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Hunting: Taking the slow approach for new permission

PUBLISHED: 10:20 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:32 04 October 2018

Even in the shade of my scrub hide, it was hot

Even in the shade of my scrub hide, it was hot

Archant

Jamie Chandler tells us that a slow approach is the best way to a new permission

In the early summer, I received some bad news that will probably be familiar to some of you. I’m finally losing my longest-standing permission. You might remember, my in-laws sold their farm to a much larger local estate last September, but left me holding the deer and vermin rights for the next five years. As time has gone on, the shooting rights holder for the rest of the estate has been keen to have total control of the rights and been pressuring the Estate Manager to move me on in some way or other.

Meanwhile, since my in-laws moved, being up at the farm has had the same feel as walking around a deceased relative’s house, and my visits have become less and less frequent; buildings are changing, field plans are changing and the once cherished bond I felt between the farm and I has eroded somewhat.

A stunning view from the highest point on the estateA stunning view from the highest point on the estate

Deal done

After a meeting with the Estate Manager and him making an offer of financial recompense for my deer-stalking business, plus some 300 acres of new land if I wanted it, I decided to take the offer and move on. I’d have been perfectly within my rights to turn the offer down and carry on, but the estate is one of the biggest around here and walking away with 300 acres and with a strong bond of mutual respect with the Estate Manager, more doors could well open up as they continue their aim of increasing to 6000 acres in the next two years.

As I explained it to my wife, it’s very much like me throwing away my old Jack Pyke boots. I’ve had them for five years, worn them at least every other day, our pet rabbit has chewed holes in them and yet only now, six months after I should have binned them and with a replacement pair having sat in the cupboard for nearly a year, I am ready to part with them.

So, out with the old and in with the new.

Last driven season, I did a few days’ beating on an estate about 11 miles away from me. From there, and through mutual interests, being nosy about the large estate that had bought the farm, and shared friends with connections there, I struck up friendship and a deal with the Keeper to take clients out deer-stalking and pigeon-shooting over his 2000 acres. Obviously, it wasn’t free, but for a 25% split of the takings to him and the resident farmers, I could carry on that side of things, and I’m now working with the keeper on expanding to include another 500 acres of benefit to both of us.

This year's pheasant poults are coming on safe in the shedThis year's pheasant poults are coming on safe in the shed

Build up trust

It has taken me until this point, some six months later, to be given enough free rein to start taking an airgun out on the estate, in case I get a chance of a rat around the pheasant-rearing pens, but this isn’t an uncommon amount of time, and possibly something to bear in mind if you are looking for permissions.

Some ground might fall into your lap and off you go the next day, rifle in hand, but in my experience, in the vast majority of cases it takes time to build up trust. In this case, it’s been 18 months nearly, and being there weekly in the last five months, to get to me bringing up the airgun with me regularly. Turning up door knocking, asking once for permission then driving off never to be seen again if it’s a no, might work occasionally, but building up a rapport, sharing insight in subjects affecting the person you’re talking to, enquiring about and showing a knowledge of yields and moisture content around harvest to farmers, for example, all helps to build a connection, and show that your interest is more than just about shooting.

The cattle feed needed protecting from the corvid onslaughtThe cattle feed needed protecting from the corvid onslaught

The way to go

Don’t worry about getting it wrong, just pop, “Am I right in thinking…” at the beginning of a farming-related question, for example, and with the right person at the right time an incredibly in-depth answer will be returned. Don’t interrupt unless asking a follow-on question, and at the end of the answer, throw in casually, “… and I bet that rabbit damage in the top field (again, an example) doesn’t help.” … and go from there.

This approach worked wonders the other day with Harry, the farmer on the estate. Rooks and crows are smashing in to his cow feed in a black cloud so large that it looks like it’s heralding the apocalypse. There are literally hundreds, and they all flock together causing a massive amount of droppings to be deposited at one go amongst the cattle food. After trying to cull them almost daily with shotguns, (currently 261 had been shot in the last six days) and with noise complaints from nearby houses rising, Harry thought perhaps the airgun was the way to go, and I was the bod lucky enough to be asked.

Elusive shots

Obviously, when shooting around barns there are risks; cattle, people, asbestos roofs, farm machinery, poults in rearing pens, and in this case £15,000 worth of 1940s Willys Jeep to avoid putting holes in. A careful risk assessment later and I had chosen a spot that looked safest and most promising, or would have if one of the resident bulls hadn’t learned how to push open the pen gate and wander down the feed troughs, chasing the crows away.

A quick move to another potential hot spot saw me bag two woodies and a feral in quick succession, not complicated shots at 25 – 30 yards with pretty much no breeze, so we were off the mark. The real targets, the crows and rooks, seemed flighty, coming in and landing, but then off again at the slightest movement. Perhaps the hard hammering to their numbers that week had put them on edge, but getting a safe, still shot was proving elusive.

My work saw me out early with a client, stalking on the new estateMy work saw me out early with a client, stalking on the new estate

I waited for a few hours, but even in the shade of my makeshift hide amongst the scrub, the temperature was soaring past 30 degrees and I was fast becoming a sweat drenched, sun-bleached blob in my hunting gear.

I decided to bail, picked up my bounty, now fly-blown in the heat and no good for dinner, and left. The crows and rooks will be here another day and I’d had a few brilliant hours amongst the cattle sheds and barns, win - win really!

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Read more from Jamie Chandler...

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