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The Hunters Chronicles - Thursday 23rd August 2012

Earlier in the year, I woke at dawn and went to bed at sundown. I enjoyed the rhythm and the feeling of being 'in tune'. Of course, it was a lot easier then when the Sun rose at 06:00 and set around 18:00, getting to bed by 20:00 was straight forward, and most pleasant!
Now the days are getting shorter, and the Sun is starting to rise at a respectable hour, I thought I would try again.
My ulterior motive was to endeavour to reverse my frustrations in hunting the woodpigeon. This species is rapidly becoming my 'Moby Dick'.
So it was that I woke with the alarm at 05:00, boiled a cup of joe and set off, full of anticipation and salivating at the thought of the breasts that would materialise in the 'sitty' tree.

 Mist in the valley on a dry, promising morning.

In spite of the fine morning and the glorious sights seemingly gifted to me alone, it took mere paces for my heart to sink.
Wet boots. Soaked through from the heavy dew.
I cursed myself vehemently for failing to wear my wellington boots.
Still, onwards I strode, boots squeaking, socks squelching and feet cold. I entered the second of the three fields.

No rabbits spotted. Nothing. Nadda. Zip. It has been a long time since my last visit, and then it took over two hours for one small young survivor to emerge. Still, my remit was extermination, and it would appear that my task is complete with the aid of the foxes and myxomatosis. Thankfully, rabbits were not my target.

I holed up in my usual hedgerow hide and sat on my game bag amongst the nettles.
Traffic on the road rumbled in the distance as the first yummy pair of meaty treats alighted in the tree.
The other side of the canopy.
Darn it.
I was cooed at, and my rumbling stomach set my legs to purpose. I inched and stalked underneath the thick foliage through the water logged knee to waist high grass. I was super careful, yet he melted into the ether.

My audience, mighty racing beasts, suitably unimpressed.
I took up a new, dryer, more comfortable ambush site, and for the next three hours got nothing more than a crick in the neck.
I dejectedly wandered the hedgeline scanning the treetops. Plenty of delicious nutrition flew overhead, but straight on to the chosen site of theft and pillage.
As I wandered back, two playfully landed on the roof of a small storehouse. Another on a telegraph cable. All out of range, and the two playmates didn't loiter.

I was not the only one suffering poor sport this morning. Riding the unseen thermals and elements in the sky a Buzzard incessantly and repeatedly cried his mournful and frustrated call.
 As I sat and summoned the energy to return home empty handed, he too, rested in a tree screeching piercingly over the valley.

That helped me a great deal. I'm forever grateful that hunting is at present a hobby not a necessity, and when I do hunt,

It isn't with my mouth.

The Hunters Chronicles - Saturday 18th August 2012

The repulsion of the nut raiders continues. The SMK TH208 is at the forefront of this battle, the close to medium ranges of the woodland perfectly suiting the .22 calibre. I have switched the rifle to a trial diet of Crosman Premier Hollow points and the accuracy appears to be excellent.

I spied my tenacious adversary as I was entertaining our one year old. I prophetically mimed aiming and shooting the creature amongst the bouncing leaves saying the words "Daddy go Bang Bang", to which little one replied, with a most earnest look on her face, "NUM NUM!"

With my dearly beloved already making preparations for dinner, I snatched up the TH208 as soon as I was able and stalked after the marked animal.

The squirrel was relocated and one near vertical shot brought it down with such a thump, I winced in sympathy.

The SMK TH208 is proving to be a very capable tool.
A neat heart and lung shot, with mud staining the side he hit the ground.
The entry of the .22 pellet in the muscle.
Passing through the body and trapped by the tough skin.
The extensive clotting on the lungs with a dark hole betrays the cause of death.
Though minimal, the 'Hollow' point does show some expansion. It appears to be open to debate as to whether these pellets truly increase impact trauma.
Deformation from possibly the rib or a vertebrae.
Later in the evening I sniped a squawking squirrel approximately 30 yards away through a clear patch of wild ground. This ground was thick with thorns and despite shedding my own blood in the attempt to retrieve him, he was obviously intended to grace the plate of the woodland gods. As Trophy Hunters say, "No Carcass, No Kill".

Once again, the SMK TH208 has disproved its critics. If a rifle that kills cleanly and accurately is not good, I fear I may need re-educating.

I am very happy indeed with it.

