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CAMMING IT UP

PUBLISHED: 11:20 07 September 2012

Archant

It’s an age old debate among shooters whether or not we need all the hi-tech clothing we use when hunting. You’ll read on the forums across the ‘net that some hunters go out shooting and still come back with a rabbit or pigeon for the pot without using camo. I definitely agree with them and if a rabbit or a pigeon for the pot is enough for them, then who are we to argue?

I often go for a walk with the dog and take a rifle on a permission. I won’t get dressed up in all the the fine clothing I have, but I’ll be in everyday clothes. I usually come back with something for the pot, because I know where I can creep up and ambush something, but I wouldn’t class that as hunting.

I’ll get to a part of a permission I know very well and be lucky if there’s a couple of rabbits out; they may see me and start to head for cover, but there will always be one that stops to look at what they’re running from and that’s your one shot.

There are other times when I don’t use my camo clothing. I don’t think it’s necessary when I’m shooting feral pigeons around a farmyard, because most of them are used to farmers and farm workers walking around in ordinary clothes.

Many of the debaters say that field craft is more important than any clothing they wear. I strongly agree with this; there’s no point in having all the best camouflage if you can’t get close enough to your quarry in the first place. Field craft is not just about being able to sneak up on your quarry, though; you must use everything you can at your disposal to gain the upper hand. As a hunter, you’re not happy with one for the pot, you want to use your tools to the best of your ability to gain the maximum success rate and that will undoubtedly gain you more respect from the landowner.

We have so many items we can use these days, that it can get a bit crazy with the amount of gear to lug around. I for one don’t want to be bogged down carrying gear all day, as it’s bad enough carrying the vermin I shoot. Add that to the weight of my rifle and it’s enough to bring a sweat on in any conditions.

Reasons for Camo

Many may not agree with me, but I’m going to give some reasons why I think camouflage is essential for a successful day out hunting.

When shooting woodpigeons, you should take no short cuts in your clothing at any time; you’re doing battle with one of the sharpest pair of eyes of any quarry you shoot. I think it’s one of the most frustrating quarry to shoot in large numbers, but we can do it. The most important lesson with pigeons is to cover every inch of skin. We need to blend into the surroundings as much as possible: I use gloves and a face veil to complement my other clothing. My rifle is also camouflaged: why go through all the trouble to conceal yourself and get the pigeon in your sight, only to be let down by the sun reflecting off your barrel, scaring it away.

When I upgraded my Rapid, I delayed getting it camouflaged, a decision that cost me many shots. I called myself some pretty nasty names every time a pigeon flew off after seeing the rifle. Something as simple as a bit of grass or fern over it, just to stop the shine, would have given me the edge, and I could have taken a few more shots.

When Jack Pyke first introduced the LLCS suit I thought, ‘There’s no way I am going to wear that’. The thought of looking like the Swamp Thing overshadowed the fact that it was one of the most useful bits of kit I would ever own. The first time I used it was one winter evening. I was after some pigeons which were roosting in a wood that I go beating in. The squirrel population had taken a hammering from me and it was getting hard to get near any of them.

I’d been sitting at my chosen spot waiting for a pigeon, when two squirrels started running on the ground towards me. I was dying to lift the Rapid and get ready to shoot the first one that sat still long enough, but instead I just sat still and quiet. The squirrels were now within five feet from where I was sitting and I know now if I hadn’t moved when I did, they would have definitely used me to get up the tree I was sitting against, as they hadn’t got a clue I was there. I know I wimped out, the thought of them jumping on me overruled the killer instinct, but that simple bit of kit took my shooting to another level. I went on to have the best roost shooting over that winter I’ve ever had. I blended in so well with my surroundings I was laughing to myself sometimes. I could even choose what pigeon I wanted on so many occasions, without any of the group seeing me.

Summer’s Here

Now the summer is upon us, rabbits will take over as number one pest. I often enjoy evening stalks, trying to get as close as possible to the rabbit before taking the shot. I would rather take a shot at 15 yards than 30 if possible. One of the most productive methods I use is lying out in a field, waiting for them to emerge from their burrows to feed. I know many of you guys will lie against the hedgerow, up from the burrow waiting for them - I’m not saying this is wrong, but you can maximise your chances by just lying out in the open field.

I choose to be out 30 yards from the main warren; I have a .177 and know I’m comfortable to shoot up to 40 yards on a still summer’s day without too much hold-over. This lets me cover more ground than I would if I was lying against the hedgerow. Some rabbits will hop along the hedge, away from the warren before coming out to feed, and if you’re against the hedge where they want to come out, you’ll be seen and a warning will be given, wrecking any chance of a shot.

There’s no special equipment needed for this, just one important one, camouflage. You won’t get good numbers lying there with jeans and a T-shirt on, you need to cover up well; even the rifle could do with a bit of scrim cloth draped over it and you’ll be surprised how many rabbits you might shoot.

Using your field craft is also important using this method. Finding the most used warrens will certainly give you more rabbits to shoot and make sure any wind is coming from the side, or into your face; it’s as easy as that.

On my latest trip out, I’ve tried to show in a couple of the pictures how well camouflage clothing will work in your favour. Standing next to some trees with a T-shirt on shows how easy it is to get spotted by a pigeon. On this occasion I had four pigeons drop into the trees in front of me and every one spotted me before I got the rifle to my shoulder. When I put my camouflage clothing back on, I had a shot straight away. The pigeon had no idea I was there; unfortunately, I missed it, but it proved my point.

Later, I spotted a few rabbits feeding out in a field. I know this is a good place to shoot a few them from previous visits, I’d made a path among the bracken so I could get to them as quietly and efficiently as possible. I’d been able to creep up to 25 yards from them and by kneeling among the bracken I could see over it, to get a steady shot at my first rabbit. The Rapid is silent with the new shroud on it but the pellet hitting solid bone sent a few running, although some stayed where they were looking around. I was covered up with a face veil and gloves on, so I blended in well. Had I not used the veil, I’d have been spotted and had no chance, but as it was, I got two more.

This situation has showed that not only do you need the camouflage, but also using my field craft to the fullest gained me three rabbits that I wouldn’t have got otherwise. Knowing it was a hot-spot and making that path through the bracken, meant I was as quiet as possible.

Last Chance

The last rabbit to fall that day was feeding out in a horse paddock. There were a couple of bushes between us, so I crept slowly toward it. I took a good 10 minutes to get there, but I knew if I’d gone any faster it would have seen me. As I was about to shoot the rabbit, a horse decided that a man-shaped bush was not normal so it ran straight towards the rabbit.

I was just about to walk away thinking it had gone, when another one ran out from the hedge at the side of me. I stood as still as I could for what seemed an age, until it started to feed. I was in no-man’s-land here, as the bushes were at my side giving the rabbit a full view of me. I slowly raised the Rapid and got the rabbit in the scope. It raised its head but had no idea what I was. The pellet hitting right behind its eye killed it stone dead. Had I not been wearing my camouflage clothing, but just everyday clothes, I would certainly have not got this one .

I hope that from reading this feature you don’t go away and think you have to buy all the latest 3D camouflage gear. Any army surplus gear or anything you own that will blend in with your surroundings will do. I feel at the top of my game with what I wear, but I’m not saying everyone should wear the same thing.

Try taking a camera out with you to take some pictures of yourself in different situations. When reviewing the pictures, think that if you can see yourself, then a rabbit or pigeon will see you easily. Again, if you hear someone say field craft is more important, then I agree that it is top of the list, but it won’t work on its own to get the bags you and the landowner want.

I could have gone much deeper into this debate because there are so many gadgets to aid us, but that will be for another day. n

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