The role of air rifles in gamekeeping

Aidan Chadwick, who’s studying to be a gamekeeper, explains his love of the countryside and the role the air rifle plays in conservation.

The Reaseheath course covers an array of topics essential to a career as a gamekeeper, including Ecology, Shooting Sports, Estate Skills and Pest/Predator Control. These are crucial to managing the land and the species which live there. Ecology develops our knowledge of the various species, including their breeding seasons, physical characteristics and any diseases which might affect them.

Shooting Sports develops our understanding on the development of deer stalking and wildfowling, while Estate skills covers the correct practical use, safety regulations and understanding of equipment that will be used on an estate to manage the land. Pest and Predator Control, meanwhile, teaches us how to manage the various fauna species humanely.

On the course we are taught correct airgun use and how they should be set up and maintained. Airguns hold many advantages over firearms and shotguns, especially how discreet they are, as a sub-12 ft-lb rifle can humanely dispatch quarry with little to no noise. 

This is one of the reasons air rifles have earned their spot in the gamekeeper’s arsenal and are a “go to” for anyone whose job involves carrying out pest control in close proximity to other people.

Any rifle must be correctly set up to be both safe and to provide an accurate shot. Without the correct maintenance an air rifle may start to rust, or develop a leak and require a repair. It’s therefore imperative that we learn how to ensure that our equipment is kept in safe, working order.

Airguns are also used to teach general shooting principles and safety to the students on my course. Brocock has been a great supporter of Reaseheath College, supplying airguns for us to use, learn, train and maintain. We’ve been able to improve our understanding of their functions in the industry as well as the positives they provide.

We’ve learned how both FAC and sub-12 air rifles have several benefits over a powder-burning rifle. The main advantage, as I’ve already mentioned, has to be the low noise output, which makes the airgun an exquisite tool for any pest control that requires discretion.

Another advantage is the fact that they are considerably cheaper to operate than a firearm, although they are still capable of delivering the same result if the quarry is sensibly and humanely targeted. In the gamekeeping industry, airguns can be used several different ways, my personal favourite being night vision ratting.

I currently help on a pheasant shoot in my local area which I have been a member of the beating line for two seasons. I already carry out several pest control jobs, which include rats and corvids, as this provides more experience of the quarry which I will further encounter in the future.

On completion of the course I would like to join either the grouse or pheasant side of the industry, and will continue to use air rifles to exploit their benefits – and for those occasions where excessive power is simply not needed.


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