Friday 30 October 2009
Countryside Alliance Moorlands Policy Officer Adrian Blackmore said: “Although there were just six successful hen harrier nests in England in 2009, that number could have been higher. The RSPB has blamed natural predation for the death of two hen harrier chicks in Bowland in August, which highlights the importance of carrying out predator control, and for the third year running, the RSPB’s upland reserve at Geltsdale failed to have a successful breeding pair after a female deserted her nest.
“The populations of all but one of 15 species of British birds of prey are increasing, in some cases to the maximum that the habitat can support. There are 806 breeding pairs in the United Kingdom, a 41% increase between 1998 and 2004. They are a common sight in the spring and autumn as they migrate through the country."
The Alliance points out that the hen harrier is not a rare bird across Europe. Near the top of its food chain and with 167,000 nesting females, it is not threatened. The Hen harrier is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) – the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species - as of ‘least concern’. They say that hen harriers are regularly seen migrating over grouse moors along the Pennine Chain but they do not often settle to breed in England (10 pairs in 2008, and 12 attempts in 2009 of which 6 were successful). The latest estimate is that there are 806 pairs breeding in the UK, of which 57 are on the Isle of Man.
All of which leaves me wondering, why all the shouting about "illegal persecution", unless it's good for drumming up membership and donations?
If I was LACS I wouldn't welcome it, I'd be hopping mad. Reading between the lines, the document seems to be telling police they have more important things to do, but they'd better feign interest in order to:
- positively promote our impartiality
- provide reassurance that we will police without prejudice
- provide reassurance that we support and respect the right to both legitimate protest and to hunt lawfully
My favourite bit is the 'Risk Assessment' at the end of the document: "Officers to be made aware that horses may bite and kick...". Dealing with animal carcasses: "Gloves to be worn. Clothing to be treated as contaminated waste. Officers wash hands change clothing as soon as practicable."
I note that the antis' new tactics involve asking people in the street whether foxhunting should remain banned, and then trying to frighten politicians with the results. I think I shall have a poll to ask Joe Public: "What will influence the way you cast your vote at the next election?" If keeping the Hunting Act makes a tenth of one percent, I'll eat my hat.
So, if shooting matters to you, and your MP is on the list below, you might want to email him/her and point out that this is no way to win your support at the forthcoming general election.
Wednesday 28 October 2009
UPDATE: It's up and running - see www.ethicalhunters.org.uk
Monday 26 October 2009
Here are a few that I'd be happy to find in my stocking on Christmas Day, but what would you want?
Ideas and suggestions please - via the comments or email me direct at: editor[at]sportingshooter.co.uk
Nerf Havoc Fire Automatic Blaster
Fly Gun Bug Killer
Double Shot Dart Blaster
Rubber Band Gatling Gun
Sunday 25 October 2009
Driving to see my parents this afternoon, I stopped to let these two run across the lane in front of me. They never noticed the car - just carried on with their squabble until the winner sent his rival packing.
Walking round the place later, I was amazed by the number of berries on the holly trees. Some say it's a sign that a harsh winter is coming. Personally I think it's probably more to do with the summer we've had than the winter we're going to have.
Here's something else I noticed - several pigeon kills, probably by a sparrowhawk. This was the only one where the carcass remained, but I expect foxes etc took away the others. I do hope someone has explained the terms of the general licence to that sparrowhawk, and it's being careful only to kill pigeons that are damaging crops!
Saturday 24 October 2009
Yes, I know it's really a chicken coop, but it also happens to be ideal for the ferrets, and I got this on eBay cheaper than I could buy the timber and wire to make my own at B&Q.
I went to B&Q anyway, to get the paving slabs for the floor. One of the main problems with the old run was that the ferrets kept digging their way out, and then catching them up again was quite a chore. Whatever else happens, they won't be digging out of this one!
The other trouble with the old set-up was that the hutch was simply falling to bits. The timber was rotting away, and it was only a matter of time before the floor fell in, or the roof blew off.
So now the 4 jills are settled in their new home, busily exploring all the corners and climbing the wire mesh all the way to the roof, just for a look, before sliding back down again.
I've added upgraded bolts and latches, as the originals were designed to keep chickens in, and weren't up to holding back ferrets.
After years of keeping ferrets, nothing surprises me when it comes to their ability to escape or get into mischief in the most unlikely ways. But so far, so good!
Friday 23 October 2009
Warwickshire man pleads not guilty in gyrocopter hunt death
Oct 5 2009
A 54-year-old north Warwickshire man pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of a hunt supporter who was killed by the rotor blades of a gyrocopter.
Bryan Griffiths, who spoke only to enter his plea at Birmingham Crown Court, will now stand trial next year accused of killing Trevor Morse.
