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The Hunters Chronicles - Tuesday 11th September 2012

I could barely contain my excitement and enthusiasm as I made the short walk to my new hunting grounds. The weather was very agreeable, sunny but not sweltering and the fields looked radiant and most welcoming. I could feel in my bones that today was going to be a very special experience.

The raucous call of the crows beckoned me to enter the fray.
I wrestled with the urge to run, my stride fast and uneven as it quickened and slowed betraying the battle I was waging with my legs. I distracted myself by focusing instead on what may be ripening in the hedgerows.

Rosehips now coming very close to being ripe for the picking.
The Blackberries are rather random. The biggest and best are to be found in the sunny spots.
A break in the hedge brought back a surge of impatience.

 If I was careful, I was able to observe my prey no more than 40 yards away from the hedgeline. No chance of harvesting any from here though, as the public highway runs the length of this side of the field.

After seeing this, any observer could have been forgiven for thinking I had come over rather ill and suddenly very much needed the toilet. I nearly tripped over my feet and sweat broke from my brow as I hastily scurried to the footpath.

Once in the shade of the trees, I deployed and loaded the mighty 95, donned my face veil and gloves to complete my camouflage, and did my best to completely reprogram my legs into stealthy creeping mode. Above and to my front were trees heaving with very full and very relaxed pigeons, magpies and crows.

Up and to my right, 25 yards away, I spied a very content pigeon bobbing with the movement of the branch in the shallow breeze. This shot would require a bit of threading through the leaves, but rifle raised, I drew the crosshairs onto his head, breathed and fired. Miss. The hedgeline erupted and my hopes of bagging an early kill evaporated with the wings. Ahh well.

I continued down the path peering through the tiny gaps into the field hoping to spot any wayward bird that wandered close to the perimeter.
It wasn't until I reached the corner where the hedge finishes that I saw two magpies hopping about. Although they were possibly 35 yards, I knew the shot was optimistic and I rushed it in my excitement. Another miss. Still, undeterred and spirits very high I sauntered down another track with a young woodland that borders the cereal field. Here I was sheltered from view and from my reconnoitre the day before I knew there were some superb ambush points in the breaks of the undergrowth. With senses on high alert and my eyes in the trees overhead I was rather taken aback when by luck, my vision lowered and I saw movement 15 yards ahead. My focus had been so distant that for a fraction of a second I feared it was too late and the squirrel had seen me and would run. He didn't and the lightning fast standing shot took him cleanly with a hearty thud.

The pellet strike just behind the ear dispelled any doubts in mine or the rifles accuracy.
My stalk along this side of the field was rather cursory as I wanted to be seen to be fulfilling the owners request that I hit a small woodland beyond the house and make an impression on the squirrel population there. I slit the squirrel and spread his insides about abit in an attempt to bait the crows in so they were distracted when I returned. That was the idea anyway...

There were a fair number of cars parked by the farmhouse and a white van was manoeuvring about the car park  so I thought it prudent to keep my profile low and return the 95 back to its slip. As I approached, I was hailed by the owner with "What impeccable timing! Could you help unload my new chicken coop?". I was happy to assist, though I doubt if my efforts were indeed of any value. I think I just got in the delivery mens way. When the lifting and positioning was done I and the owner shared a brief conversation, the result of which was the arrangement for me to take four hens who are due for execution. This is not just lucky for the hens. We have lost three chickens in almost as many days due to dog walkers not controlling their animals. These four will serve to keep the sole survivor company and lift the spirits that the massacre has dampened. Eggs will be a bonus though the decline in them is what has prompted their disposal. Most likely they will become dinners in winter, I hope not for another dog.

I arrived at the nominated woodland carefully traversing the stile.

I entered through the gate on the right, disturbing some pigeons as I did. I often curse farm gates for the difficulty in operating them noiselessly. At the very end (this is only a small copse of predominantly ash trees) I observed two pigeons come and go from a branch of a dead tree. These skeletal remains are a godsend in summer for the lack of growth, and evidently appeal to birds for the same reason.
I missed two opportunities and could not for the life of me ascertain why. The angle was indeed steep so a one mildot holdover, I thought, was sufficient. I plinked at the horizontal twigs up high and no pellets were striking. A quick check on the Strelok app revealed that a shot at nearly 60 degrees at 30 yards required not one, but two mil dots of hold under! Now my pellets were hitting home. But no pigeons returned.
I sat and watched as the sunlight dappled through the branches and leaves and danced on the woodland floor. I was snapped out of my reverie by the 'chuff' of a curious squirrel. Perhaps summoned by the impact of my pellet on the hollow trunk, she appeared to be chastising me for my disturbing her day. I obliging ended her state of annoyance for her.

