Right from the outset of the article we are countrymen, brought up and raised to respect our quarry from the greasy Rat to the mighty Red Stag, all living things need respect!
So if I go out shooting horrible disease ridden rats, in a cow shed up to my hocks in cow poo, I still treat my quarry with the same respect as any other animal, it’s how I was brought up, all life has a value, I’m out after the humble rabbit, the animal that kept a lot of people alive, during not 1 but 2 world wars.
It gets my respect, from buzzard and hawk to badger, fox and stoat, they survive, and that gets my thumbs up.
The same can be said over the wood pigeon, to quote Major Archie Coates said, “The humble pigeon is the most sporting of bird, only paralleled by the hawk for flying prowess.”
Yet I see people shooting them with centre fire rifles, total destruction of a bloody good meat, and a useable object. The bird itself.
Now I’ve been young daft and stupid, set fire to things, took animals I shouldn’t, pop over the fence to bag a rabbit or 5, built tree houses, tracking animals everywhere, even where we shouldn’t, but I did it as a kid, learning all about the great outdoors as I went, not once did I carry on as I became an adult, and acquired things like my shotgun and firearms tickets.
Now you my fellow readers are probably thinking what, is he going on about, well it’s like this, I love the fact more and more members of the general public are picking up arms, from a shotgun to rimfire or a centre fire rifle and enjoying our world.
But I feel there is a line its very faint and not many can see it, I pride myself on the ways of the countryside.
I can happily sit all day not firing a shot off and enjoy Mother Nature to the fullest, as some seem to need to be umm be rather trigger happy, I have foxes on 4 of my main shoots, if they get out of line its quickly addressed by myself, but I love to see all wildlife in its natural home doing what it does best, if Charlie helps me, keeping rats, mice and rabbits in check, it helps me overall I don’t have game birds down so no worries here.
Now when I first started hunting all those years ago, I was like many a young hunter, always trying to improve by improving the bag, or to put it another way, the more I shot the more it looked good to me and my peers.
These days I much prefer to keep the land at a managed number, always keeping the numbers so it’s well balanced, I have had to learn the hard way back in 2000\01 I had myxi on 2 separate shoots, wiped me out big style, over 200 acres in total rabbitless it has taken the best part of 10 years to regain the numbers I once had, that’s 10 years of knowing any rabbits I shot won’t ever be there again,
My Great Grandfather was a hunter, and a proud one at that, out with 12g or 410, putting rabbit or pigeon on the table to feed the family, as it was for many years ago, the humble pigeon and wily rabbit make a fun hunt, if stalked, but if you’re going to hit them from 2 or 300 yards, that’s not hunting or anything close, that’s just shooting, which does not make you a countryman in my books.
So you can adjust a scope to hit the mark at 200 or 300 yards, and even longer ranges, well done save it for paper or steel.
Become a hunter, re-train to allow you to get as close, to the quarry as you can you need to stalk the breeze, feel every inch of your land, listen to the local birds, the blackbird with his iconic warning call, chok-chok-chok-chok, don’t set him off, close the gap from 100 to 75 then down to 50 start to crouch, it’s the only way, as you get closer you need to get smaller, and then now at 30 yards.
Slowly does it, watch for that breeze it might turn, look at the rabbit, see how its eyelashes are blowing in the faint breeze, its nose is constantly twitching, look into its eye, a window to his soul as you take up the first stage pressure, holding your body like a spring then relaxing into the memory locked position, as the second stage travels through and the nudge in your shoulder says hold for the follow through, watching the pellet take flight and sail on the arc to its final resting place, the shot is good, he’s down those final kicks as his life ebbs away.
Now do that every day for 20 years and then come back to me, we are the eyes and ears of the countryside, not the baseball bat, we have no need to go out and kill things at excessive range, or numbers, I recently took a client out to watch the deer, he followed my every foot fall and paced with me, and I could still hear his foot steeps over mine, he even commented for a big lad how quite I was on my feet, practice, practice,practice came back the reply. He looked even more humble after standing on a small twig and letting out the infamous, crack! Then saw not more than 30 yards away two summer roe does gliding through the trees, like ghosts they just merged, and became the forest about 60 yards further ahead.
I then took him down to the big meadow, and gave some deep rumble calls, a half growl – half moan
And as if on que one of the red hinds appeared and stood for a good 10 mins offering this gent a perfect opportunity to see nature in all its glory, and as she decided to go on to feed, the resident buzzards gave an early evening display, of swoops glides and other aerobatics for him.