The defendant, of Wiltshire Close, Bedworth, is alleged to have killed Mr Morse unlawfully at Long Marston airfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon, on March 9.
Mr Morse, a committee member with the Warwickshire Hunt, was pronounced dead at the scene of the incident after suffering severe head injuries.
Griffiths is expected to return to court for trial on March 1 next year at a venue to be fixed.
Thursday 22 October 2009
Wednesday 21 October 2009
But it's a serious question. I was talking to the RSPB's conservation director Mark Avery - he's the one who appears at the CLA Game Fair each year, taking the inevitable flak from shooters and keepers. During the conversation, he asked me "What exactly do you want the RSPB to do?"
I was stumped, and promised to get back to him on that one. Which is why I'm asking readers of this blog to help me out.
So what do we want the RSPB to do? Realistically.
They're not going to go away. They will continue to direct their appeals at well intentioned but ill informed members of the public. And let's face it, they're not all bad by a long way. Much of their work is well directed and hugely beneficial to wildlife and the countryside.
My initial 'wish list' contains more negatives than positives: Stop using shooters and keepers as bogeymen in your fundraising and publicity; stop focusing on 'iconic' birds of prey as if nothing else matters; etc.
On its own reserves, the RSPB can run things how it likes. But in the 'real' world outside that bubble, birds must take second place to food production, commerce, transport, and the rest. The British Isles could be filled with hen harriers and all sorts of wonderful wildlife if we just cleared off all the humans, bulldozed the houses, and turned the whole place into a huge nature reserve.
Of course that won't happen, but there's much more we can do to reduce our impact on the natural world, and live alongside wildlife. And paradoxically, shooters do much better in this area than 99% of the population. I suppose what I really want is for the RSPB to acknowledge that, and stop portraying us as the enemy. Longer term, I'd like them to embrace 'harvesting nature's bounty' as an intrinsic part of conservation.
So, starting with that as a strategic objective, what do I tell Mr Avery?
Can individual shoots work more closely with RSPB officers, for the benefit of wildlife generally? (And would keepers trust them enough to allow them on the place?)
Perhaps we'd like a 'good keeper scheme' where the RSPB acknowledges the work done by individuals to improve the wildlife generally on their shoot. Heaven forbid, though, that they should see this as some sort of 'licensing' system by the back door, where they 'inspect' shoots to see that they conform to some standard.
Or do we just want them to clear off and mind their own business? Trouble with that one is, if it's got wings and a beak, they reckon it is their business.
Over to you... comments and ideas please.
Tuesday 20 October 2009
I’m at my wits end! So I apologise in advance for this ‘rant’.
I have become increasingly frustrated by repeated , embarrassing stories of over reaction by my fellow colleagues within the police ‘service’ (or Force as it used to be called!), when dealing with lawful and law abiding firearms users. I hasten to add though this is not entirely their fault, rather than stemming from what is now the ‘scared sh*tless’ mentality of the management.
I am both a policeman (20+ years service) and a shooter. I am passionate about the job and the countryside. I live right in the ‘sticks’ and undertake various shooting pursuits; pigeon, driven, rough shooting and lamping. I look forward to working with my cocker picking up this season and on the beating line with him on my friend’s local shoot.
Although I’m an awful shot at times with the 12 bore, I’m still learning and enjoy all aspects of shooting and feel privileged to be able to partake in this way of life. The shooting and field sport community are a very welcoming bunch far from being law breakers!
I genuinely fear for the career I joined at 19 years of age, I almost don’t recognise it. The time has come I believe for a complete ‘Back to Basics’ overhaul to policing and a return to good old fashion ‘coppering’.
To start with I would like to see all political and management buzzwords (or boll*cks as I call it) removed from all police vocabulary immediately. Phrases such as ‘Anti Social Behaviour’, ’Engage with...’, ‘Dynamic Risk...’should be replaced by my favoured tried and tested old fashion terms, such as ‘Oi pack it in or else!’, ‘Speak to/have a word with (to tell them to pack it in all else)!’ and ‘What? Lets ‘ave ‘em!’ It’s simple, the bobby should be seen, villains should be nicked and the public should be served, no more complicated than that.
The public are tired of fancy meetings in damp village halls where the poor local officer has to prepare days in advance to defend his/herself on their inadequacies in policing a patch the size of Ethiopia. From a personal perspective ‘the travelling community’ are getting away with murder, they run amuck, thieving, poaching, taking people’s dogs and garden equipment daily! They are practically unpoliced. I have heard accounts where even young police officers are too scared to enter their sites due to institutional ‘namby pambyism!’ I want to scream at them,”Hang on, look behind you, the Army are rather tied up in Afghanistan, there’s no one else, the public pay you to do that, now get your stick out and get in there for God sake!”
