The Air Arms Southern Hunter Series
PUBLISHED: 16:01 20 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:01 20 June 2017
Gary Chillingworth brings us news of a great day's sport from our beloved Bisley
Well, what a fantastic year it has been! With record numbers shooting, record numbers of cups of tea being drunk, and more abuse thrown at Andy Simpson than ever before, the Southern Hunters has been a total success.
The final round was held at the UK’s home of shooting – Bisley – so we all knew that we were in for a treat. As we arrived in the car park, we were met with a hail of machine gun fire, and no, we weren’t being attacked by the local yoofs. Bisley has a military range out the back, and nothing gets you in the mood for a day’s shooting like the sound of a GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) on full chat.
The Southern Hunters is where most of the National shooters from down south like to congregate in the winter months. The boys from the Midlands shoot in the Daystate Midland Hunter series and the chaps from up north shoot the Gauntlet.
Our series likes to attract the oddballs; those of us who shoot .22, recoiling, and even a few chaps who have competed with open sights. For 2016/17 a new class was introduced, and to win this class you had to compete in .22, recoiling and PCP, and shoot at least two of the 10 rounds in each category. For those hardy souls who took on this challenge, they had a wonderful time. I spoke to the eventual winner of this class, Charles Peal, and he told me that it had given him a new respect for all types of shooting, and it was great to get out of the comfort zone of shooting a PCP.
The Southern Hunters is sponsored by Air Arms and they supplied goodie bags to be handed out at every round, and for the final round, a stunning S400 that was duly won by Harry Kalaydjian, one of the UK’s top spring-gun shooters. More important than winning a gun, though, is meeting people who grow to become friends. The Southerns is competitive and people want to win, but everyone will stop and give you advice and will help you on your way to being a better shooter. This is the ethos of the series and, to be honest, I think this is also the ethos of the sponsor. Claire and her team at Air Arms are generous to a fault and put so much back into the sport. In fact, all the British manufacturers are great; Daystate supports the Midlands, and BSA support the Masters, so we are lucky to have such a wonderful group of people supporting our sport.
The course that had been laid out was one of the best that I have ever shot at Bisley. The target placement was a mixture of thoughtful, annoying, and downright evil. Many times you would approach a peg and look at the target – usually, 30 to 40 yards away with a big kill – but when you got down, you realised that the peg that you had to touch was placed in such a way that when you had the gun on the right side of it, you could not see the target, and when you were on the left, you could only see half the target. So, you had a choice; shoot at a very small kill a long way away, or come off of the peg and not have the support. You still have to touch the peg with some part of your body.
This type of course-setting gets shooters out of their comfort zones and it should be applauded. I was lucky enough to be shooting with the grumpiest man in HFT, Gary Morrison, and the series organiser, Charles Peal, and we laughed all the way round. I especially laughed when I managed to kill a long target with my TX200 spring gun and they missed with their PCPs, and I did promise not to say anything about this, but technically, I’m writing it, not saying it, so that should be fine.
There is a huge amount of hard work that goes into setting a course to UKAHFT rules and even more work in running a series, so thanks to Bisley, and to Charles and the Southern Hunter team.
On the day, there were some great winners; in the Open class, Ian Clark took the win; in the Recoiling, some drongo by the name of Gary Chillingworth was top dog: the Ladies went to Abi Maw, and the .22 was taken Ed Tandi, the Juniors by George Danvers, and the Veterans by Phil Jacobs. However, it was the overall scores that we were interested in and the title of Southern Hunters Champion went once again to Richard Woods. The Ladies was Abi Maw; the .22 went to Ed Tandi; the Vets was taken by Phil Jacobs; the Recoiling, Vince Holland; the Oddball class was taken by Charles Peal, and the Juniors went to Karina Pajek.
This series is what shooting is all about, and the Southern Hunters team are a wonderful bunch of people. If you fancy having a go at competitive shooting, the Southerns is closed for another year, but they will be back in October. There is also the national UKAHFT series that travels all over the country; these shoots are every bit as good as the Southerns with the benefit of big cash prizes and either rifles, scopes or other goodies being given away at most rounds, courtesy of the sponsors in the end-of-shoot raffle.
Competitive shooting will help you to become a better hunter because you can take difficult shots without the risk of injuring an animal. You will make friends and it will get you off the sofa and into the woods with strange men in camo. What more could you want on a Sunday afternoon?
UKAHT dates for 2017
R1 - 21st May - Quarry Hunters - Sponsored by Air Arms
R2 - 18th June - Buxted - Sponsored by Air Arms
R3 - 22nd July - MAD - Sponsored by Jake Pike
R4 - 23rd July - MAD - Sponsored by JSB
R5 - 26th August - Furnace Mill - Sponsored by Brocock
R6 - 27th August - Furnace Mill - Sponsored by MTC
R7 - 24th September - Cambridge - Sponsored by Sureshot
R8 - 14th October - Emley Moor - Sponsored by BASC
R9 - 21st May - Emley Moor - Sponsored by Armex