The Hunters Chronicles - Friday 17th August 2012

The last shades of summer are melting off the leaves to be replaced by the first tones of the brown livery of autumn. The repetitive and defiant monsoon that has surely been sent to purge the Earth and cleanse her of us let up briefly to present an opportunity I seized with both legs.
I have a hankering for the breast of the bird that morning and evening calls to me. The wily pigeon that has a habit of being present only when you are unarmed. Its getting to be uncanny and frustrating. The trees are alive with these chameleon birds. Their ability to conceal themselves matched by a strange talent for 'throwing' their voices like a polyphonic surround sound ringtone makes locating my prize most challenging indeed. Stalking is simply off the cards unless lady luck is in your pocket.

I sat at my chosen spot, and I waited.

A clearing in the trees allowed a clear shot and view of the roosts.
My static hunting is not only good sense regarding calorie expenditure, but serves as a meditation. In broadleaf woodland such as those found in the UK, the abundance of life means it is ordinarily only a matter of waiting before something edible ambles past.

I was not the only one who was aware of this.

Being still is a very simple yet effective method of avoiding detection.
  I had a couple of potentials, but the leaves still cause plenty of obstruction. If you shift, you often alert the lofty prey and its bye bye yum yums. My gastric juices began to urge me to reconsider. I had heard the rustles of a squirrel amongst the hazels and soon a male bounded into the branches of one of the trees in the clearing. He was clicking and twitching at another male who returned his aggression from his concealed position.
The HW95k stepped in and settled the confrontation.
The .177 AA Field hit the intruder in the head. I followed through the shot and watched as he keeled round the branch and hung by one leg, blood dripping quickly from his head and nose. Quite obviously a mortal wound. Yet still he hung on. I would have to shoot him down anyway if it was nerves keeping him in suspension, so another AA Field impacted the back of his head and down he thumped.

A superb display from the HW95k newcomer.
I reclined back against my tree. Showers came and went. As did the pigeons.

You soon learn the sound of a tree rustling in the breeze versus the sound of the rustle of a tree rat in the branches.
Off to the right such a sound emanated. I believed I could only see the body, and yet as I glanced through the 3-9x40 Hawke Sport HD he was in fact peering under a branch staring straight at me.
What I sent back took his life.

The Pellet certainly hit his head, perhaps between his eyes though the entry was hard to find.
Another swift despatch for the HW95k.

Two Squirrels do not make a pigeon. They do make a good curry though.

I hung about for my pigeon, but to no avail. The rain returned and I trudged home, I may not have got the quarry I was after, but I did find what I was looking for. Peace and Dinner.

A Hunters Review of the SMK TH208 .22

I am a simple man living a simple life, snippets of which I publish on my blog
The meat I and my family eat is procured from the wild, and I choose to hunt it with an air rifle. Recently, I found myself in the market for a new rifle and not wishing to dice with the uncertainties of the second hand market, I desired a brand new one. But which one? The market place is awash with offerings but very few within my budget of £250. I went direct to SMK on the strength of their 40 year reputation for affordable rifles, and put my plight to them in writing describing my situation and my needs. The recommendation from them was their flagship model, the SMK TH208 .22, and shortly after, I had one in my possession.

Upon inspection it was quite apparent that here was a rifle that was loaded with the sorts of features I had only seen on those costing nearly twice the £199.95 price tag of the TH208. The first to jump out of course is that thumbhole in the hardwood stock. I am a big fan of this feature due to the way it enables the shooter to comfortably tuck the rifle butt into the shoulder and gain a secure hold.

The Thumbhole Stock is both comfortable and practical.
The light chequering on the foregrip is a welcome bonus and added to my overall impression that this was most certainly an outdoor hunting rifle.

Chequering aids grip in wet conditions.
At the rear of the action, sits an automatic resettable safety. This, for me, is exceptional. I cannot tell you how valuable the ability to reset the safety is in the field and many hunters will attest to the piece of mind gained by being able to make your rifle safe if your quarry evades you.

Moving forward along the action of the TH208, you have a scope arrestor plate fixed to the sight rail. Evidence again of attention to the hunting shooters needs, after all, accuracy is paramount and ensuring your optic doesn't creep and constantly re-checking zero saves a lot of pellets!
The TH208 is finished off at the business end with a barrel weight intended to reduce muzzle flip and enhance accuracy. Yet another feature with the shooter in mind.

Needless to say I was itching to get this equipment out into the field, but as is my habit after only being able to afford second hand rifles, I stripped the gun down and gave the internals a cursory clean and regrease. By doing this, I was able to fully acquaint myself with the essence of the rifle and was most impressed by its simplicity and the workmanship I discovered.