The Bisley Long Range Gold 7.9 gr .177 pellet struck a touch forward and low for my liking. The instant death however, would indicate the pellet passed up and across the brain.
Squizzer number two was in the bag. I was still hopeful that a pigeon would come so stayed where I was. Behind me I heard voices on the footpath from a young man and woman accompanied by a dog. Knowing the footpath does not run through this wood I noted their presence.
Unbeknownst to me, the wood evidently appealed to them. An opportunity for a lovers tryst perhaps? All I know is first the dog, then the young lady jumped out of their skin when I rose from beside my tree. Shock and surprise passed as the chap apologised for their disturbing me. He commented on my kill and enquired about the culinary potential of grey squirrels, I happily enlightened him. They proceeded past and exited (how and where I do not know) and I left to return to the main field and place my latest victim with the first 35 yards out from my 'hide'.

Time passed and I ventured out, not into the field, but to the young woodland to the rear of my position. Though none had landed for my bait, I heard numerous crows in the branches above. I slowly crossed to the other hedgerow and saw a corvid perched in a vee of the tree. With half a mildot hold under for the 35 degree angle at 31 yards, I'm pretty certain I scored a head shot. I watched through the scope as he crumpled and twitched but in an instant he disappeared. The ivy that hugs this tree is so dense I presume his body got caught and is still cradled in it.
The branches belched black bodies as they scattered noisily. I patrolled south along the trees and back again. Upon my return to my hide I spied these fellows 151 yards out;

It was as I shifted and craned my neck to watch them that I observed a concentration of feeding birds back at the north corner. Cue another hedgeline stalk.;

Just over this bramble, 4 or 5 pigeons munched away on the spilled grain. I chose the closest one at a lased 44 yards. This called for a 1.5 mil dot hold over from a standing unsupported position. Nothing but a headshot would suffice here. I'm very proud to say I got him. His chums took to flight as he slumped to the floor.

The HW95 .177 is lightweight and hold sensitive, yet if mastered, blisteringly accurate. Matched with Bisley Long Range Golds, the results have impressed me no end.
 Here was the break I was looking for and had long anticipated. Forget my agonising wait and craving to bag one of these wonderful (and delicious) birds, I wanted his body!

The stubble proved effective at turning this pigeons body into a plausible decoy.
View from the bait and decoys to the hide

I now hoped that not only would another pigeon take notice of my decoy and land, but primarily the crows would see the bait.

I was in for a long wait.

Every now and then I would patrol, though the day was drawing in and the birds less willing to perch in the trees. Plenty were still in the middle of the field feeding and I got a few opportunistic shots off through the hedgeline if any proved close enough.
As it happened, my luck changed when I revisited the spot where I got the first pigeon.

This time he was 54 yards. That is further than I would have liked, 2.5 mildots hold over again, from a standing unsupported position, but the clarity of my new scope and the time and effort put into its calibration had me confident I could pull the shot off cleanly. I did too.

Another decoy to begin a pattern.
Though my decoy 'pattern' was growing, the number of feeders had diminished considerably. Into the game bag went my prizes and I returned to the squirrel wood to try and catch some roosting birds.

I scared them off and none came in.
Alone I sat, happy and contented with my day out. I was struck by how vivid the silence of the dusk was. Vivid is perhaps a word more associated with vision, but it seems the most apt on this occasion. I pondered what I had done and what I had seen this day. I had been hunting, gathering food primarily in the form of pigeon. The species I had seen were likewise hunting and feeding. I simply cannot come up with a more natural way to spend a day. There simply isn't. Food is number one on the priority list for all things that live. Okay, we humans have developed a very imperfect system for the provision of this need and it frees us up to have time to do a myriad of other things. With a wry smile I thought how ironic it is that I and numerous others find deep, meaningful reward in going 'back' and gathering food/hunting. I am certainly very grateful that should my hunting not bear fruit I am not condemned to death by starvation, though in this instance we do have bugger all food at home so I would have gone hungry for a short while...

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I packed the mighty 95 away and was about to rise, when silhouetted against the fading light, a female squirrel leaped from twig to branch on her journey home. What followed was the very quickest unzipping, deployment, reload, parallax and zoom adjustment ever seen before. Just as I thought she'd disappeared and she believed she was safe, I spotted her outline and I took another standing unsupported shot. Down she crashed. Another trophy in the dying seconds of the game.

With weary legs, but a smile on my face, I trudged home with my prizes. The church bells pealed from across the valley, I like to think in celebration of, and congratulating me on, my efforts this day.

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