Tuesday 29 June 2010

Grouse rearing?

Rumour has it that someone somewhere has cracked the problem of rearing and releasing red grouse. Fascinating stuff - if anyone can give me a lead I'd really like to follow it up for an article in the magazine.

Shooting: The Sport, The Facts

Mike Yardley has produced this excellent video to present the true facts about shooting in the UK, and to counter the hysterical nonsense put about by anti-gun campaigners.

Here's Mike with video whiz Tony Morris, who burned the midnight oil to get the film made.

The video is not perfect, but it goes a long way to redressing the balance. We could do with more of this type of thing. Perhaps, in due course, we can expect this sort of output from BASC's new communications centre.

Meanwhile in other news, animal rights nutters have been making threats to BBC Gardener's Question Time panellists for giving helpful advice on controlling garden pests. Andrew Tyler of Animal Aid (achievements include "Stopped pig racing events at a country fair") is quoted: "The whole premise of gardeners killing squirrels is hateful and bigoted. It's the worst kind of intolerance." Er no, Andrew, there are worse examples of hate, bigotry and intolerance.

And yet it's the reaction of extremists like this that creates the belief within media organisations that pest control is "controversial". No it's not. The vast majority of people agree that pests need to be controlled. Half a dozen fruitloops shouting the odds does not constitute a controversy. BBC please take note.

Zeroing the .243

Since you ask, yes I have been a bit quiet on here lately. Something to do with producing two magazines this month instead of the usual one. And getting stuck in to producing our next blockbuster(?) video - this time on foxshooting. As part of that, we went back to Andrew Venables' fabulous WMS Steel Challenge in mid-Wales, where I finally got the chance to fire the Tikka T3 .243 that's been sitting unloved in the cabinet for far too long.

With a bit of help from Rupert of OpenSeason, and Jon from Zeiss, I fitted it up with a lovely Zeiss scope on Sportsmatch mounts, and a lightweight A-Tec moderator from Jackson Rifles, then under the expert direction of Andrew managed to shoot a respectable 3-shot group at 100 yards. "OK," says Andrew, "Now you see those 5 steel plates at 200 yards..." Five shots, five plates knocked down. Does wonders for the confidence!

David from fieldsportschannel.tv films Robert Bucknell and
Andrew Venables shooting steel targets at 440 yards

Monday 28 June 2010


At last! I've captured Mr Fox taking the eggs. There's even a hedgehog bumbling along when he comes back for the second one. Watch how the hedgehog jumps when he realises there's a fox nearby. You can practically hear him go "Oh, $#!7, a fox!" as he rolls up.

It's fascinating to see the fox use its paw to roll the egg into reach - exactly what my young lab, Bracken does when she's got her favourite tennis ball wedged behind the water bowl.

The third time the fox comes back, he seemes quite peeved that there are no eggs left - lazy hens aren't laying fast enough!

For those who're interested, this was shot with the excellent Mini DVR2 from Dogcamsport, rigged up on a ball-head mount, and illuminated with a cctv IR lamp that I bought on eBay.

Monday 21 June 2010

This should have been a fox!

I've been trying to get some close-up footage of our local foxes. On Friday I set up a minicam, connected to a DV camera, and sat up all night waiting for the fox to turn up so I could press the 'record' button at the crucial moment. Needless to say, the fox didn't show up!

Not to be outdone, I downloaded a motion sensing cctv app for the mac, and left the laptop watching over my bait.

Turns out the laptop connection isn't as sensitive as the DV camera's, so it didn't spot foxy sneaking in under cover of darkness and lifting the two eggs I'd placed just in front of the camera. Still I did get this nice shot of a crow.

Next step is to find a way of illuminating the scene properly... Watch this space!

UPDATE 23/6: Turns out there's more to this than meets the eye. The HQ2 camera I've been using is not sensitive to IR light. That's because they put in a special filter to stop IR spoiling the image in daylight! After an email conversation with the helpful chaps at Dogcamsport, I'm ordering an adapter cable to use another camera, which is sensitive to IR and performs very well as a night vision device. Plus I've extended the cable connection to reach the computer in my spare bedroom, so I don't have to leave the laptop in the shed (thieves please note, there's no point breaking the door down). And I've got hold of a super-powered IR cctv floodlamp to cover the area. And yes, my wife does think I'm getting a bit obsessed with all this!