Next, the SMK 3-9x40 mildot scope was mounted on solid Sportsmatch mounts. Now I had an excellent sight picture right out to the limits of my hunting range in a very sturdy looking optic.

I'll admit I struggled at first to get consistent groups until I realised my over exuberant 'breaking' of the barrel had knocked the barrel weight loose. This was quickly remedied by simply tightening the two grubs screws located on the underside and the resultant accuracy was staggeringly good. I later removed the barrel weight in favour of a silencer, but found it needless as it added considerably to the length and muted a muzzle report that was already acceptably low.

I found the factory setting of the trigger to be just a little too far back for my personal taste, but as the trigger is fully adjustable, I had it exactly how I liked it within seconds thanks to the easily accessible screw and found the trigger release to be fast and crisp.

Among the many features, deep blueing like this makes the SMK TH208 exceptional value for money.
The TH208 punched consistently tight groups from 10 yards zero out to 25 yards (the limit of my woodland 'range') with the phenomenal ThUnderBolt .22 zinc pellets that had been supplied. This performance bodes very well as the rifle has yet to settle down and 'bed in' and, hopefully, this shooter will improve too!

The ThUnderbolt .22 Pellets were not only accurate and consistent, they packed a punch too!
The SMK TH208 is capable of putting the pellet exactly where you want it.

Results were equally encouraging over the chronograph with the ThUnderBolts giving low (18fps) fps variation at 10.7 ft/lbs. Ample power for hunting that usually rises over time and with use, therefore, investing in a small chronograph is highly advisable for all airgun owners.
Interestingly the TH208 did not seem to mind which pellets were used unlike some that can be very pellet fussy.
AA Field Diabolos, Bisley Superfields, RWS Superdomes, RWS Superfields, Norica Apaches and SMK Spitfires all grouped very well. I did find that the pellets with smaller heads and thinner skirts fared best and the ThUnderBolts appeared overall to be the perfect match.

The TH208 truly is a pleasure and a joy to shoot. I confess that I probably got carried away with my accuracy, pellet, and power tests, but I firmly blame the TH208 for the enjoyment it imparted, willing me to fire just one more pellet. Be warned, this feeling does not appear to wear off and firing nearly a whole tin of pellets and making small ragged holes in at least one packet of paper targets happens far sooner than you would expect!

I set out to buy a capable hunting rifle. Weight wise, the TH208 is heavy enough to keep the effects of recoil minimised, but still light enough not to wear out your arms and this makes target acquisition very quick and easy indeed. It is sturdy enough to take the numerous knocks and bangs any gun that lives outside of the cabinet can expect to receive and, for me, therein lies its beauty.
Like many others, I wanted a rifle that delivered benefits and features far exceeding its price tag. If you are one of them, you need look no further as I have certainly found it in the SMK TH208.
This time, the proof isn't in the pudding, it is in my dinner!

This is a Hunting Rifle that delivers performance far exceeding the asking price.

Mapping Pellet Trajectory

With the rain dampening all except spirits, I nipped out between cloudbursts to sling some lead.

Here's my lil experiment.

HW95k .177, AA Fields 8.3 grains, 764.8fps, Kneeling (because of the mud and the most used position when out), 19:45. (Click images to enlarge)

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Pretty appalling shooting quite frankly. Certainly not the rifles fault. Haste and poor light for some of those 'groups'. I did still get two usable readings and a pretty good picture of what could be going on down range.

The 'constellations' are me trying to salvage something from the mess. turns out I was pretty close too. Chairgun has .0210 @ NTP and my reading was .0216 @NTP.

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Keep in mind this is a rush job. I would advise that this be done with more care (and I intend to at the earliest opportunity). For the purposes of illustration, this has been useful. It can also serve a purpose for those who do not have, or refuse to get to grips with, Chairgun, and wish to find their optimum zero.

How to Calculate the Ballistic CoEfficient of your pellets.

As a follow on from my Self Reliant Airgunning - Pellet Production post , I thought I'd show a quick method on how I've been calculating BC without getting too technical.

The theory is pretty straightforward. I don't have two chrono's, just a combro, so I am relying on Chairgun and its 'BC based on POI difference' calculator.

Ten shots in total were fired. 5 at the zero of 12 yards, 5 at 30 yards. This gives us two distances. The fall of the shot will tell us how the pellet is performing in the barrel, then the air as it reaches its target. Of course, the chrono is telling us how fast it is leaving the muzzle.

Now, this is important. The database BC was very different from my findings. This is due to manufacturers taking an average performance figure, in the same way they take an average pellet weight and print it on the box. It's convenient and accurate enough for most peoples needs. Evidently, not mine!

