Airgun Shooter reader Roger Kent explains the enjoyment he has being out and about on his two permissions as he puts a dent in squirrel numbers.
I am very fortunate in having two permissions within a three-mile radius of my home. The first is a private garden of some 10 acres, and the second a much larger estate garden sitting in a couple of hundred acres of open fields, spinneys and mature woodland.
In the first property, I have one feeder sited in a boundary plantation of young trees and mature conifers, well away from the views of visitors to this beautiful show garden.
In the second permission I have three feeders strategically placed to draw the squirrels away from the gardens surrounding the main house. When topping up the feeders, I will cover both venues in one outing.
A typical visit to my smaller site will start with a tail-wagging greeting from the owners’ dog, plus a chat with the owners if they’re about. After loading up with my HW110, folding seat and tripod I’ll make my way through the formal gardens to the wild part at the rear of the grounds, where only the gardeners visit to store logs and grass cuttings together with mountains of leaves from the autumn fall.
I walk quietly to my chosen spot, pausing frequently to observe any movement from departing squirrels or rabbits before setting up my seat and shooting gear.
I find that after allowing for things to settle after my arrival, the squirrels start to make an appearance. Some I watch as they follow a well-used route through the canopy to the tree that my feeder is in, others will quite boldly scamper past me from behind and make their way up to the feeder.
Autumn through to early spring I tend to visit late morning or afternoon when I’ll be least disturbed by other activities taking place. In the late spring and summer months I favour late evening for the same reasons.
The peace and tranquility is beautiful, a distant cuckoo calling, the church bells being rung in some far-off village, the magic of being immersed in rural life.
My summer’s evening will end as the light begins to fade, with a slow patrol of the formal gardens, constantly on the lookout for any rabbits that may happen to make an appearance as night falls, and stealth and a shot from a kneeling position will often take care of any rabbits encountered this way.
My feeders are all situated about five to six feet off the ground, which means for some I take a plastic stool with me to make topping them up easier.
An average session of about an hour and a half may result in up to six squirrels dispatched, but for me I also get great pleasure in watching the birds that visit the feeders or put in an appearance in the branches whilst I’m sat there.
Blue and great tit, nuthatch and treecreepers, great spotted woodpecker plus the odd gold crest all bring joy with their aerial antics. Unusual visitors can be moorhens that will clumsily flutter up to grab some of the peanuts, or a fox calmly trotting past.
The second permission is even quieter than the first. On entering I slowly drive up the long avenue that’s flanked by mature trees, and in February carpeted in snowdrops.
I’m scanning the woodland floor for any signs of squirrels foraging before I park up and admire the fantastic views that surround the property. Pheasants are strolling about, safe in the knowledge that the season has now passed.
The call of red kite and buzzard circling above are the first sounds that greet me as I set off on my walk round. My first feeder is placed where I can observe it from the shelter of a large laurel shrub.
I’ve made a peephole in the greenery where I can position my air rifle to take aim at any squirrels in attendance. In this spot I remain standing during my visit, leaning against the sturdy branches for support and my rifle resting in a natural fork in the shrub.
When the time comes to move on, I begin a slow walk round, always on the lookout for foraging greys or rabbits that may be feeding in the rides before arriving at the second feeder which is situated about 20 metres from an open-fronted outbuilding.
This is a luxury as I can sit on an old plastic chair and rest the gun atop a wooden pallet. I’m hidden from view by squirrels coming to feed by the darkness of this shed, whilst they are perfectly illuminated in natural light from my comfortable position where I’m protected from the elements.
I can spend many an hour here just watching and listening to the wildlife that surrounds me regardless of whether the quarry species is showing or not.
It sometimes takes considerable effort to leave this place and move on to feeder number three, but one must – and after sitting it’s nice to stretch the legs. If conditions are right I will embark on a lengthy stroll, taking in some of the woods before making my way across the fields to a circular spinney that has young trees and a grand old oak in an overgrown pit.
It’s a warm place to be and there is always a chance of some sport, either in the branches of the oak or round the pheasant feeder and scattered straw left over from the shooting season.
I am very much a loner by choice when doing this. I like to be free to come and go as I choose, for as brief a time or as the weather or other constraints dictate. After the banter of the beaters over the season and 30-plus days of game shoots’ noise I always relish the sound of silence this aspect of my sport affords me.
I suppose what I have described might not be to everyone’s taste, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Those that do participate in this or similar activities will know the sheer pleasure that is obtained from it, the peace of mind and sense of well-being that being as one with your surroundings can bring.
There is always time to have a chat with the property owners or their employees and much beneficial information to be gained from their knowledge of the grounds.
More on permissions from Airgun Shooter
- How to gain hunting permission
- Different types of airgun permission
- Richard Saunders’ golf course permission
- 10 Tips for conservation-savvy rabbit hunting
- Rabbit hunting at an equestrian centre