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Hunting with Phil Hardman: Planning his year ahead

PUBLISHED: 15:01 13 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:19 13 February 2019

Plans are great, butI also love hunting on the fly, where I just grab my rifle and go.

Plans are great, butI also love hunting on the fly, where I just grab my rifle and go.

Archant

Phil Hardman is determined to stick to his hunting plan in 2019

Another year been and gone, eh? Where does the time go? At the beginning of each year I have a think about what I want to do with my hunting over the next 12 months, evaluate what I have done, what I have learned, and how to apply any lessons. Hunting is very much an annual thing and each season brings with it roughly the same chances and opportunities as the previous year, at around the same time. We can use this to our advantage, and get ahead of the game if we prepare ourselves early on. I also use this time, when things are a little quieter in the hunting field, to go over my kit, and make any changes I need to make.

If I were to change rifles, or scopes, or any major piece of equipment, now would be the time to do it, whilst things are quiet. That simply gives you a chance to get used to it slowly, so that by the time things start to get busy during the spring, you’re already up to speed. Any servicing that needs doing to kit, I’d also try to get done now. It’s better to have down time when you’d only miss out on a couple of kills, than need to do repairs in the middle of summer when the same amount of time out of action would cost you dozens.

By the time the spring arrives, hunters need to be operating at peak efficiency.By the time the spring arrives, hunters need to be operating at peak efficiency.

If it ain’t broken...

This year, planning is all the more important for me because of the loss of enthusiasm I talked about in last month’s issue, due to stressful stuff I have going on in my life at the minute. I’m determined to have a better year this year, so a plan of action for me to follow will help greatly. Kit-wise I’m fairly happy. My rifles, a Weihrauch HW100 and HW110 are both perfect in their own ways, and I’m happy with the Hawke optics on each, although I have been missing my old Bushnell Elite 6500 lately, simply because the zoom was so much more versatile than anything I have ever used – 2.5x right the way up to 16x. So there’s a little question mark there, and if I do change anything, that will probably be it – optics. The HW100 stock will be getting a lick of paint too, I have bought an airbrush recently, so I’m going to have a play around with that and see what I can come up with, but apart from that I won’t be touching the rifles. They both shoot great, work great, so I won’t attempt to fix what isn’t broken.

Efficient stalking requires regular practise, so it's lucky that I love doing it.Efficient stalking requires regular practise, so it's lucky that I love doing it.

The hunter’s year

As for what I plan to do over the coming year, I intend to concentrate solely on my favourite types of hunting. That is why we do it, after all – for fun, enjoyment, relaxation, and I am determined to go back to that, even if I don’t always get bags as big as I have in the past. It’s not going to be about numbers, it’s going to be about enjoyment and satisfaction. With that in mind, I intend to spend what’s left of the winter really trying to sort out the rats in the farmyard before spring arrives, although if we get any decent snowfall I will be sure to take advantage of that and go out after the rabbits at night, using nothing but my eyes to see them against the snowy landscape. I really love doing that – no lamp, no night-vision, just me and my gun. It’s the purist form of night hunting there is.

Once spring arrives I’m going to dig out my Jack Pyke LLCS leafy suit and stalk the woods, targeting pigeons and squirrels. I really do love the sense of invisibility I get when wearing that suit, and some of my absolute hunting highlights are of trips into the woods in springtime wearing it.

For me, 2019 will mean keeping my farmers happy - and having a great time doing it.For me, 2019 will mean keeping my farmers happy - and having a great time doing it.

Once summer arrives, I will switch to late evening or early morning rabbit stalking, primarily. I find this the most laid back and relaxing form of hunting, particularly on an evening, and I have had some really enjoyable sessions when I have only bagged a brace of rabbits, but had the most amazing stalks as I watched the sun go down. I will, of course, still target the woods if I am out on hot days, where the shade provides not just me, but many animals with a welcome rest from the heat of the summer sun.

As we move on to late summer I will move to the stubble fields to decoy, although I will be observing them for some time before harvest to make sure that I am in the right place at the right time. Last year the weather meant the fields were ploughed in right away and hardly any pigeons showed up, so I missed out on my annual hunting highlight, but I’m hoping to make up for that this year.

Once autumn comes it’ll be back to the squirrels and pigeon in the woods as they take advantage of the oak and beech crops, along with rabbit hunting after dark using my night-vision. I’m not sure yet, but I have been fancying a new NV unit lately, so, watch this space on that one. Once winter creeps back in I will follow the rats into the shelter of the farmyard, which pretty much brings us full circle. Hunting is like that, the seasons roll by in a predictable pattern, and so nature, and all its creatures, respond is a similarly predictable way.

Happy with my hardware - and I'll definitely be hammering the rats this year.Happy with my hardware - and I'll definitely be hammering the rats this year.

Catching up...

Elsewhere, I am really going to make an effort to meet up with some of my shooting buddies this year. I have completely neglected some very good friendships that I have made over the years, and I plan to put that right. Maybe have a trip to see some people, maybe invite some over to my shoot to see me, who knows, but that’s definitely a priority for me this year. I am also going to make an effort to get to one or two of the shooting shows and game fairs this year, too. I love meeting up with fellow shooters and having a chat about what they get up to, how they do things, and sharing tips and tricks with each other. If you have never attended a show, I urge you to go; meeting like-minded airgunners and chatting over a cuppa and a bacon sarnie is really a great experience, especially if like me, you don’t have a local club nearby. I think this year, in particular, that will be really be good for me, so if you do see me at one of the shows, pop over and say hello.

That’s my year planned, then. I’m not the best at sticking rigidly to the script but this year, that really is the plan. I hope your own plans work out for you, and however things pan out – I’ll tell it exactly as it happens in the pages of this magazine.

I think I have my pigeon decoying tactics pretty much sorted, but I'm always willing to learn from others.I think I have my pigeon decoying tactics pretty much sorted, but I'm always willing to learn from others.

That’s it from me for this month. See you all next time – and have a happy hunting New Year.

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Read more from Phil Hardman...

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