before shooting took unnecessary time and was unlikely to improve my success as a hunter. Another drawback came at the end of the day. I found out the hard way that pellets in the washing machine is not a good thing! Even when I was sure they were all out of my pockets, there was always one lingering right down in the corner, which later made its escape in the wash. One way round this was to take the tin out into the field but this was just noisy and took far too much time to take the lid off between shots. It may be do-able with a multi shot but when shooting the S400, or springer, it was a nightmare!
I defiantly needed a pouch, so looked at what other people were using and made my purchase. Now, you may think that choosing a pellet pouch is an easy job but far from it! My first two choices were OK but not perfect. Initially, I opted for a hard leather round pouch and it was fine for the first 20-shots in a day, so it was fine for woods walking. But for the repetition of plinking, it started to cut into my fingers and rub me raw making it far less enjoyable.
Also, if the stud was not snapped properly, the pellets would very easily spill out and have a one-way trip to the ground, after a year or so, this was no longer good enough. I thought that perhaps I should buy a cheaper, less fancy and more practical design. Solware had a deal on at the time for an own-brand pellet pouch for £5 and for a fiver you can’t go far wrong, can you? It looked promising. It was a simple design made of a webbing material but again, in the field, it had the tendency to want to tip upside down and lose pellets. After some modification on the sewing machine, it was somewhat better but I still was not satisfied.
What I now have is another purchase from Solware; it’s leather (but really soft). It has two pouches which I find very useful as I can have two calibres of pellets when testing different guns, the zip is the perfect size, so that pellets can be grabbed quickly and easily, the depth is ideal to fit 200 + pellets and the draw string is threaded along the top, so flipping over is a near impossibility. In addition, there is a clear section in the back to slide in a range card. At only £8 it is PERFECT!! Now I never go hunting without it!
Another little gem is a bipod. It is so useful when there are no natural supports, such as trees or fence posts and I find myself prone. It is especially handy when shooting rabbits and by far the most stable position to shoot from for me, so take full advantage whenever I can. In the past, I have used the Harris model and I can’t really fault them. It was just a bit of a pain when it came to shooting fun little HFT comps with the same gun. Constantly having to unscrew the bi-pod off the gun and refit the sling on the swivel was one step I could do without.
Shortly after identifying this as a problem, I was sent a Spartan Javelin bipod to test. I have only used it in the field two or three times now but I must say I am very impressed. It’s quickly detachable, due to its patented magnetic attachment system. Plus, it’s light and strong, being made mainly of carbon fibre and if not needed it goes into my pocket. The legs extend at least to the same length as the Harris, so far it’s ideal. I am looking forward to getting back out with it soon for some more testing, for writing a thorough review.
When stalking the hedgerows, I often come across things that were not planned in the day. For example, I was out last week, meandering through the bare wood, when I noticed a tree with a fair few woodies roosted up, just on the other side of a neighbouring field. With little cover between me and the tree, a sneaky stalk was impossible. I decided to amble over and just wait underneath the tree. This could have been very uncomfortable and cold on the soggy ground or impossible.
Which brings me on to the next item which is vital for me; a bean bag or some sort of waterproof cushion. One of these can turn a day right around. I remember the days when I didn’t have this little luxury and after a few minutes I needed to stand up, having no feeling in either buttock; not pleasant! With the bean bag on the floor and my back against a tree, I can sit there for hours, if I need to, in relative comfort. With the insulation from underneath and the padding protecting me from roots and stones, the chances of a successful shot and the whole experience are that much better.
I have failed to see the merits of particular items of clothing in the past. Sometimes it takes a while to wake up to the simple things. I am talking about knee pads. The ones I use are reasonably priced Web-Tex camo. They do a cracking job when out in the field. If a rabbit pops out I can just drop down onto one knee without thinking about what I’m kneeling on, whether it be mud, hard rocks or anything else. They also prolong the life of my trousers and also, believe it or not, they help me stay warmer in the winter months.
Staying on this line, water proof trousers are also a must in the winter months. I’ve had a few and so far I am finding that the British army issue seem to best suit my needs. They are relatively cheap (I paid £20 on eBay), camo, hard wearing and most importantly, waterproof. Wet legs really can spoil a day, especially if that wet turns into cold. I like my waterproof trousers and my kneepads are sure to prolong their life. That’s good news for my knees and my pocket!
Finally when you’re traipsing through wet grass, and mud - damp feet can be miserable. A solid pair of boots or wellies can make the difference between staying out or packing up. The wellies I use are cheap from Aldi but boy they are warm?! The neoprene top section keeps the legs dry without being hard, sweaty or uncomfortable. Unlike the traditional plastic wellington, their thermal lining helps to keep the foot warm as well as dry. With these not breaking the bank, I was a little sceptical about how they would last. We are almost a whole year on and they are still going strong. The only issue apparently being is that they do not fare well against barbed wire fences.
This is by no means a definitive list. It is simply a few ‘unsung heroes’ of kit, which I thought deserved a mention. My kit list has and will continue to develop through trial, error, disaster and of course, budget and learning. It is a never-ending search for the perfect balance to suit your particular situation. All the best in your search for yours and good and safe hunting!
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