Friday, 23 October 2009
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Monday, 12 October 2009
Well, let me state for the record here and now: Neither I, nor any of my friends or family, will be buying Lush's 'The Fabulous Mr Fox bubble bath'!
I urge all other airgunners to spread the word...
Sunday, 11 October 2009
I've written about the night's shooting antics in December's Sporting Shooter magazine (on sale from the first week of November), and I've put together this short movie to set the scene...
Friday, 2 October 2009
I've already knocked over a 40-metre crow with it, plus a couple of mid-range woodies - and I've only taken it hunting the once so far! On paper, it's incredibly accurate (with Air Arms Field 5.52) and the thumbhole stock handles beautifully.
It's available in synthetic (for £799) - or £149 extra gets the flagship walnut model, which I'm showing in the video here (and writing about in the magazine).
I hope you like the movie... and you can read my full report, exclusively in December's Air Gunner magazine, on sale at all good newsagents from the first Thursday of November.
P.S. Let me know what you think of the movie. This is my first... but could be the first of many if it goes down well! You can also find this video on YouTube, where the quality is better than what this Blog allows.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Two or three minutes went by, and the birds didn't play ball. Out of boredom more than anything, I swung the scope back onto the shot bird to admire my handiwork.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
I love autumn - even if there's only a hint of it round here. Good 'Indian Summer' days have made me get out and about more than usual this year - and although I think I pretty much reduced the woody numbers earlier in the year, the last couple of weeks have still seen me coming home with a pretty full game bag. Not woodies and bunnies... but blackberries and sloes!
"A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness", now is the time for the airgun hunter to gather a lot more than just meat for the table. Blackberries are pretty much everywhere, and on one of my shoots (which is well off the beaten track for the public), they've been in particular abundance this year. On Sunday alone, I picked four kilos (yes, that's almost nine pounds in old money!) which I'm having with a shake each morning for breakfast. (It makes it the colour of Ribena, but it ain't half tasty.) The kids love 'em, too - snacking on them instead of buscuits when they come home from school. And, of course, with the cookers I picked up from the old orchard, there's my wife's scrummy apply and blackberry pie for pud after supper. I probably should be making blackberry jam, too...
I also collected a large bowlful of sloe berries last weekend - and the sloe gin production line is now well under way! They say that sloes are at the best in October, after the first frosts, but down in the south-west, they're definitely a little ahead of time this year - probably because of the wet summer we had. In fact, some are visibly 'going over' on the bushes.
How do you know if a sloe's ripe? Well, certainly don't taste one straight off the bush! If they've got that deep blue-purple look with a white-ish bloom over them, they're most likely ripe enough for picking. Gently pull at one and it should come away quite easily. If you need to give it a tug, it's not ready yet.
Spotting sloes can be quite difficult, particularly on bright, sunny days as they're perfectly camouflaged in the hedgerow shadows cast by low sun's dappled light. But you can make locating them a lot easier earlier in the year.
The fruit of the blackthorn hedge, when you're hunting around April time, make a mental note of where you see the emergence of the white blackthorn blossom amidst the othewise bare hederows - because that's where you'll be wanting to head in the coming September and October!
And how to make sloe gin? It's easy. Halve the contents of a full bottle of gin (by transferring it into an empty, equally-sized bottle). Into each, pour in around 150 grammes of white sugar (it doesn't have to be exact).
Next, the laborious job; prick each sloe and drop them into the bottles until the level comes up to the neck. (A quicker method is to freeze the sloes overnight. When you take them out of the freezer to thaw, they'll then split.)
Screw the bottle tops on tightly and store them in a dark cupboard, away from heat. Agitate the bottles every day for 10 days, then perhaps once a week until Christmas, when you'll need to decant (and filter) the gin into clean bottles. Now you'll be able to serve your family and friends one of their best-talked-about tipples of the festive season!
They say sloe gin gets better the longer it's kept (I wouldn't know!) - but if you are able to make enough that lasts into the following year, then remove the sloes after about six months.
Monday, 13 July 2009
It's over a month since, but my efforts to introduce non-shooters to the sport of airgunning as part of May's National Shooting Week have, actually, paid off! Last week, my teenage son asked "Dad, can I go shooting at the weekend?"
So, under complete and constant shooting supervision - besides not being 14 yet and therefore not legally allowed to shoot unsupervised, this was also his first outing with an airgun - he enjoyed a 'by choice' plinking session at the farm. Okay, it didn't last much more than 40 mins before he wanted to do 'something else', but the seed may well have been sown. We've even gone since - again at his request - and I suspect there will be many more outings ahead.
Even if he's not as keen as I was in my teenage years, the likelihood of him 'returning' to airgunning when he's in his twenties or thirties is now much higher - and, albeit in a small way, this is another positive step in securing the future of our sport. It's so important that today's airgunning 'Dads' encourage their kids to follow suit and at least 'try' shooting. It ain't easy competing with the PS3, but as my son said: "This is actually a lot better than shooting stuff on Call of Duty."
We did some target stuff, but he got most enjoyment from spinning tinnies. So did I - but I got the most pleasure just from teaching him the rudiments of safe shooting and watching his reaction at each well-delivered strike. (He was actually much better than I was when I first started shooting.)
