Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 21 April 2012
Dreams of a poacher
I didn't really want to stray into this emotive subject again but, following on from yesterday's post, a few things have cropped up which I get the feeling have been misunderstood, so to hell with it - I'm going to waste a potentially light-hearted Saturday post.
First of all, just because I personally do not want to kill living things like pheasants for sport, that does not mean I disagree with it. All it means is that I am - once again - placing responsibility for what goes into my autumn casserole onto someone else. The only 'antis' I have any respect for whatsoever are vegans. If you want to lecture anyone about the morality of eating meat, then make damn sure that you do not wear leather shoes, or drink beer which is filtered through the gall-bladders of certain fish, otherwise just shut up.
It takes a great deal of hard work and skill to stalk deer in the Highlands of Scotland, and the price paid for putting yourself through a day of crawling on your stomach up-wind through wet and prickly heather to shoot one carefully selected stag from a large managed herd, then carry it back to a distant Land Rover is about £5000. If you can afford it, then why not? Someone has to do it, and there is probably no better way to genuinely be in touch with nature and the food it provides than to eat your own venison like this, rather than pull it off the shelf of a supermarket, if you happen to like venison.
Why does everyone think that pheasant cannot fly properly, just because they are stupid enough to prefer to walk, and walk in busy roads at that? They can fly very well - fast and high, fast and low, up and down.
I said over on Megan's blog that - far from being dead easy to shoot, the modern pheasant was introduced into Britain because the species they first shot at was far too easy, and the reason it was too easy was because - ironically - it was too small and too fast. There, you see? Already you begin to get the idea that shooting with shotguns isn't as simple as it might appear to anyone who has not tried it.
Do you think that because a shotgun throws out a small handful of pellets as opposed to a single bullet, that it is almost impossible to miss? Here is an example which puts this myth into perspective:
The pattern 'spread' of an averagely choked (most guns have a slightly narrower front end to keep the pellets together) is about the size of a dustbin lid at around 80 yards. The size of a clay is about the same as the saucer to an espresso cup.
So if you reverse the ratios, then hitting a clay at that distance requires the same level of skill as hitting a dustbin lid with a single bullet when it is flying from right to left at about 50 miles per hour, 80 yards away and 150 feet up in the air. Unless your name is Annie Oakley, this is a feat which takes quite a bit of practice to consistently perform, and you have to be able to consistently perform it before they will ever let you near a live pheasant-shoot.
Also - and this takes your head a lot of getting round - if you aim straight at the target, you will always miss. Depending on speed, you have to aim ahead by a certain distance which you have about 2 seconds to calculate; you have to aim below if the target is dropping; you have to aim above if the target is rising. Considering that it only takes the shot about a quarter of a second to reach the target, the usual sort of distance ahead of about 2 or 3 feet - 6 for more distance - is difficult to understand. Part of the 'bang' in shotguns is the shot literally breaking the sound-barrier as it leaves the gun. They make sub-sonic cartridges which are a lot quieter.
I said 'ironically' above, because nothing will put you off a shot so well as a slow-moving and large-sized target which is also very close. I have actually seen people miss a large cardboard box which is sitting on the ground about 15 feet away from them, and seen it more than once!
Every now and then - just as a joke - someone on the trap will send a large clay (there are 3 sizes) floating 6 feet and gently, right over the head of a gun at walking speed, and 9 times out of 10, the bloke with the gun usually misses, despite that he had about 10 seconds to prepare for it.
Everyone will tell you that the easiest shots - ironically again - are the little, wickedly fast clays that you just glimpse from the corner of your eye, flashing across the sky and giving you no time to 'think' about them. These 'snap' shots are how most Woodcock are shot in woodland, as they suddenly appear in the gloom between the trees as the gun is sitting on a stool, chatting to a friend.
I don't want to shoot Woodcock either, but if ever there was a game-bird designed NOT to be slaughtered en masse, that's the one.
So next time you see a bunch of blokes in tweed with shotguns, staring expectantly up in the sky, spare a thought for the skill it took to put that dressed pheasant on the counter of your local butcher, at the very attractive price of about £3.50. It cost the bloke in tweeds about £250, plus years of experience.