I don’t feel I’m generalising too much common sense has for the time being disappeared from our Police Service. I sincerely hope for a return to the village bobby only having a ‘village’ to police not half a county, where Risk Assessing is put more into perspective with a touch of common sense added so incidents of pigeon cullers being nicked at gunpoint don’t occur, and when you leave your firearms in a locked secured vehicle and they are stolen, you are treated like a victim of theft and not the suspect of a murder!
If we as a police service alienate any more of our community we will never salvage anything of the relationship we have had with the public in times gone by.
Somebody, please bring back some sense!!
Thursday 15 October 2009
Wednesday 14 October 2009
Today, however, there's something spooky in my site stats. A visitor from the domain usmc.mil (The US Navy Information Center) looked at my write-up on the new Beretta semi-auto. Nothing unusual there. But the 'out click' was on an image called http://img1.blogblog.com/img/icon18_wrench_allbkg.png, which links to an editing screen so you can edit a 'widget' on the blog layout.
You don't even see that image, let alone get to go to that edit screen, unless you're logged in as me. The truth is out there...
Monday 12 October 2009
Locals have heard 'screaming' at night, and the sheep have all been killed in a distinctive manner, quite unlike the work of rogue dogs etc. Some of the sheep have been so thoroughly eaten that only a fleece and stomach contents remain in the morning - it takes some creature to do that in a night!
The farmer whose sheep were taken made the mistake of telling the police about it. So what did they do? They confiscated his guns!
Big cats tend to drag their prey up into a tree, whenever possible; clearly this isn't happening here. They also favour woodland, however sparse, for their lair; is there somewhere in the vicinity that could provide such cover? If so, a series of 'sandpits' dug where the animal would have to exit might provide a clue.
One big cat (however big) couldn't possibly eat a whole sheep on three consecutive days (Thu, Fri, Sat) and why would it kill again on Sunday, but not eat the carcass? Maybe 'it' was disturbed, but the clue is in my putting 'it' into inverted commas ie is 'it' in fact 'them'? A mother with kittens perhaps. The fact that the ears have been chewed could indicate kittens hanging onto the ears trying to emulate their mother during the attack, or chewing on them prior to being given permission to feed off the main carcass. This is becoming a might fanciful, though.
Another thing about eating raw flesh is that it takes 48 hours to go through the system as opposed to 24 hours with cooked flesh; ask the kennel huntsman of any pack of hounds. So eating raw flesh on consecutive days doesn't make sense.
Why did it leave the stomach contents? Most carnivores value greatly the partially digested herbage found in their victims' stomachs. It helps to provide necessary roughage without the need to graze actual blades of grass for which their teeth are poorly suited.
Blood in the ears and frothy blood in the mouth might suggest death by strangulation (or lung damage) a vet would be able to tell you better than I, so almost anything could be responsible for that, even a mink might manage it.
Pugmarks are particularly difficult to find unless sand or mud has been crossed. Even then, it takes an experienced eye to identify them positively. If there are any, it might be helpful to note that cats can withdraw their claws when walking (and extend them when attacking) so the lack of claw marks could be an indicator, but by no means foolproof.
I once tracked a cattle-eating leopard in Namibia for four hours along a dried up river bed and never once saw any sign of its claws in the soft sand. On another occasion on the Botswana/South Africa border I followed the pugmarks of a leopard along the muddy bank of the Limpopo for an hour and a half; this leopard's claws were evident all along the way. For reasons too long to go into here, I didn't shoot either of those cats, but I watched them often through my binoculars, so I do know what animal made those pugmarks.
For me, the feature that really stood out was the ability to fire any 12-bore load, up to 3 1/2in and from 24g to 64g, without any adjustment. And I know it really does cope with those weights and anything in-between, because I've fired them (well, up to 63g anyway).
The fact that I am still standing up and have no broken bones is testament to another big feature of the Xplor - its recoil reduction system. This takes the established Kick-Off butt pad system and adds a third shock absorber in the stock bolt, giving up to 70% recoil reduction.
Beretta are making much of the action's speed - the Xplor is now, apparently, the world's fastest semi-automatic. In practice, I've never found a modern semi-auto that cycles too slowly for a second or third, aimed shot, so I haven't felt the need for more speed, but I suppose it can't be a bad thing.
More observations and info to follow later...
Sunday 11 October 2009
Most viewers fail to spot the biggest clash of all, however - the one in the studio between the two main presenters.
In the blue corner, we have the fluffy anthropomorphic Kate Humble, recently appointed president of the RSPB, who goes all gooey at the sight of anything young and cute.
And in the red corner we have gritty realist Chris Packham, who takes a Darwinian/Dawkinsian view of nature and recently got himself into trouble for suggesting we should leave the pointless giant panda to die out naturally.