And the gun? Well, a truly fanstastic 'starter' model from Sportsmarketing - their all-new SYNTARG, price £99.95.
It comes with a synthetic stock that's rugged enough to withstand any teenager's rough 'n' tough handling. It's been skeletonised to keep weight down, and the 'shark fin' butt really looks the business - no matter what age eyes you're seeing it through!
Its break-barrel action is mid-powered and easy enough to break open and cock - and the trigger, though non-adjustable, breaks consistently. It's not too light to be dangerous in the hands of a novice, but not so stiff as to be a hindrance. The gun's dimensions are perfect for a teenager, and though the finger reach to the trigger appears to be a bit long, it's fine once the blade has been pulled into its pre-slip position.
Along with an auto-safety, it comes with fully-adjustable open sights that incorporate fibre-optic elements to make aiming fun as well as easy. There are two green dots on the rear leaf which you line up either side of the red, foresight 'bead'.
The SYNTARG's receiver has also been grooved to take a telly - and I put on one of SMK's 4 x 28 models (£24.95, incl. mounts) which kept the weight down. Four-times mag is perfect for a rookie shooter and this scope has the added advantage of a longer-than-average eye-relief. There will be no cut eyebrows with this optic!
What's more, the receiver has an arrestor plate fitted. If you bolt the rear mount tight up against this, the scope won't creep. Guns that lose zero quickly are the perfect recipe for making a newbie shooter lose interest, so this is a real bonus feature on the SMK.
I'm not intending to sell the FAC gun and will retain it for the odd longer-distance "special" request, though I doubt it will leave the cabinet much."
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Friday, 10 April 2009
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Friday, 13 March 2009
I had a great rat session down the farm the other week with this single-shot PCP rifle. It's a tiny affair - an uprated version of their Grand Prix pistol with a longer barrel and dressed in a sumptuous thumbhole walnut stock.
Hunt with both and forget the fuss... but .177 always for
- Reflex - 61.3 dB
- John Bowkett Long - 63.7 dB
- Ripley Rifles (9-inch!) - 65.1 dB
- Weihrauch - 65.5 dB
- Logun QGS - 66.1 dB
- Parker-Hale MM1 - 69.5 dB
- Manders - 69.7 dB
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
But the truth of the matter is I don't get cold at all these days - and our icy spell of weather has really brought home to me just how good my favourite winter hunting outfit is.
It's a Deerhunter Ram Jacket and Trousers set, in Realtree's High Definition All Purpose Green (APG-HD) pattern. I wrote about this high-tech cammo system when I was editor of Air Gunner magazine (December 2007 edition). Its 'layered', three-dimensional appearance really does work and I've had more close encounters with wildlife in this than any other gear.
In that article, I only touched on the actual Ram suit - but having worn it extensively through two winters, I felt I should give an update.
Without question, it's the best cold-weather outfit I've ever worn. I've never got cold in it and I've never got wet in it - even though I've worn it in sub-zero temperatures, biting cold nor'easterlies and torrential down-pours. I was able to kneel and crawl in the slushy snow only yesterday without feeling any dampness against my skin - as has always been the case when I've hunted over wet, boggy ground.
It doesn't come cheap - it's about £145 for the jacket and £85 for the trousers - but that gets you an extreme weather outfit in the very latest cammo. It'll be the best 230-quid you'll ever spend, I guarantee. (I'm nothing to do with Realtree, by the way!)
Even though the advanced Deer-Tex polyester cloth from which it's made feels very thin and flimsy, I can vouch that it's been robust enough to withstand hours of very rough field use. It's got caught in brambles and on barbed wire fences, but there's not a single rip in it. I've rinsed it in clear water a couple of times - more for hygene purposes than cleaning - and it's not faded in any way.
I refer to Deer-Tex as 'advanced' because it's one of these new-fangled materials which combines its outer with a thin membrane and inner liner that stops wind and rain getting in, whilst at the same time allowing the cloth to breathe. The upshot of all this textile technology is that you don't roast, nor get sweaty and uncomfortable.
The Trousers: Zip-fly, they come with Velcro ankle straps to keep out the muck and wind - and the legs are wide enough to pull over thick wellies. Plenty of pockets - large and small, some with popper closure - and a high, fleece-lined waistband at the rear to keep the small of your back cosy.
The Jacket: It's got pockets galore, complete with hand-warmers. Some zipped, some flapped... and there's even a bino-pouch. All the poppers (as on the trousers) are silicone coated, so they won't scratch your rifle's woodwork, nor make a noise under field conditions.
Its front zip is a heavy-duty job, and two-way so that you can unzip from the bottom when you're shooting on horse-back! (Really, though, it's handy sometimes when you're kneeling.) The zip runs all the way up to the high collar which contains a fold-out, removable draw-string storm hood. This is so big, I've even used it as a face veil.
The adjustable drawstring waist and hem add to the prodection offered by the storm flaps, and there are Velcro fasteners on the cuffs. Inside is a separate waist warmer to keep your back toasty plus an ample game pocket at the rear. The inner lining also has a fold-down, padded seat to stop your bum getting mucky when sitting, and I've found this invaluable when hide shooting. (It saves you getting seat covers for the car, too!).
