Hunting: Keeping up a public image
PUBLISHED: 12:10 03 October 2017
Jamie Chandler tells us why our actions affect the whole sport
It is a true honour and privilege to contribute every month to a flagship magazine that I have read so avidly ever since I can remember, with its continuously increasing international readership. Sadly, it’s not the only income stream required to keep the wolf from the door and like all my fellow contributors, I have to work as well.
One of the ways I manage to keep baked beans in the cupboard is as a pigeon-shooting guide. I take groups of shotgun shooters out for a day, set up the hide for them, provide all the decoying equipment and set out a pattern, provide lunch and generally remain in the background to give clients the best day’s sport that I can. As I write, I’m at the height of the busiest period of the year with one day off in 10, so opportunities to get out with the airgun and unwind are limited.
I can almost hear my cousin, Andy, scratching his head at his desk in the custody suite where he’s a sergeant, wondering why I’m talking about guided pigeon shooting for shotgunners in these hallowed pages.
Having taken over 200 people pigeon shooting, I can say with authority that there is a staggering amount of similarity between airgun enthusiasts and pigeon shooters. In fact, many of you reading this probably enjoy pigeon shooting as well as airguns because there seems to be a strong crossover between the two.
In both sports, we all come from staggeringly wide margins on the social spectrum, from those who rarely think about the price of things to those who have to think hard about cost. Both sports require far more than just standing in a field with a gun; you must outfox your quarry in order to get close enough to take a shot with an airgun, or if you’re using a shotgun, to convince your quarry to fly into the decoy pattern, and the list of similarities goes on.
The main thing I have noticed from both sports is that you can’t pigeonhole anyone within them. Everyone is different, and what brings most of us together is a love of the countryside, hunting wild prey, and in the main, providing ourselves with a valuable, free-range food source.
Sadly, as touched on by editor Phill a couple of months ago regarding social media, there is also a small but vocal group within both sports whose want, be it on-line or in person, is to bully, intimidate or just to make others feel uncomfortable. This group’s vitriolic stance on almost any subject, or in any situation, is ruinous to both sports and their behaviour should be challenged at every opportunity.
In my job as a pigeon-shooting guide, I have recently had two large gentlemen standing cross-armed over me, demanding a free return trip because they only managed to shoot 21 pigeons. It was either a free day or they would ruin me by going to every media forum that they could list, and tell the world how awful everything was. Luckily, I had started to record the conversation and reminded them that they’d had 230 shots between them, had bullied another client into taking a hide in what they thought was a worse spot, which turned out to be the opposite, and had acted aggressively towards the other client and I, all day, demanding that he be moved from his spot so they could take it when it turned out to be the hotspot. They also left cartridges spewed from their semi-auto shotguns everywhere. In the end, I threatened to call the police and post the conversation online, and that was enough to get them to leave with no more fuss.
I was lucky because I had seen it coming and took action by recording for evidence should things escalate, but at an HFT competition I’d been invited to have a go on, I wasn’t so prepared. Halfway round the course, I was confronted by two fellow shooters, and a chap with moustache, who said that me not being able to shoot prone because of my hands was an unfair advantage – first time for everything, I guess! This group then informed the shooters in my group, and those on the lanes to my left and right, that my score wouldn’t stand, and that should I come in the top five, I’d be disqualified. I could continue, though, because they were curious to see how I managed. Whilst not physically threatening, these guys had reduced my participation to that of a sideshow curiosity, and left me utterly humiliated. Soon after, I feigned a phone call dragging me away immediately, and left. I reported the incident to a member of the club’s committee, who told me the guys in question could ‘be a bit funny sometimes’. I have never attended another HFT event.
What I’m trying to say, perhaps badly, is that these two groups from different disciplines reflect terribly on the whole of the shooting sports community. Think for a moment – if I had been new to airguns, or a member of the non-shooting public, I would have been horrified in both cases, and pigeonholed us all in to one big group of intimidating bullies of one kind or another, when in fact we, the other 98%, are simply not like that.
Having packed the intimidating shotgunners off the other day, and cleared up their mess, I thought that as I was there with my BSA Ultra SE in the car, I’d try to get a few real decoys for the next day’s clients, and take an hour to myself because it was only 5 o’clock.
I placed out a few shell decoys and a few Sillosocks over the stubbled rape to add movement, and settled down behind some missed stalks for a wait. The wait was just minutes before a flapping fry-up landed straight into my pattern, and with the gun on sticks, I was already on aim and only about 20 yards away.
The shot was text-book, between the shoulders, and pigeon number one was soon in the bag. I left it, wings outstretched where it had fallen. The second dropped like a rock from behind me and straight into the pattern. I waited as it walked through the longer stubble and then dropped it with a head shot. The flapping due to its nervous system attracted another in, and I didn’t waste the opportunity as the little Ultra SE dispatched him as well; three in 15 minutes – things were looking up! Shot followed miss, followed deflections off stalks, followed shot, until after an hour and a half I got a phone call from my irate wife reminding me of the engagement party we were meant to be at.
With four real decoys for the magnates, and 12 for the pattern, the next day’s clients would have plenty come in. Unfortunately for the clients, I met my neighbour as I got home who offered to de-breast some for me, so with four real decoys left, the clients still had a cracking day’s sport!
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