Most of the time Humble and Packham manage to avoid their differences, concentrating on points of agreement such as how 'staggering' it is that a tiny goldcrest can fly across the English Channel.
But every now and then, we get a glimpse of their true nature. In the latest programme, there was a brief mention of eating grey squirrels. Kate Humble's face took on a look that said 'Eeuww, how could you' while the glint in Packham's eye spoke volumes.
Packham is no fool, and knows which side his bread is buttered. But I wonder if he can last the series without giving Humble a metaphorical slap. I'm on the edge of my seat...
Saturday 10 October 2009
Do you have any comments on the proposed implementation of Dog Control Orders for dog fouling?
I agree with voluntary controls in areas such as footpaths, car parks and recreation grounds, where steaming piles of faeces are clearly offensive and potentially hazardous. And there are undoubtedly some ignorant selfish people about who will ignore any efforts to persuade them to behave decently. But I am strongly opposed to the growing level of interfering busybodying dogooding nannying and general bossing about, which is reducing this once proud nation into a gaggle of squealing infants who are incapable of taking responsibility for their own lives. The day you install cctv to watch me clear up my dog's mess, I shall emigrate. This is not what I pay my council tax for. Actually I sometimes wonder why I do...
Do you have any comments on the proposed implementation of Dog Control Orders for keeping dogs on leads?
Yes, it's a disgrace. You'll be introducing an order to make me eat my greens and wash behind my ears next. I don't pay council tax so you can employ some irritating twerp to lecture me about how to look after my dog. I thought there was a recession on. What on earth are you doing spending money on Stalinist nonsense like this? Responsible dog owners are responsible and should be left alone. Irresponsible ones will ignore your efforts. And I'll foot the bill. If you've got (my) money to throw around, employ a poo picker upper and make life nicer for all of us.
Do you have any comments on the proposed implementation of Dog Control Orders regarding dog exclusion?
A nice sign 'No dogs please' would be entirely appropriate. You could even explain why: 'Nightjars nesting', or whatever. While you're at it, perhaps you could teach the foxes not to crap on the recreation grounds and in my garden. Or is their poo ok because they're wildlife? It doesn't smell ok.
Do you have any comments on the proposed implementation of Dog Control Orders regarding the number of dogs that any one person is permitted to walk at any one time?
Why? What is it with the wanting to ban things? Would it suit you better if we all just stayed inside and watched tv, taking time out now and again to sort our rubbish into different bins? Remind me, do you work for me, or is it the other way round?
Other comments on the introduction of Dog Control Orders in Elmbridge
What's really sad is that you will get huge numbers of people supporting this disgraceful attack on liberty. Boudicea would have known how to deal with it.
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Hah! no thanks. If you start lecturing me about a healthy lifestyle, I will be forced to kill myself. Right-o, I'm off to have a whisky and a fag.
Thursday 8 October 2009
UPDATE 9 Oct: OK, so I've shot the new A400 Xplor Unico, and it's very interesting. Beretta are determined to keep the details under wraps until the official unveiling on 1 November. They invited around 100 journalists from around the world for the pre-launch briefing in Brescia, and a chance to try the gun, and swore us all to secrecy. It'll be a real test of the sporting press's integrity - will anyone dare to break the embargo?
Actually it's not at all clear just how much info we are allowed to release. At the Q&A session at the end of the briefing, no-one thought to ask. We were all busy asking technical stuff like 'how much will it cost' and 'when will it reach the shops' and 'how does that bit work'.
But they did issue two high-speed photos with the instruction 'you are allowed to use only these photos before 30.10.2009'. So I guess it's ok to publish them here. If this blog disappears in a puff of smoke, you'll know I got it wrong!
UPDATE: Specification sheet now available here.
From the photos you'll notice that the shooter has managed to fire four shots remarkably fast - three shells in the air at once, and the next shot already exiting the muzzle. So, as an informed reader of this blog, you might infer that the A400 Xplor Unico has a very fast cycle. It won't have escaped your notice that the chap pictured is dressed more for hunting than clay competition, and you'll be drawing your own conclusions from that. And knowing Beretta's reputation for technical innovation you'll be guessing that they wouldn't have made the quantum leap in nomenclature from the A300 series to A400 without some fundamental changes to the mechanics.
And that's as far as I dare go at this stage. More info - and photos - as soon as I can.
Tuesday 6 October 2009
Saturday 3 October 2009
The latest muddle is over "the lovely ring-necked parakeet" being added to the list of birds that can be killed under General Licence. Birding types don't know which way to jump. It's non-native, and a threat to our native wildlife, so perhaps it should be wiped out like the mink (they seem to have no problem with the idea of exterminating mink with extreme prejudice: two legs good, four legs bad). But parakeets are birds, so perhaps they should be protected at all costs? Erk! It's a conundrum worthy of a Monty Python sketch.