Mat Manning considers some of the gear that airgun shooters will be stocking up on now they have pest birds back in their sights.
At long last, general licences for the control of pest birds in England are back in what seems to be a workable format so, in most cases, shooting can continue as normal.
I’ve already expressed my opinions regarding the conduct of all interested parties during the whole debacle, and don’t intend to say much more here – and I have no doubt that there will be plenty of comment elsewhere in this issue.
I am pleased that common sense seems to have prevailed for now, though it beggars believe that it took the best part of two months to get things back on track. The omission of collared doves from the new general licences really is a mystery, though.
I understand that the move has been attributed to a lack of evidence caused by this abundant agricultural pest, which seems very strange to me. Collared doves are far more common than feral pigeons on most of the farms where I shoot, and they certainly cause just as much damage.
Speaking of damage, countless shooting business will have suffered from a serious lack of trade during the weeks of uncertainty that followed the revocation of the general licences.
I know from experience that airgun shooters spend big when splashing out on new accessories for their summer pest control, and the loss of that trade will have hurt a lot of businesses during May and the first half of June.
The good news is that those same shooters will no doubt be very eager to splash out on their favourite hobby now that they can get out and do it again.
With that in mind, I have rounded up some essential items that airgun shooters are likely to be looking out for when they drop into their local gun shops over the coming weeks.
NATURE-TREK 10X42 BINOCULARS
Studying flightlines helps shooters to ensure that they’re setting up in the right place, and the task is a lot easier with a decent pair of binoculars. This offering from Hawke combines compact proportions and affordability with decent optical performance.
These lightweight and durable binoculars feature multi-coated lenses, phase-corrected BAK-4 roof prisms and adjustable eye-relief for sharp viewing. They focus down to 2m and have a field of view of 101m at 1000m. Supplied with lens covers, carrycase, and shoulder strap.
ENFORCER PRO PIGEON SHELL DECOYS
£69.99 (pack of 12)
Enforcer decoys have won a very loyal following over the last couple of years, and that’s because they work brilliantly. Finished with Mattblock paint for extra realism in all light conditions, they are remarkably lifelike, and they’re also tough.
These shells are lighter to carry than full-body decoys, and they pack into each other to save precious space in your kitbag. They even come with a set of adjustable sprung rods which use the wind to make them bob like real feeding birds.
CAMO SYSTEMS REALTREE SCRIM
Targeting sharp-eyed woodpigeons and crows is usually more productive when done from the cover of a hide, and camouflage netting is one of the best ways to create concealment quickly.
The compact and lightweight camouflage net from Camo Systems unfolds to create a 10’ by 7’ screen. It’s finished in low-glare Realtree Hardwoods Green HD to keep it inconspicuous and made from a rot and mould resistant, UV-treated rip-stop material that should give years of good service if you take care around brambles and blackthorn.
MAXI DECOY BAG
Successful decoying usually requires a lot of kit, and lugging all that gear across the fields is a lot easier with a decent large-capacity carryall.
This 120-litre backpack from Jack Pyke can swallow up a lot of decoys. And, thanks to its adjustable padded shoulder straps, it makes for pretty comfortable carrying.
Constructed from tough Cordura with a camouflage finish, it also features two seven-litre side pockets and a compartment to hold hide and floater poles.
Ambushing pests can get uncomfortable when you’re holed-up inside a hide for long periods of time – especially if the shooting is a bit slow – but a comfortable seat will make it a lot more tolerable.
This light, portable cushion from Range Right should keep numb-bum at bay while providing a stable shooting platform.
Made from a tough nylon shell and filled with squashy polystyrene balls, it also creates a waterproof barrier between you and damp or cold ground.
ALLEN CAMO CLOTH TAPE
Airgun shooters like camouflage, and for good reason: they need to get close to wary quarry in order make telling shots. Anything eye-catching needs to be covered up when you’re targeting crows and pigeons at close quarters, and camo tape is one of the best ways to do that.
This product from Allen is great for concealing shiny gear that could attract unwanted attention. Easy to apply and ultra-adhesive once it’s in place, it features a woodland pattern with a matt finish to keep it low-key.