When I was weighing the pellets I made, then a manufactured tin, I saw how we take so many figures for granted with out bothering to check and measure for ourselves. So no wonder we all have those 'mystery' shots that take us aback. Especially when changing pellet brand.

After the shots were fired, the average fps was taken (703.9 fps with a 10fps variation possibly due to a strip down just prior to the test) then the groups analysed and measured.

Accuracy on the bull would come later, for now, a clear grouping was sufficient. (I couldn't help but fiddle with the windage, though not elevation)

I settled for a rise of 0.896" over 18 yards. (click images to enlarge)

My old zero was 12.1 - 27.5 yards before the strip down and the RWS Supermags were calculated to be 0.0062 @ NTP already a big difference in performance (or calculations!)

Here we have the new zero and a graph that should accurately reflect the performance of my rifle and the pellet of choice. Chairgun will then update the pellet database for you with your BC calculation.

Yet another variable in airgunning to consider, measure and adapt to. Who said it was all 'point and shoot'?!

Self Reliant Airgunning - Pellet Production, Ballistic Co-Efficients

This evening I've undertaken some long overdue ballistic coefficient calculations on my "Tomahawk" Homemade pellets.

The results were interesting, though not exactly too encouraging. The pellets are a tight fit down the 97kt barrel as well as the Th208. However the .22's are very loose in my chums HW100! bizarre.

Thankfully accuracy was very good but range is limited with the 97 showing severe drop off over just 15 yards. Here are the chairgun results. (Click to Enlarge)

As you can see by the graphs, the drop off is most pronounced in the .177 through the HW97kt, I may perform further trials using the tx200 tomorrow out of curiosity. I've reported the findings to the chap who makes them to help him refine and modify his future products.

It doesn't help that both guns are still rather new. The 97 may benefit from a strip down, the TH208 from a tuning kit. My conclusion is therefore that these pellets at present are best suited to FAC rated air rifles. Though should the proverbial poop hit the fan I'd still be happy to sling these at some pigeons! Boy they would pack a punch i'm sure.

An Introductory Review of the Eden Quality XP 10 x 56 Binoculars

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but sight and target acquisition are rather crucial when it comes to hunting successfully. It is therefore of little surprise and wonder that some of the most feared and respected of natures predators possess exceptional visual powers.
My eyesight may not be quite as sharp as that of a hawk, but at my age I have few complaints. There is always room for improvement, especially when the light upon which our vision depends and operates, begins to fade.
Thankfully, we humans are an inventive species and binoculars are an excellent boost. None more so, in my experience, than the Eden Quality XP 10 x 56 Binoculars.

According to the website, , “These binoculars feature top-quality optical elements that are usually only found in much more expensive binoculars”, and I can find no evidence to doubt this whatsoever. I was quite literally dumbfounded when I experienced the clarity of the optics. I knew no words of mine would ever do this incredible product justice, so I managed to rig up a camera mount and take some pictures in an attempt to more closely convey the capabilities of these incredible optics.

Picture taken without zoom.
Picture taken with 6x optical zoom.
Not even a 14mp digital camera at highest resolution does the image presented through these binoculars justice!

This crow was barely noticeable to the naked eye. His presence betrayed by a dark smudge in the trees at a guesstimated range of 200-300 yards.

Picture captured from the same position across the valley approximately 1.5-2 miles away through the Eden Quality XP 10 x 56 binoculars.

The finish of the binoculars is perfect for outdoor use. Rubberised and waterproof with a solid feel. I particularly value the rubber end caps for the piece of mind such protection affords.

Whilst they may not be pocket sized, the carry case makes them easily portable either via the shoulder strap, or the generous and sturdy belt loop.

I have termed this an 'introductory' review as I have only recently received them. I am exceptionally pleased so far and at £325.00 I firmly believe these offer very good value for money indeed as per the manufacturers claim in their description.

Over the coming months I will be putting them through their paces and will continually assess them and how they aid my hunting forays.

If you're in the market for some robust binoculars on a budget, I strongly urge you to give these Eden Quality XP binoculars the consideration they deserve. If a 56mm objective lens is larger than you require, Edens full range can be found here at

The Hunters Chronicles - Saturday 4th August 2012

The trees are a-squeak with the news.
Whiskers twitch. Eyes and ears scan for the slightest trace of danger, though it is said the senses are of little use against this dark beast.
Three have fallen in quick succession. Struck down without warning.
All that is heard is a CRACK. Followed shortly by a drop, then a dull thud.

