Poaching, berets, and beer.
In a recent online competition we asked for the best story of how you started in the world of field sports, this was the winner. We are so impressed with Keith’s article, we offered him a full-time position writing for the diary.
My story starts way back in the mists of time when men were men and the sheep ran really fast. My Pater (that’s what we called our fathers back then) would take me on his many forays into the fields here about with his ferrets. Apparently what we were doing is now known as poaching. You live and learn eh. Occasionally Pater would take his air rifle with us.
Sometimes he even let me have a pop. Oh dear. Little did Pater realize the monster he created that day? As the years progressed so did my urge to own my own gun. I would spend my weekends cruising the local gun shops. Constantly asking what, why, how? As the years passed and I grew (not by much) along came the after school job and weekend job.
Whether it was delivering the local free paper or delivering milk with my cousin the money came in and I saved apart from my weekly vice, my comic, the Eagle. As the piggy bank got fatter my desire for my own air gun grew. I had owned cap guns and spud guns and even made my own bow and arrows. But they weren’t an air rifle. After much pestering and protestations to my parents they sighed a big sigh and relented. Yippee. Off to the gun shop we went. A rifle was acquired, possibly a BSA, and the fun began.
Many an hour paper punching was enjoyed in the back yard. The power this air rifle produced seemed immense. It would easily punch holes in 14 inch plywood. It seemed to cut through 3mm steel plate like a knife through butter. Awesome. My mates and I would now spend our time building dens down the dunes or up the woods then spend the day shooting tin cans, acorns, cankers and leaves. Our skill was such that the wild life were safe as were most of our targets some of the time. And so the years progressed until in 1984 at the age of 16 12 and my joining the Army. Oh the joy. God bless Her Majesty’s Armed Forces for in their wisdom I was issued a beautiful wood stocked L1A1 7.62 SLR that weighed in at around 11.2 pound unloaded and stood about 46 and a half inches tall.
This Beastie was taller than me when fitted with its bayonet and kicked like a stung elephant wearing steel toe capped boots. I was in heaven. Provided with an awesome rifle, taught its characteristics and provided with as much ammunition as I wanted all while being paid at the same time. I was one happy boy. If you were paying attention you may have noticed the reference to a bayonet. Well done. Now the SLR bayonet is about 14 inches of pointed stabbiness that fits over the muzzle thus extending the length of the rifle to around 60 inches long.
Apparently the sharpening of bayonets was against the Geneva Convention so my NCO’s were not too happy with me putting such an edge on mine you could cut light with it. It was blunted quite sharply. My troop was Kukri troop and our mascot was a large shield on which were mounted two highly polished brass Kukri fighting knives. I took a shine to these and appointed myself, unofficially, chief cleaner and custodian. No one was allowed to touch them but I and I spent many an hour with basso and yellow dusters keeping these Kukris gleaming. This cemented my interest in bladed weapons especially military knives and swords. Another thing you may remember is my mention of bow and arrows if you’ve been paying attention.
One thing the Army was keen on was the “after work activities”.There were the usual things like football, no thanks, golf, waste of a good walk, archery. Come to daddy. My self and a few others were taught the ancient art of sky shooting by our civilian instructor, a Mr. R. Hood. I’m not kidding. His name was Richard Hood and he was amazing. He introduced us to one of the first compound bows in the country.
This was back in 1984 and compound bows were fairly new in the UK. Another passion ignited and one I have dabbled with over the years and even incorporated into battle reenactment, another story, and now one I have rediscovered with a passion. I digress.Back, to the guns.Now the Army doesn’t just hand out a gun and let you “crack on”. You are taught its effect on a target. Its limitations. How to clean, and maintain it.
How to handle it safely, and, best of all, how to get the best, out of it, .range days are, just that all day on a range. Oh bliss.Your issued weapon is sighted in too you.You practice firing from different positions, prone, kneeling and standing. You even shoot whilst wearing a N.B.C suit, or as it was better known as, the noddy suit. I’m proud to say that on that first day of familiarization with the rifle I attained the required score to be granted Marksman status TWICE in the same day.A level of accuracy I attained and maintained with all the taught weapon systems during my military career.
Ah such wonderful days. It doesn’t stop with your personal weapon either.Other weapon systems were taught. The 9mm, Browning pistol.The 9mm Sterling submachine gun.The 7.62 LMG , a converted Bren gun , a 1941 version of which I carried as my personal weapon during Gulf War 1. That’s another story.The GPMG or gimpy.The 66 anti-tank rocket launcher and hand grenades.This boy was a very happy soldier. Ah those were the days.Let’s move on 10 years to 1995 and I returned to chivvy street.Scary times.A job was found and a home secured and, alas, real life bit. HARD. All shooting of any kind ceased and my knife collection languished in boxes.And so the world turned.Although the shooting had ceased, for now, the battle reenacting carried on.
