MICK GARVEY’S HUNTING: SQUIRRELS

PUBLISHED: 12:34 11 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:37 12 June 2020

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Archant

Mick Garvey’s taking an unwanted break - but a recent trip is still fresh in his mind

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As I write this, I’m not sure where we stand with pest control because everyone I have contacted has been, let’s say ‘economical’ with their answers. I have contacted a few including my local MP, my firearms officer and the BASC, and the picture is still somewhat cloudy because they all are waiting on clarity. You cannot blame them because the first time someone gets pulled it’ll be … “Well, so and so said it was okay!” and no one wants to get the blame for someone else’s actions, especially if it involves a firearm. Various sources inform me that their FAO says it’s okay, and even BASC have said something similar albeit with a getout clause or two, but I have taken the decision to take an undeserved break until reliable clarity has been offered. I did manage to get out a couple of times before the lockdown was announced, so luck was on my side with that.

LOOKING BACK

Last month, I spoke about an old friend and work contact who had been experiencing problems with squirrels from a nearby copse. Well, as suggested to my friend I returned and fitted one of my ‘indestructible’ squirrel feeders; made from six-inch galvanised steel cable trunking, it certainly was indestructible and would last a lifetime. It was topped up with my skinny mix – with extra peanuts – and left for a week to get them feeding confidently.

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SLOW AND DELIBERATE

I had to call back halfway through the week to fit some lamps, so whilst on site I checked the feed station, but I gave it 15 minutes of my time to watch over the little wood from a distance so that I didn’t spook anything. A quarter of an hour later and I had seen nothing, despite the weather having turned desperately cold and they still needed to feed – the time of day was the same as when I’d seen them on my first visit, too. I couldn’t wait any longer, but my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to look inside that feeder. Keeping to the perimeter of the field and moving slowly, I edged toward the copse, and moved into a position that would be my eventual vantage point. I came to a stop, half hidden by the evergreen foliage and took another few minutes to watch for movement … nothing! Had I got it wrong? Surely not! ‘No definitely not,’ I told myself.

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HIT HARD

I crept forward, trying to keep my movements slow and deliberate and being careful to watch my every step. I had seen the odd robin and finches taking feed from the feeder, so it wasn’t going to be empty. I took the last few steps out in the open and as I approached the feeder the birds took off with their freebie food. I actually paused in anticipation before lifting the lid, and then began to smile because the steel container was almost empty and it was quite evident that the skinnies had been hitting it hard. The feed had been scraped out from the access slot at the bottom in a way that only a squirrel can do, leaving food toward the back of the feeder. So, good news then! I topped it up to halfway and retreated.

I would be back in a few days, so I thought it best to check the line of sight from the vantage point. I trimmed back a few small branches and twiglets with my electrical side cutters to make a clean cut – I hate just snapping off branches. The trees were just sprouting some greenery, and everything was starting to come to life; a few pigeons had come to sit up in the treetops above me and I regretted not bringing the gun, but they’d be there next time, I hoped.

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PROFESSIONAL TOOLAGE

Just a few words on the squirrel feeders; I’m going to do a feature on how I made them, with step-by-step photos and instructions, plus the different options for feed release. You’ll need some professional ‘toolage’, and PPE gear, and obviously the galvanised trunking, which can be four-inch or six-inch – it all depends on what’s available to you – and some timber to fasten the feeder on to … oh yeah, and a first aid kit.

I linked my pest control with a social/business meet with my friend, Mike. The job had been finalised, but no handshakes as the dreaded CV-19 was starting to make the headlines, and the deal was confirmed verbally. Mike was keen to check out what I was going to use, so I showed him the FX Impact, which was the choice for today, with a Hawke Airmax 4-16 x 50, as always, mounted on top. I’d be using the Wicked Lights Rekon CT1 tripod, and Air Arms Diablo pellets would finish off the kit … nice and simple. Mike was impressed with the look of the FX and surprised by how far technology had come, and the ability to pinpoint leaves on trees 100 yards away left him amazed, but it was that time again and I had a date with some skinnies.

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SET THE SCENE

Keeping to the same route as earlier in the week, I was soom in position. The simple set-up of the tripod took mere seconds, and with the Arca-Swiss attachment slipping nicely into place, I was ready for action. I had the scope zeroed on the feeder, and the Rekon gave me the option of having my hands in my pockets because the cold had set in again and I had forgotten my gloves – schoolboy error! As I was wearing my dark workwear I’d have to sink deep into the darkest shadows in the woods to give me cover, and from a standing position I could minimise my movements, so the scene was set.

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AWESOME DAY

I was starting to think it was going to be a no show and thoughts went back to a call I’d had from Stevie, who I had been invited out with a while back. We had an awesome day on his permission, taking over 40 skinnies between us, but he’d been in touch recently reporting that he hadn’t seen any great numbers since that day, He’s not the only one either. I have often had calls saying that numbers have fallen, and I’m thinking it’s a cycle they are going through.

Rest assured, you’ll never eradicate every squirrel in your wood; ‘you shoot six, and another six will come to the funeral’, is the saying. My own woods have slowed somewhat, but other areas are showing good numbers, so keep the faith and never give up, is my advice. Maybe a wildlife camera can pinpoint the feeding times.

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DIFFICULT SHOT

My mind was brought back to reality as I detected movement above the feeder, a skinny was slowly edging its way down the trunk and it came to a stop on the feed tray. I watched for a few seconds whilst it casually picked peanuts from the offerings, one after another. Time’s up, sunshine! I rested the cross hairs smack between the ear and eye, gently squeezed off a round, and as if by magic, the skinny fell to the ground with an instant kill. I left the tree rat where it landed, not to cause any disturbance. The gun is whisper quiet even with the standard modular stack-up moderator, and I’m hoping to be fitting a Donny FL moderator sometime soon, but me breaking cover to retrieve a skinny that wasn’t going anywhere was not a good idea – best just to wait for the next one to show.

HIGH AND RIGHT

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It didn’t take long before I saw more movement, this time from the drey high to my right. It popped out as if startled and sat chattering wildly, around two feet above the drey. The shot was a difficult one, with just a tiny window between the branches framing the skinny’s head. I dispensed with the Rekon, and the ease of removing the Impact from the tripod was extremely helpful. I had the gun rested on the trunk of the tree, aiming low for the incline, and once more the Diablo was off on a mission. The mission was successfully carried out and just like before, the skinny fell lifeless to the ground below.

STAY SAFE

One male and one female was the final number for the day, but I suspect there are a couple more here, so I’ll be setting up a wildlife camera when the current CV-19 situation allows, but for now, my customer is happy. “Never even heard a shot,” was his comment, and his smile was great to see when I showed him the pair.

So, a relatively successful day and possibly one of the last for a while. Luckily, I’m out quite often and have a stockpile of days out I can put to paper, but as a final word today I just want to say, stay safe out there. These are unprecedented times and we need to stay aware and vigilant; practise your social distancing and self-isolating where and when necessary, and remember, we will get through this and get through it together. When it is over, the fields, woods and meadows will be waiting for us, so be patient, be sensible, be safe and take care everyone. ■

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