How to lose a hunting permission
PUBLISHED: 11:31 05 December 2018
Jamie Chandler explains why we should think before speaking
This might well be a first, but without firsts we would all be floating around like gelatinous, single-celled blobs in a gargantuan sea, waiting for evolution to start. Apologies for causing editor, Phill to faint, but I’m so amazed about what I’ve just seen that I want to get it down while fresh in my mind and so, for almost the first time, get my copy in early!
We all know that getting permissions for some, seems to come breathtakingly easily. They show up at any place they deem requires their services, wave their magic pellet pouch and before you can list two species on the general licence, they’ve gone and bagged another permission and the option of dating their pick of the landowners relatives.
Most of us are also aware that unless you are fully immersed within a country community, with excellent connections to landowners or their agents, gaining permission can be a tough journey. Today, I witnessed a real, sorry tale of permission-undoing failure, snatched so brutally from the jaws of almost textbook, long-game success.
Years to build
I’ve mentioned before my job as a pigeon-shooting guide. Through this I have met an awful lot of people from all over, some who come once, some who come out a few times, and over the last year and a half, a really nice bunch of guys led by ‘Bob’ for the sake of anonymity. Since Bob and his friends started coming pigeon shooting, we’ve got on well – they’re a nice bunch. They started out with little equipment and less knowledge and, over time, we’ve grown our friendship to the point that I have cut the price of a day’s pigeon shooting and can trust them to make the best of it. Bob and his crew ensure that the field is left spotless and leave borrowed equipment in a barn for me to pick up later when they’ve gone.
Over the course of our growing bromance, Bob has mentioned in passing his problems with gaining permissions, and how astounded he is that the landowners or agents he’s met through me when we’re out, are all so friendly and approachable, compared to the gruff and curtly negative responses he gets when alone.
I explained that we split pigeon-shooting and deer-stalking fees in a partnership; the permission owners are fully on board with encouraging people back, whilst the burden of responsibility for the behaviour of guests is on me. I’m lucky to have this life, but it took years to build. Also, as we’ve been building our camaraderie, Bob’s mentioned his love of rabbiting and pigeon-roosting with an airgun, and how he would love to get back out again hunting with his HW97, after only having had trigger time in his back garden for the past six years, since his wife moved her horse from one particular stable, losing him the permission at the same time.
I’ve been asked by clients before about organising airgun hunts. In much of Europe, airgun hunting is prohibited, so many of my clients from the Continent are curious about the challenge and experience. I’ve been very reluctant to offer it to anyone and have turned down £100-plus for an evening’s rabbit stalking from well-heeled Belgians because it can be a hard sell to my permission holders. In fact, it’s harder to get a positive response from, ‘Can I take some guys out hunting with an airgun?’ than ‘Can I put four strangers in hides with decoys out, shooting shotguns all day?’ It’s a strange irony that the less-intrusive airgun is less welcome, but it has been for me.
After 18 months of Bob and his friends coming out shooting, last week I asked if it would be all right if Bob joined me hunting rabbits after his team had been out on the last of the summer stubbles after pigeons. Permission was duly granted and the date set. Bob was delighted, and even more so that his offer of payment was turned down. Bob had played the long game superbly, showing that he was a good man and building a relationship with me in my capacity as someone who could get him airgun-shooting permission. He had earned my trust and I was genuinely looking forward to it. Bob was about to take a huge lick from the permission Cornetto, and with the farmer suggesting a go at the rats on a separate night, by the looks of it, he’d bought a multi-pack.
Bob turned up with his team this morning for his day’s pigeon shooting, before airgun hunting with me. I took them to the field and whilst his team set up hides and prepared for the day’s sport, Bob and I ran through expectations of the evening, compared his Weihrauch HW97K to my BSA Lightning XL SE, and just talked happy airgun stuff.
The farmer came along to check the newly-drilled rape, stopped for a chat, and all was very amicable as we talked shooting and field sports in general. With the stunning, early autumn sun lapping our shoulders, we reminisced about pigeon shooting when we were younger with our parents, and possibly fuelled by ever-growing comfort and confidence, Bob opened his mouth to join in.
Bob explained to the farmer, landowner, shoot captain and I that his fondest memory of his early teens was wandering through the woods at night, shooting pheasants out of trees with his father, with an airgun and a catapult, by torchlight. His next fondest memory was lamping hares and rabbits with dogs over the harvest stubbles. The joy of a real country childhood was something he was proud of, although he wouldn’t do such things now, obviously – but he would like to pass these valued skills to his own kids.
I held my breath. The farmer waved a warm, ‘cheerio’, jumped in his truck and drove off. Bob smiled contentedly, acknowledging again what a great guy the farmer was. I shuddered and wondered if I could make it 50 paces before my phone rang. At 45 paces I got the farmer’s call and by pace 70 it was clear that in no uncertain terms was Bob allowed back, ever. He was to pack his and his friends’ kit away immediately and go. If the farmer found out anyone else coming pigeon shooting had that reckless, illegal mentality he would call the whole thing off – and chuck me off with it, ending 10 years of friendship.
I went and explained all this to Bob who was adamant that he hadn’t done anything wrong, and was angry about the apparent change of tune and injustice. I explained that it was basically his fault for suggesting to a guy who spent countless hours at night chasing poachers and coursers who blight that area, that there was nothing wrong with criminal activity. In two minutes, Bob had lost his burgeoning airgun permission, his team’s pigeon shooting and nearly cost me almost a third of my business permission, and he still couldn’t see where he went wrong, claiming that class snobbery from a toff of a farmer was the real reason.
So for anyone out there lucky enough to be at the end of their permission hunting journey, please remember that, in fact, it’s just the beginning of keeping it! Permissions can be lost for any reason, at any point, and for Bob to have lost it all in a few sentences and be back at zero is not only an epic fail, but also a genuine shame for a nice guy, who just didn’t think before he spoke. I’m gonna miss you, Bob!
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