With our move to the Lincolnshire Wolds has come more opportunities to shoot over land and I was thrilled when a local farm manager recently asked me if I would like to shoot Pigeons over the land he manages.
Authority to shoot over such land has always been known to me as a ‘Permission’ and although this is not my first in the Wolds I was delighted with the unprompted offer which I would like to think is a nice reflection on myself and I resolved to do my level best to control the number of Pigeons currently damaging his fields of Rape. (Brassica napus)
To be asked to shoot over land is always a privilege, not a given and once an offer has been made it is important to do the job. One potential issue with shooting permissions is not having the time to get around everywhere and I have come across people in the past who happily reel off a list of places they can shoot yet never seem to actually get out and do anything about it, so with this in mind I was even more determined to do a good job. I sent a text to the farm manager asking if it would be OK to head out to the bottom wood yesterday evening. My check list for such an outing was remarkably simple, a shotgun in the form of my trusty Miroku 6000. I have owned this shotgun from new when it was purchased in 1994, it is the only new shotgun I have ever owned and although it is not the lightest of shotguns I do like it and it usually sits alongside a Stevens pump action and a Webley .410, between them they can get most jobs done. Along with the Miroku was a box of 12 Bore #6 30 gram cartridges (Fibre wad) followed by the trusty Labrador who was clearly keen to get out and do what he does best and finally and for the first time the trusty Viking joined us, she was going to be in charge of the game bag which looking back at the day was a tad optimistic.
With everything packed away in the car we headed off to my chosen spot which is easily accessed by turning off a reasonably busy road, down a track through a small wood and the plan was to park discreetly at the far end and then walk up to the main woods where I was to shoot. The moment I turned off the road I realised the track was distinctly muddier than when I had last seen it and I selected 4 wheel drive and carried on whilst being aware of a flashing 4×4 light as opposed to a solid light. By the time we had got to a suitable parking point out of sight of Pigeons and passing traffic I was starting to get a bad feeling however we were here to shoot and the Viking was very upbeat about the whole affair so with that we headed off, her carrying a shotgun slip and game bag and me with a pocketful of cartridges, a shotgun over my shoulder and a Labrador sort of at my heels, I say sort of as he is an excitable chap and it took a couple of prompts to get him out of the grass and back to my side however once there he stayed close. The Labrador is a very experienced working dog with a good nose for game however not always with me as he is often borrowed for a local shoot, he comes with me on the smaller shoots however for the big one I beat and he is with his brother, mother and breeder who is responsible for some of the picking up. It always seems odd to see the Labrador working yet not under my control however I am very happy with the way things work, he enjoys it and the person he is working with is a great sort and very capable. I look on it as free training and dog walking and it always makes me smile when people refer to the Labrador as ‘Rentboy’ although I have been asked on more than one occasion if he really is my dog!
Encouragingly a few birds went up as we arrived at my chosen position and we had loads of time however it was bitingly cold and I had no real idea of what to expect having not shot this wood before, I settled down for a cold hour or so with an incredibly attentive Labrador sitting to one side and the Viking behind me. Then it snowed, the sky was white, the air was white, I was turning white and the thought of the car languishing in the mud was nagging me, we waited a while without any chance of a shot and I called time, getting out was more important than a Pigeon or two for the freezer and with that we headed back to the car chuckling about the weather.
With everything loaded back in the car I reversed and moved forward as best I could however two things were becoming apparent, my 4 wheel drive was not engaging and we were rapidly becoming very stuck, time to drop the tyre pressures and pack the ground around the tyres with some towels we had in the car plus assorted bits of grass and dead wood. No joy, we were stuck, it was snowing and the biggest revelation of the day – Neither of us had a mobile ‘phone with us. Note to self, never ever leave home without a mobile ‘phone, eventually it became apparent we were not going to get out without some assistance, it would be dark soon and the weather was worsening so with that we locked the car and with a shotgun in a slip over my shoulder, a Labrador and Viking by my side, we started the long walk home. I know the land reasonably well and was able to point out the more salient features as we walked alongside the hedge lines, a solitary Muntjac scurried away at one point and Pigeons went up giving me a good idea of where to shoot next time.
We eventually hit the road back to the village however it was pitch black by now, luckily the snow gave a good contrast between verge and road and this part of the Wolds does not have ditches so no fear of falling down into icy water. Occasionally a car would pass and the headlights revealed snow being driven in virtually horizontally, good job we were both well dressed with multiple layers and breathable shells, I was in my normal beating/shooting attire, Seeland Woodcock jacket and trousers with a fleece under and Le Chameau Vierzonord wellies so I was not going to be cold, certainly not with light gloves and a flat cap (As one does!) The Viking had her own take on gear, namely black Gore-Tex jacket and trousers so she was fine albeit probably more suited to a tactical assault on an embassy than a stroll through the Wolds, the downside was we were certainly not going to be offered a lift given our current attire plus a Labrador and Shotgun on my shoulder so I was very pleased and slightly relieved when the distinctive and well known to me humming of tyres headed up the road, passed us and reversed back and that was the end of our walk.
As luck had it our rescuer, a good friend was driving a very capable 4×4 and after some chuckling drove us to our stranded car and very quickly pulled us back to a safe position, that coupled with a good run up and low range selected, albeit with only the rear wheels driving saw us back on the road in no time, after that it was just a matter of driving home, changing out of some rather muddy clothes, feeding the dogs and then off for a well earned pint and a bite to eat at our local pub, what fun 🙂
On a positive note the Viking seemed to enjoy the whole affair, we certainly did not mind the walk even if we still had another good hour or two to get home and I am looking forward to the next outing albeit I need to take a close look at the lack of front wheel drive before then.
Finally, what did I learn, well always carry a mobile for starters, a torch would be handy and always make sure you are correctly attired regardless of just how mundane the days drive may seem.