The group I was part of travelled the country putting on shows and generally having a ball.Even my kids got involved.Oh the kids. Yes them two. One night they went out and on their return announced they had joined the Army Cadets.That would be about late 2000.As the nights got darker and colder, and if I was home in time, I was tasked with taking and picking them up. Typical. Dads taxi huh. Then one night it happened. My son came out of the detachment and said the DC would like a word. Oh god what have they done?
So being the concerned parent in I went…..FATAL MISTAKE.After a brief chat and a look around the “old” detachment the question came. “So would you be interested in joining?” I SAID YES. NNNNNNNNnnnnnnnnnnoooooooo. 8 years I did as an adult instructor in the Cadet force and in that time I was a Detachment Commander three times. Twice at my old detachment.I taught the kids many things but among them I enjoyed foot drill and weapon handling skills as well as marksmanship principles.The weapons of choice were a .22 air rifle, .22 no8 rifles and the SA80 5.56.Oh how I enjoyed my time. The Detachment thrived and won many competitions and trophies.My time with Cadets came to an end in 2009 with the birth of my granddaughter.
My little princess.Along the way a few knives had been acquired so the collection grew even though I wasn’t trying.And back to my guns. My first air rifle was a 850 Airmagnum co2 powered rifle. Awesome I know. There’s a story there but that’s for another time.I sold the Airmagnum after a few months of owning it.My next rifle was a BSA Supersport in .22 that my father gave me. This rifle is a scope breaker. I know because it destroyed a scope on a hunting trip with my son. Now we come to my first PCP. An Air Arms S 300.
What a bargain this was. Too good to turn down so I didn’t. I’ve claimed a fair few bunnies with this rifle and thought I’d never get rid of her.But I did.I swapped the S 300 for a Gunpowder Stealth that has been played with if you get my drift. And what a cracking piece of kit it is. A tack driver as they say and so compact and light. She now sports a 10 inch moderator as opposed to the standard 6 inch one.
Next came my Air Arms S 410. My brother took this as payment for fixing a farmers Land rover. When he showed my dad it, dad bought it off my brother. When I saw it I bought it off my dad and after giving her a thorough make over and having her tuned she is the pride of my collection.My dad has as bad a collecting habit as me. He has bought a fair few rifles and had among his collection a beautiful BSA Ultra MMC .After much badgering, about a year, he let me have it as a birthday / Christmas present. I love my dad. Along the way I’ve picked up a couple of pistols. They are both CP 88s. One is standard the other is the competition model.In my travels on this rock we call earth I have collected some lovely knives including two splendid K bar knives. One of which my son got me for Christmas.My collection includes a selection of samurai swords, some bought some given.
Have I mentioned I love my dad and how cool he is? For my 45th birthday, yes I’m that old; he bought me an Armex Jaguar crossbow. Happy times.Another of my good buys is a Han Wei take down bow with arrows and a plethora of ancillary’s for a song.Back to daddy and the acquisition of my Armex Olympic compound bow. An absolute beast of a bow. The arrows are in the target before you know it. As of 2013 I have been indulging another itch. The art of knife, axe and tomahawk throwing. So three Zeil II throwing knives have joined the collection and getting, a regular workout with KATTA UK at our Pontyfract range.As you may have gathered I have an extensive varied collection of weaponry which I enjoy using.
Most of all I get a sense of fulfillment when out hunting with my son and dad. Being on our permission with Mother Nature in all her splendor around us. So what of the future?Well, as all of us wish, I want no need to get out hunting more. Hopefully gain access to more land.I’ve been promising myself that I would apply for my fire arms certificate and get back into long range shooting. Never say never. Next year looks interesting as far as knife throwing goes as the UK will be hosting the Eurothrowers Championship over the weekend of 22 August 2015 in Nottinghamshire. Exciting times. I may even qualify to compete. Fingers crosses eh.As for the Archery well that’s another avenue I would like to explore more thoroughly.Too many activities and not enough time. Maybe I should quit working? Like you no doubt do I also indulge my passions via that inter webby thing.No, not that type of site. I’m referring to Facebook of course. I’m a member of a fair few of the Shooting community sites and even an administrator of a couple, I know. Who would make me an administrator?
Who would have thought this internetty thing would be so entertaining. Bringing together like minded people who would probably never meet in 10 life times.So there you have it, dear reader. My past, present and possible future. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Now may I suggest you get your gun and be off with you? Who wants to sit in a pub drinking when the countryside is on your doorstep especially as I’m in gods own county. Yorkshire. Be safe and shoot straight.