Do you know how to dispatch your quarry?

This pigeon dropped claenly but are you ready for thise that don't?

This pigeon dropped claenly but are you ready for thise that don't? - Credit: Archant

The editor touches upon a tricky subject – ‘coup de grâce’

We know from our surveys that over 80% of you are hunters, or would like to be, a fact that brings me to a tricky subject – the coup de grâce. This is a French phrase for ‘a death blow’, delivered mercifully to end suffering. In other words, to kill our quarry humanely if our shot wasn’t fatal. I believe that any hunter has an inescapable duty to find any shot quarry quickly, put it in the bag to be eaten later, or to dispatch it if we’ve failed to kill it outright, and if you don’t accept the responsibility, then you shouldn’t pull the trigger.

Assuming that we’ve been able to find the quarry animal we’ve shot and that it is not dead, what should we do? There are two trains of thought and I go with the first, most of the time; as I shoot, I watch the pellet strike through the scope and note carefully the animal’s reaction. Then I quickly reload and bring the sights back onto the animal’s kill zone. If a fallen squirrel raises its head, I immediately shoot again. This might sound harsh, but I want to stop the quarry right there and then rather than try to find it if it crawls away. This is also particularly important for quarry that could well harm us if we handle it. Squirrels and rats come to mind.

Go find it

If shooting is not an option and you don’t have a dog to retrieve it for you, you need to go forward and search for yourself. I always reload and apply the safety at this point. It’s possible that an opportunity to dispatch the creature might present itself, so I like to be ready.

If my quarry is a pigeon that I’ve downed, I’ll pick it and then dispatch it with a sharp blow to the head with my priest. This is a small truncheon-like club used specifically for this work. One well-aimed blow to the head will end the bird’s life with little drama and minimal suffering. Birds that I will not handle include the crow and rook that will inflict injury on us if they’re able, just like rats and squirrels.

The final option is to shoot them by sighting down the side of the barrel, but be sure to angle the rifle low, so that any ricochets fly safely away from yourself. Please think through these techniques and ideas before you tackle any quarry. When necessary, you have a duty to deliver your coup de grâce quickly and efficiently.