Sunday 24 June 2007

Sporting Shooter podcast - episode 1

Well, I did it! Here's my first attempt at a podcast. Let me know what you think - or suggest ideas for future podcasts - by posting a comment below, or emailing me at

NB I've re-hosted this at Soundcloud - it should play in the widget below:

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Office fish

It's a little known fact that the Sporting Shooter editorial office has its own fish - four guppies that live in an old coffee jar. They have no names as yet, although we've had suggestions like "Fish 1", "Fish 2", etc, and "Stoat", "Weasel", "Ferret" and "Pine Marten". None of which have really caught on. Any ideas?

We're looking at the possibility of enlisting the fishes' help in randomly selecting prize winners for the magazine's competitions - perhaps based on the position of the large fish in the jar at the time of the draw. Watch this space!

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Ginger rabbits

The garden of the house in Skye is surrounded by an old stone wall that's riddled with rabbit holes. In recent years we've seen the occasional odd-coloured one - ginger, black and once even a snow white one. The blacks and whites seem to have gone, but the ginger ones are taking over - there are now more ginger rabbits than normal coloured ones in the colony. So far as I can tell, they are producing ginger and brown rabbits in the same litter. This photo shows two youngsters - one ginger, one brown - that seem to be identical in age and are living in the same burrow.

Fishing & tadpoles

While in Scotland, I was able to spend some time fishing with the family - here's daughter Emma (no mean shooter herself), being towed by my parents, in the shadow of the Storr Rock near Portree. The weather was far too good for fishing - blazing sunshine - and we caught nothing. But a lovely day spent in glorious scenery nevertheless.

Another time we sneaked off for a couple of hours on a small loch at the south end of the island. Again it was too bright and the fish just weren't feeding. But I did find myself surrounded by tadpoles as I fished.

I took these with a new camera, a Pentax Optio W20. This claims to be fully waterproof (I haven't dared test it fully yet!) and was recommended to me by a sea kayaker who ought to know! So far I'm impressed with the results, and because it's small and robust I find I take it places where I wouldn't take the big SLR.

Hoodie crows

In the last post I said I was travelling to Scotland. Once there, one of the main jobs (apart from getting some interviews and photos for our next issue) was to sort out the hooded crows. The local farmers hate these things with a passion. It's hard not to, when you've seen them rip a tiny lamb to pieces with those chisel-like beaks.

Well, I spent a bit of time zeroing my .17HMR and, to cut a long story short, I managed to get a couple of crows. This one was shot at about 70 yards off the vehicle's bonnet; the other was a better shot (at about 145 yards off the bipod) but I didn't have the camera with me that time. Hardly the most flattering picture of me ever taken, but it does prove I got one.

The .17 is a remarkable rifle, and has really transformed my crow control - and rabbit shooting for that matter. It's cheap and relatively easy to shoot, amazingly accurate for what is a very inexpensive and fairly basic gun (it's a CZ BRNO), and with a decent moderator it really doesn't cause much disturbance either (certainly not in the very open countryside on this part of the West coast). The only drawback is it can spoil a lot of meat - hardly a problem when you're shooting crows!

Conservation: on the frontline

On my way to Scotland a few days ago, I stopped off near Carlisle to see Ashley Boon, the sporting artist. He's lived in Cumbria for 20 years, and loves to see the red squirrels that visit his garden. Just recently he spotted the first grey squirrel ever in the valley where he lives - which could spell disaster for the native reds. Apparently the greys carry parapox virus, which is deadly to reds.

So he's formed a committee, and started a trapping and shooting programme, with the full support of local landowners, to try to keep the greys out and save his beloved reds.

When I visited, he had already killed 18 grey squirrels in 10 days or so - he shot the 19th while I was with him taking photos.

You can read all about Ashley's efforts to save the red squirrels in our August issue - the Game Fair preview issue - which is out on 5 July. If I ever work out how to do it, I'll post a short extract from my interview with him too.