You see it’s not about the shooting it is the glory of being able to immerse in it. I had fox cubs on the island shoot this year, so took my kids down to watch them play and rough and tumble as most litter mates do, how many kids these days can go to school the next day, bearing in my mind we live on the edge of a huge city, and can tell their school mates all about the fox cubs and the nonsense they get up to, just feet from the den.
Now the other thing I see on social media is what I shall refer to the “Town shooter.” By that I mean Bob,
He has a mate Jim, now Jim grew up in the countryside and learnt from his father and grandfather. Bob’s dad worked in the local mine or factory, Bob fancies himself as a bit of a shooter, seen a few films, read a book or two, and has money to spend in the local gun shops.
But here lies the issues with Bob, not being raised in the country ways he lacks all the knowledge that gets handed down, from listening to nature to seeing what ripples can do in the pond of life, make too many ripples you stir up the silt at the bottom.
Alas another thing Bob lacks is quarry respect, his idea of a good Friday night which is his “shooting night” as Bobs wife calls it to her friends, is to pop out down the local farm he has managed to get permission on, and pop out his caller, and sit with his rifle and night-vision device, and kill 4 or 5 maybe more foxes and a few rabbits. What’s wrong with that I hear you all cry, you sound jealous over Bob, sadly I’m not jealous, I already shoot more than enough land as my fixed permissions, and have been hunting over them for nearly 25 years.
What my point is this, Bob sadly lacks enough knowledge to manage the countryside properly.
Shooting those 4 odd foxes, he didn’t know which was the dominant pair, or if they are even the locals, Bob didn’t go and do his homework the week before finding where they came from, looking for their runs, as foxes like to travel over the same routes. Did you know that reader?
Now I’m not saying everybody is like Bob, but I’m seeing more and more over the social groups and pages.
As a countryman and a hunter and conservationist I feel that a balance is always needed. From the crows and magpies to the rabbits and squirrel numbers, we have a duty that goes hand in hand with the power of the rifle- is the gentle touch of nurture.
So please don’t feel I’m picking on just Bob, there are many more out there doing the same, I see pages on Facebook, where its seems to be the in thing is to tally up as many as possible, like a Johnson swinging contest.
I can’t tell you how much game I’ve bagged over the years, especially rabbits. Must be many thousands but I don’t brag and tell people I’m the greatest hunter ever, for many reasons, 1: Being there a people who have bagged way more for a damn site longer, 2: I feel humbled by Mother Nature, she is a mistress to be obeyed by all. So don’t brag.
Now we meet Andy, young Andy here, grew up in the town but felt a spark in nature, he went and watched every film, book and DVD, there is on hunting, countryside and natural history, he took the time to meet other hunters, and got introduced to Burt the retired keeper of 53 years. Burt saw a glint in Andy and took him under his wing, taught him about nature and woodsmanship, and keeping, and stalking and so much more, Andy has known Burt 12 years now and is still learning , and Ol Burt he is learning to, how to pass on his vast encyclopaedia of life knowledge on to another.
Andy will spend hours sat out at all times of the day watching the local wildlife going about its business, learning the routes and ways of the quarry he chases.
How many shooters can tell you every beat (the natural animal trails) on the shoots they hunt?
Where the birds nest, or even how many animals you have on the shoot.
So dear readers there are many hunters and shooters out in the great outdoors, but alas only a few real countrymen, the people that pass the knowledge and the ways of the old onto the next generation, the keepers of the forest, and like the deer in the woods many just disappear between the trees taking that valuable and vast wealth of information with them, from the late Archie Coats and Jack Hargreaves, to the more recent losses of John Darling and The Country gun- John Humphreys.
The knowledge just these 4 men, no they are legends had, would fill a good library, and yet most of it, sadly died with them, this is one of my points, unless you are willing to learn and understand how natures cogs join and mesh there’s no point you really taking up the gun and trying to hunt, or just shoot in most cases, I’m waiting for the comments and backwash from this and do not care, it’s a very strong subject to me, now I will say this. If you can produce a detailed plan for the culling of species, the protection of others and conservation of your permissions, please show me, as mine are all agreed with the landowners every year.
From sorting out dead trees in the woods to managing drainage ditches and fences and then on to the vermin, rabbit, squirrel and deer cull plan.
As a hunter I’m responsible for the wildlife so see fit to manage it as such.
From the simple act of throwing a pebble in the pond forms many ripples, so remember your actions will have a knock on effect, and being a responsible hunter means more than just blowing the bloody stuffing out of it.