Thankfully this monster that roams the woods is a creature I have control over. It was I who introduced it. I call him,

'The Black Death'.

The first to fall to 'The Black Death' HW97kt .177 synthetic.

I need not seek them. They come to me, and The Black Death wakes from his slumber to perform his vocation with a talent shared by few.

They want my nuts.

They want my berries;

The early, if premature fruits of nature.

This clash of wants (mixed with my flawed notion of possession, as though such a thing were even possible) is the bringer of their destruction. The human digestive system, so evolved that it will process nut, berry or flesh, singularly, or for a very tasty dish, collectively.

There is no need for emotion. No justification required. No serious excuses concocted. Food and Death are woven together to fuel the tapestry of Life. It matters not what fodder you deem fit to dine on. Cut a leaf, and life will expire.

An RWS Supermag 9.4gr .177, 5x magnification, barely 4 yards up, 2.5 mildots holdover.

I have my own personal rituals that assuage any guilt the mind may wreak when my servant takes life at my biding. Ironically, it was as I thanked the lifeless form of this creature in my hands, stroking her fur and softly urging her to find her gods and leave this world, that another presented itself.

Both were oblivious to my presence. The second stayed hidden and elusive until, after much patient observation, a clear shot finally presented itself. The head was obscured, so up through the armpit and into the heart the Supermag was delivered, as directed, by the HW97kt.

The flat headed pellet makes for rather bloody kills, but none have survived such a traumatic blow and that is comforting.

Whilst I may be the master of 'The Black Death', with power to determine the time of the demise of these beings, I do not rule the skies. After the meat is consumed, the Gods of the heavens have made honouring these animals through the preservation of their skins, very challenging. Rain is a blessing, however, when the ambient temperature is too warm to warrant a fire inside, and outside it is wet with precious little covered space, pelts quickly rot. When the signs this has happened occur, it is with a tinge of sadness they are offered to the Earth.

For now I keep a weather eye, the other, in the Trees.

The Hunters Chronicles - Wednesday 1st August 2012

Since the 21st May 2012, I have been employed on the renovation of a cottage in the local village. This has not only removed me from my woodland habitat and tending to a very mini 'smallholding' but has also greatly reduced the time available for me to procure meat by hunting. 

I have missed this time greatly.

I have not, however, failed to notice some disconcerting warnings in nature. As I pruned an overgrown Hazel tree in the grounds of the cottage in the middle of July, I was surprised to find rather developed though not yet ripe hazelnuts. Nuts, in general are an autumn harvest. The hazelnut, according to Richard Mabey's "Food For Free" should not start to be seen until early August and not be ripe until the husks have dried in mid-September-October.
Elderberries, out since the beginning of July and already many being stolen by the song birds. I say 'stolen' because I and my partner specifically went easy on the flowers so we could make some elderberry cordial to stave off the coughs and colds of Winter. A month early in fruition.
Hawthorn berries, from which I like to make very nutritious fruit leathers, again, a month at least ahead of schedule.
Black berries, some ripening in the middle of July when according to Mabey they are supposed to just begin to develop now in August.

Squirrel activity has risen noticeably in the past month and I know that they are after my long awaited crop of hazelnuts. I purposely skipped coppicing them last winter as they take 3-5 years to recover.

In the mornings and evenings there are at least two nut raiders leaping from branch to branch. The one that fell to the BSA Scorpion T10 clearly forgotten and the warning unheeded.
Now I'm sure it is not unheard of for squirrels to be making preparations for winter in July/August but combined with my other observations I must admit I am ever so slightly fearful of what Boreas and Pan may have planned for this year.

I pondered my misgivings, unable to yet divine what the warnings message may be. A dry yet very cold winter?
An extreme, prolonged winter possibly even early, in contrast to the last?
Or perhaps just another dry warm one that never seems to properly arrive before it leaves?

As I sought for answers to the clues the Gods were giving, the two nut nickers returned. This time the SMK TH208 was quickly unwrapped and awake. They played a double act that kept me guessing and made full use of the thick foliage and cover.
I half ran, half crept from trunk to trunk. They paused once each and allowed a shot however, with range and and often acute angles hard to judge then compute into hold under/over, I missed both. I did not miss the third. Just as this male thought he had evaded me, he dithered too long in a Hazel and Zeus struck him down. A dull thud with not even a flicker. He simply fell to Earth like a leaf should in Autumn.
As you can see in the picture, some of those have fallen earlier than expected too!

The SMK TH208 has been very impressive and I can see it earning a permanent place in my stable for this very purpose. Watch this space for an in-depth review.