Jim Old wants to go after some quarry with his air rifle, but first he has to do a different type of hunting – hunting down a permission.
When my kids were at primary school they were taught how to write a “persuasive letter”. They paid attention in the lessons and then came home and unleashed their new skills on their hapless parents. I remember receiving a five-page document setting out carefully reasoned arguments in support of my son getting a PlayStation for his birthday.
This week I’ve been drafting a persuasive letter of my own. It occurs to me that since returning to airgunning two years ago, I haven’t been getting the full experience. The garden plinking and club shooting have been great, but there’s something missing. In short, I don’t have a permission. Obviously this means I can’t go hunting. Nor can I enjoy the simple freedom of a speculative wander in the countryside with an air rifle slung over my shoulder.
Of course, many airgunners are more than content to stick to club shooting. Others are happy to keep it in their gardens. The bigger the garden the better, I suppose. Ours is so small that we have to use it on a rota basis. I’ve always wanted to get back to hunting. And the much-chronicled adventures of Mat Manning and Rich Saunders of this parish make me feel that securing an airgun permission is something I should be aspiring to.
It’s not easy, we’re warned. Farmers and landowners are understandably wary of letting strangers shoot on their property. It’s hard not to put myself in their muddy wellies and wonder how I’d react if someone turned up out of the blue wanting to creep about my fields with an airgun.
In all honesty, I’m not sure how accommodating I’d be. Anyway, the best advice seems to be to keep it local – even if the farmer doesn’t know you personally, they’ll know where you’re from. This is a problem for me. I live in London so there are no farms in my area; unless you count Britain’s third largest sewerage farm which, funnily enough, I don’t.
Another problem. Regular readers of The Barn Door may remember my chronic shyness becoming an issue when I first joined my airgun club. It’s an issue again now. The prospect of knocking on a landowner’s door and being told to get lost, or worse, while I’m setting out my permission-seeking stall, is not something I relish. Two or three rough refusals and I can see myself giving up on the whole idea. I also have a morbid fear of farm dogs – the result of a nasty childhood incident – but that’s another story.
So this is my abuse-dodging, dog-avoiding plan. I’m using the internet and online maps to compile a list of farms and rural businesses on the edge of my part of London. When it’s complete I’ll email each landowner or manager a personalised version of the (hopefully) persuasive letter I’ve written. I’ll tell them a bit about myself and offer to help with any pest problems in return for the chance to hunt on their land.
I’m quite pleased with the letter. It paints me as a respectable, responsible, law-abiding member of society and I reckon I am at least one of those things. I expect most will ignore it, and realistically I know it’s less likely to work than the straightforward knock and smile approach. But it’s a good first step and I only need one person to say yes at this stage. My kids managed to score a new PlayStation using this method, so it’s got to be worth a shot.