The jacket's right shoulder has an anti-slip rubber pad sewn-in to support your rifle sling and as warm as the coat is, should you find yourself over-heating, each underarm has a zippered vent.
Both jacket and trousers are incredibly light which makes wearing them a pleasure. What's more, they've been cleverly tailored, specifically with shooting in mind. Unlike many hunting jackets, the cut is such that I've never had any problem shouldering my rifle whilst wearing the Ram
As a long-term user of one, I can't recommend the Ram Suit highly enough.
For more info on Deerhunter, visit the Deerhunter site (here) and for a closer look at my jacket's Realtree APG-HD pattern, the direct link is here.
In my part of the world, so far we've been lucky. No more than 7 cm. of snow. It's still brought the region to a grinding halt, mind you. Traffic chaos; panic buying; schools closed and local radio programmes announcing in almost Dictator-like fashion: "Stay in your homes!"
There wasn't as much quarry about as I'd expected. The magpies were scavenging, but the crows remained in their woodland roosts. The woodies were tight into the ivy on the usual trees and very few bunnies had ventured above ground.
But the snow revealed a picture of this farm that I had never imagined. There are rabbits (or hares, perhaps?) aplenty... and a lot closer to the farmyard than I'd imaged.
Rabbits certainly seem to travel a long way. I tracked one set of bunny-prints two fields and two paddock areas - more than 600 yards - before I lost them in a hedgerow. Amazingly, this particular bunny chose to go through gate entrances, rather than through bolt-holes in the hedgerow (which other rabbits clearly favoured). It was exactly the route a human would have taken when travelling between these two points!
I didn't get a shot off, but it was by no means a wasted foray. I've taken note of a good few rabbit routes, warren entrances and mid-field stop-off points on a patch of land I only hitherto used for zeroing.I feel like I've got a brand new permission and can't wait for my first sortie on it...
Thursday, 29 January 2009
So, I begin writing my first airgun blog - the urge for which, I'll be honest, has been borne out of boredom due to my being laid up and bed-bound with the dreaded man-flu. Putting together an airgun blog was one of my New Year resolutions, however - and with January practically expired, I'm ashamed that I haven't put in the effort earlier.
For we airgunners, 2009 kicked off in quite a shocking manner, with the news that Webley had called in the administrators. Thank the Lord that Webley International has come to its rescue and continued the great gunmaking - and airgunmaking - name... even if the manner in which it's all been done is rather, erm, 'dubious'. I sincerely hope that Webley International succeeds because I've used Webleys for plinking, target shooting and hunting over the years. My first woodpigeon, in fact, was dropped with a Webley Hawk Mk. II when I was knee-high to a grass-hopper.
I'd got up before dawn during the summer holidays - it can't have been much past 3 a.m. - and took the bird at 25 yards, standing. It crashed through the thick summer foliage with a mighty din - and it was the first time I heard the reassuring 'thump' that signifies you've scored a perfectly clean kill.
I'll never forget that sound - and I have good reason for it being lodged in my memory. In my excitement, I couldn't remember from which tree I'd taken the bird and I spent ages looking for it amidst a thick carpet of stingers. I gave up... then went back... then gave up again, thinking the bird must have flown off. But that 'thump' kept sounding in the back of my mind, urging me to go back for one more look...
And then, under a completely different tree, there it was. A beautifully plump specimen. I'd got it clean through the neck. I don't recall the pellet, but I think it might have been a Bulldog - certainly a .22, whatever brand it was.
I took my trophy back to the house where I plucked the whole thing for my mother to cook in red wine, with a rasher of bacon over the top. I learned two things: that woodpigeon tastes lovely... and has an awful, awful lot of feathers!
The woodies I'm seeing today, sadly, are from the window of my bedroom. It's as though they know I'm not going to be out and about with my air rifle, and they're mocking me. Let them mock. I take the opportunity to re-affirm their usual flightpaths, what their favourite sitty trees and perch-points are, and where they're foraging for food. I'll have the last laugh in time...
2009 is certainly looking like we're in for a bumper crop of woodies and I've already begun preparations on my shoots. Simple stuff, like re-shaping all the natural hidey-holes that I tuck myself into later in the year, when long daylight hours make for a decent evening's deeking.
There's an abundance of collared doves, too - not just around the farms (where they tend to congregate in the winter months), but also in the fields. I've let their numbers build up a bit of late. But, like the woodies, their squadrons are swelling big-time. As they're not as challenging as their bigger brethren, I'm looking forward to some good mid-range sessions with my Theoben Elan. I've recently re-fitted its original .22 barrel specifically for sub-30 yard pest control - and the collareds will be my first marks.
Like the woodies, I find them tasty, cooked in a red wine sauce and served on mashed potato infused with some black pudding. Of course, it's breast meat only these days. I've long since learned it's a lot easier than plucking a whole plucking bird!
A long 'first' blog. I intend to make the posts that follow far more concise. But at least I've got another New Year's resolution out of the way...