I know when the demons have come back. I always do. The portents that signal the rise of the Devils minions are ominous. The first omen was the lone black crow that watched me ready my shooting gear yesterday. It sat eerily staring at me, just 40 yards off on a gate post. Inside the tailgate of the motor I stealthily slid a loaded magazine into the HW100KS. I brought the silencer furtively over the open door and lowered my eye to the scope. The dark glint of the devilish eye seemed like a mischievous wink as I released the shot … and missed. The crow croaked scornfully and drifted away into the trees before I could cycle the magazine. I scratched my head. The bird had been perfectly aligned in the glass … ? Yet it didn’t stop there. I checked my zero, which was bang on at 30 yards, and I carried on hunting. Inside an hour I missed an absolute sitter of a grey squirrel and also a foraging rat.
The gremlins had returned to taunt me. They come back every few years … the same five little harpies every time. They take possession of my shooting soul. Their names? They are Contempt, Brace, Huddle, Quiver and Snatch. I knew that with these on my shoulder, I needed to get home. I had to find the beast that could drive away the wraiths. I needed ‘the Exorcist’.
Back at home I grabbed a torch and ladder, then climbed up into the attic. I played the LED light around the attic. Cobwebs glistened and dust motes danced in the beam. There it was, hidden in a corner. The Exorcist. Sealed in its sarcophagus and chained to a beam. Half an hour later as I laid the beast on a work top and stripped away its embalmed rags, the smell of gun oil pervaded the air. At its release, a tremor seized the planet. Clouds raced across the sun as it turned deep crimson. Birds took to the skies in their millions, sensing the wave of change about to sweep the world. Ok, so I’m exaggerating …
I picked up the BSA Lightning and gave it a wipe down to remove the excess oil. It felt lighter than I remembered but, right now, it was still blind. I loaded a JSR 3-12 x 50 scope and set the eye-relief slightly further forward than my PCP rifles, conscious of this little killers recoil ‘punch’. With respect to its age I drew a bore-snake through the barrel a few times to allow it to breathe better when we started the pre-exorcism rituals. Having found a tin of its favourite pellets (BSA Storms). Next morning I prepared a few precious artefacts for the rites. These five spectres aren’t easily driven from the soul. The Exorcist, however, forces its user to face each of the dark forces … one by one … and repel them. I packed paper targets, metal spinners, and a prayer mat (sorry … a shooting mat). The session didn’t start without incident. As I planted a metal rabbit head target in the ground I nearly jumped out of my skin. A horned beast stared at me from the grass! It was the head of a dead muntjac, still attached to the spine. Spooky .. and unexplainable. The mark of the devil?
Over the next few hours, the five demons were driven off one by one. The angel called Respect expelled Contempt. For ‘familiarity’ breeds Contempt. You can get so used to your own gun that you bring it to the shoulder confident that it will do the work for you … when it should be vice-versa. You even start to neglect essentials such as range judgement. A cardinal sin for the live quarry hunter. Pick up a strange gun and you soon find yourself treating it with respect. I knelt again and got ready to zero the scope. Straight away I felt the second demon take possession. Brace .. a wicked goblin that specialises in haunting PCP shooters. As I readied to shoot, all my muscles drew in towards the rifle. My shoulders tensed and my spine went rigid. My left elbow, supporting the rifle, dug hard into my left thigh. I summoned the angel Poise. She sat on my shoulder, whispering to me to keep my muscles fluid, to simply allow the rifle to float in my hands and to naturally find its centre of gravity. Then that hobgoblin called Huddle … the bane of the spring gun shooter … tried to enter the fray; making me pull the rifle stock hard into my right shoulder. Poise called her comrade, Liberty, to sit on my other shoulder. Huddle fled as a few millimetres of air appeared between the stock and my shoulder. Through the scope I saw the cross-hairs shaking over the yellow-on-black Shoot N C target. The shot missed, as expected. High and right. I hadn’t yet zeroed but the fourth demon, Quiver, had emerged. So far, every demon that had followed me to the ritual had obviously been with me for weeks, possibly months. Contempt, Brace, Huddle and Quiver will impede a PCP shooter and make them less effective. That odd miss, the occasional winged quarry … “Not my fault, must be the pellets!” … that’s how the devils work.
Before I could finish zeroing the Lightning, the angel Breath came to sit with me. As she sang gently from within, controlled and calculated, we expelled the imp called Quiver. He can only exist while you seek Breath. Then we had to banish the nastiest old demon of all … Snatch. The gargoyle that lives in your trigger finger. Enter the angel called Patience, who holds your finger pad lightly to the blade and your eye to the target until the pellet has landed … and beyond. Such is the sanctity of a spring-powered rifle.
With the rifle zeroed it was time to hunt; for having learned to shoot properly again, the Exorcist demands a sacrificial offering in return. A humble rabbit satisfied the saviour. By the end of the weekend, the demons were banished and I returned ‘the Exorcist’ to its inner sanctum. Wrapped in oily rags until I succumb to ‘possession’ again.
Copyright, Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, February 2018