A November Sortie

November, for the shooter, is the month (due to the clock change) to load the freezer with woodpigeon breasts. You can be out in the roost wood at 3pm, before the incoming birds arrive and shoot through to sundown. Whether you choose a shotgun or an airgun is a matter of personal choice. As someone who owns both, I will always choose the whisper-quiet air rifle so that I can enjoy the ambience of the evening wood. Deploying a shotgun may rob you of the chance to listen to the tawny owls converse; perhaps the passing of the early badger or fox. Should you let a fox pass by while holding a shotgun? Unless you have a BB or Magnum shell in your pocket, then yes. If you have either and can fix what will be an inevitable problem, it’s worth sacrificing an hour under the roost and wait for it to settle again.

We’ve had only a couple of sub-zero nights out here in East Anglia, one of which was the woodcock moon. Like much of the country we’ve had rain in bucketful’s. The tractor trails and ploughed fields are quagmires but the forest floor, carpeted in damp rustic leaf fall, is a joy to stalk. My grey squirrel sorties have been fruitful with both air rifle and rimfire. The .22LR is an excellent tool when the greys are on the floor or pinned against a tree trunk, but you can’t shoot upwards. Far too dangerous in the event of a ‘miss’. Using a legal limit air rifle allows some flexibility. Elevated shots at squirrels, corvids and woodies are completely safe if you know your land. You just can’t do this with a rimfire rifle as uninterrupted travel of the round could result in tragedy.

The tenant farmers on my main permission have put out feeders to pull the wild pheasants into place. They don’t buy in poults as they only operate a ‘family shoot’ on Boxing Day. Sometimes another before that, in mid-December. Much of my attention during November and December is around these feeders, which are plundered by squirrels and woodpigeon. They will have lean shooting this year. I only have daylight permission here, quite sensibly, because I share the permission with the deer stalker who introduced me to the landowner. This estate has a huge and growing badger population, which undoubtably explains why I’ve seen less and less poults over the past few years. I just do what I can to protect those who survive. If I’m honest (and please only whisper this) the pheasants are under more threat from these natural predators than the December guns!

November saw the release of my 16th book, which (because I also have a day job) absorbed a lot of my spare time just bringing it to publication. I self-publish now through Amazon, which means doing all the writing, editing, proofing and photo formatting etc myself. I was pleased with the result, but only you guys and girls can truly judge it’s worth. The point being, however, that I like to encourage a bit of thrift and recycling where shooting is concerned. For example, take a washed lid from a jar of curry sauce or similar, puncture it with a screwdriver at the edge and add a rubber band. A simple target ‘gong’ for checking zero on your air rifle or rimfire.

A sad conclusion to this months diary is that Norfolk County Council’s contractors have started the survey work for the ‘by-pass’ that will soon destroy the edge of this estate. It breaks my heart but it’s not my land, only my ‘permission’. The landowner, subject to compulsory purchase legislation, is equally heartbroken. Such is progress.

Keep the faith.

Copyright, Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, November 2019

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