Hunting: A bad day in the office

I waited for the pigeon to fly up to a branch I could clearly see

I waited for the pigeon to fly up to a branch I could clearly see - Credit: Archant

Even Eddie can have a bad day now and then

I avoid standing shots but sometimes there's no choice

I avoid standing shots but sometimes there's no choice - Credit: Archant

It’s not often that I go out and totally waste a good opportunity, especially when it’s for a magazine feature, but this month really took the biscuit, and it has still got me reliving every shot before I gave up and wanted to throw the rifle in the car. It has been over a week since that horrible sunny afternoon, and I am still trying to find excuses to put in this feature, but I can’t think of any, so I am just going to say it how it was and let you decide.

The horror started at around 5pm. It was hot, humid and there was not a lot of quarry around the farm at all, so I knew it was going to be a few hours before my intended quarry – rabbits – would show, so instead of sunning it, I decided to pop into a small wood and wait it out there. There is always the chance that a woodpigeon, having filled up on the neighbouring crops, will come in to digest its food, and the odd squirrel might show. It is also a lot cooler under the canopy, so that’s where I started.

Locked solidly agaist this sturdy tree I just couldn't miss...

Locked solidly agaist this sturdy tree I just couldn't miss... - Credit: Archant

I’d been sitting patiently, checking out all the great Facebook statuses of what others were shooting, when I heard the sound of wings hitting branches to my left. Scanning the many trees for at least 20 minutes provided me with nothing, and I had forgotten my thermal spotter so even a small chance of locating it had gone. Not to be defeated, I persevered, and at last I had it. It was no more than 25 yards away, right at the top of a silver birch. Slowly, I raised the Galahad to my shoulder and within seconds its head was lined up with the Sidewinder’s cross hairs.

The pigeon was slumped flat and enjoying the sun without a care in the world. Steady as a rock, I got on target and squeezed the Galahad’s trigger, waiting in anticipation for the sound of the pellet hitting its target, but I was soon left wondering, ‘how the hell did I miss that!’ The pigeon took off faster than it had come in, with all feathers intact. I watched as the pigeon made a full flyby, just to rub salt in the wounds. I looked at the Galahad in disgust and sat back down.

At least I had this one kill

At least I had this one kill - Credit: Archant


Another 20 minutes passed until my next chance came. I had ditched the phone so that I could concentrate on seeing the pigeons come in, and it worked. A pigeon had dropped on to the floor around 30 yards in front of me. There was a little brook there and it had come for a drink. I couldn’t see the pigeon because the ferns were too high, but I knew what it was doing. It was a couple of minutes before the pigeon lifted up on to a branch about ten feet above the brook, and then I was on it in an instant, the trigger was pulled and the pigeon dropped. When I say ‘dropped’ I mean it dropped one foot then climbed several more as it exited the canopy.

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My head was in my hands now. I could excuse one miss, but two on the trot - no way! It was the gun’s fault I was sure. I decided I would quickly check my zero, and three shots later the Galahad told me it was my rubbish shooting. I was a bit dismayed by now. How could I put three pellets more or less on top of each other, but miss a pigeon’s head?

I was getting really hot; it should get cooler as the afternoon wears on, but it seemed like I was in an oven. I was about to head back to the car and just wait it out for rabbits when another pigeon gave me chance to redeem myself. This was it! There was no way was I going to miss this one. I had made sure I was well rested this time. I was calm, composed, and more determined than ever. Third time lucky, the pellet was sent on its way, and this time the pigeon fell more than one foot – it fell all the way to the woodland floor. Excitement never entered my mind or body. All I wanted to know was how I’d missed the first two. I had no idea so I went to retrieve the pigeon and just have a walk around the bit of wood that was still shootable.

My setting had not changed one little bit

My setting had not changed one little bit - Credit: Archant

Rabbits it is then

I saw nothing until I came to the end of the wood where I normally climb the fence and head back to the rabbit fields. There are a couple of trees covered in ivy, and I was sure that I’d seen some of the ivy drop, like something had jumped off it. I tucked behind a tree and just scanned where I thought it was and I was soon proven correct when a squirrel crossed to the tree just to my right.

I pointed the Galahad in its direction and found the squirrel sitting on a branch, more or less hidden, but its head was on show. I was resting on the tree next to me and had the cross just below its cheek to compensate for the angle. I took the shot, one I have taken hundreds, if not thousands of times and nailed the pest I was shooting at, but I bet you’ve guessed already – yes, I missed again. That was the last straw. I threw the Galahad over the shoulder, and back to the car I went. I had a cold drink and calmed myself down a bit. This was supposed to be a feature day to show how I do not miss – could I really write about how bad I was? Well, I was sure that I’d make amends on the rabbits and probably have something good to write about.

It was 7.30 and I knew the rabbits were coming out. I could see rabbits feeding in a couple of paddocks, so I headed off for the short walk to my ambushing spot. Bipod set, I was ready. The maximum distance I would need to shoot was 30 yards, so any shot should be a formality. I was soon put to the test, and within 15 minutes two plump rabbits came out together. I didn’t have to rush this shot because the rabbits were feeding and I was lying down, and the Galahad was as steady as it could ever be. I was actually smiling now. I chose the rabbit to the right, and I had a nice run to it. The other had a couple of weeds and thistles around it so rather than tempt fate I took the easy option. This was it, the cross was firmly placed just behind the rabbit’s eye, and 28 yards it was, just 28 yards. I pulled the trigger, and the rabbit jumped, turned and ran off. I will not repeat what I was calling myself, because of our younger readers, but it was not good. How could this be happening? My feature was in tatters. Well, that was it. I could not go on. I couldn’t have hit a barn door if it was 10 feet away in my head. I had to pack in or risk injuring something, or myself.

Groups like this proved the Galahad was still bang on zero

Groups like this proved the Galahad was still bang on zero - Credit: Archant

A one off?

So, that was my day. Was it a one off? No! Sometimes these days happen, no matter how good you are; whoever you are, you will have these days. I have known people to sell their guns because they would rather blame their tools than themselves. I have just learned to call myself everything under the sun, and accept it. Will it happen again? Definitely.

Okay, enough of that. Next month, I will be back on the night-vision trail. After a successful trial of the new Yukon Photon, I thought I would put my Pulsar N750 on the Ultimate Sporter. This digital scope has bagged me many a fox, but I have never used it on rabbits. I have also bought the newer version, the 750A, so that has gone on the bullet rifle. Also, some new luggage has been sent to me from Scott Country, which I must try to destroy, so that will be interesting, and the Pulsar Quantum XQ23v thermal spotter will be putting in an appearance. I decided to take the plunge and buy one after the test last month of its big brother, Quantum XQ30v. So, until then, happy hunting.

Read more of Eddie’s hunting adventures here...

Hunting: Sportpup in the field

Hunting with the FAC Galahad

Hunting: Crovid chaos in Wales