Friday 18 June 2010

Talking of owls

Fascinating owl behaviour here - this little chap has some tricks up his sleeve to make himself look less like an appealing snack to other owls:

Tuesday 15 June 2010

The eagle owls they're not telling you about

My spies on the ground in the Forest of Bowland tell me that there's another pair of eagle owls, besides the ones that appear to have come to a sticky end.

This other pair are older and more experienced, and have successfully fledged their chicks already - despite what's described as "swarms" of watchers crawling all over any raptor foolish enough to set up home in the area. I'm told the poor harriers have to put up with a hide barely 30 yards from their nest.

Meanwhile, back home, the foxes are coming in nicely to my bait. Here's one that grabbed a trout I'd left out. The foxes had been feeding all round it on and off through the night, but treating it with great suspicion. It wasn't until dawn began to break that this one plucked up courage to grab the fish...

Fox grabs a fish from James Marchington on Vimeo.

Monday 14 June 2010

Great father's day gift

Our new pigeon shooting DVD is the perfect gift for any father who's a keen pigeonshooter. Order now for delivery in time for Fathers Day - you can order online here »

Watch the preview:

Saturday 12 June 2010

Fox on camera

I'm testing a new Bushnell trail camera, and managed to capture this fox early this morning (while I was still in bed!). It shoots higher quality video than the last one I tested - rather a nice result.

Trail camera fox from James Marchington on Vimeo.

It works in the dark too...

Bushnell trail camera - foxes at night from James Marchington on Vimeo.

And catches squirrels!

Bushnell trail camera - squirrel from James Marchington on Vimeo.

Friday 11 June 2010

Time for the RSPB to stop persecuting birds of prey

I never thought I'd read that headline, never mind write it. But birdwatchers are, seriously, accusing the RSPB of killing birds of prey. Eagle owls to be precise. On the flimsy grounds that a) an eagle owl was videoed attacking a nesting harrier and b) said eagle owl appears to have met with an unfortunate accident.

Mark Avery is adopting the demeanour of a smacked puppy: "Just to stress," he implores, "there is no truth in the suggestion that the RSPB has been involved in the killing of these eagle owls."

Welcome to my world Mark. I've been a shooter all my life, and never persecuted a bird of prey. When some soppy urban bird-lover asked me to shoot the sparrowhawk killing 'her' blue tits, I told her to get lost.

And I'm sick of all the abuse thrown at 'the shooting industry' (myself included) for, apparently, killing wildlife wholesale out of sheer greed. I'm not an industry, I'm me. I grew up surrounded by wildlife. I love to watch it. Sometimes I like to catch some and eat it. Nothing could be more natural, unless you're one of those 'nature lovers' who hate humans.

Sure, there are some greedy people making a lot of money out of grouse moors, and some of those will be happy to kill harriers etc along the way. I'm not one of them. I despise them, and I wouldn't dignify them with the name 'shooter'.

They are developers, pure and simple. Like a property developer demolishing a bat roost, if wildlife gets in their way, they'll trample it.

I take no pleasure from seeing harriers harmed by owls. But I can't suppress a little smile as I watch the birders tie themselves in semantic knots about which bird of prey is more worthy than another, which one is more deserving of a place in Britain because it lived here before, and how man should intervene (or not) to correct an imbalance that man created (or not) etc, etc.

There's a real battle brewing between the 'leave nature alone and it'll all work out perfectly' brigade, and those who have some fluffy notion of a moment in prehistory when everything was just as it should be, and are forever trying to shoehorn nature into their picture of loveliness.

They're both wrong, and neither can succeed. Nature isn't (and never was) like that, and even if it was there's the little inconvenience of 60m or so humans sharing this small island, most of whom can't tell a house sparrow from a dunnock and are far more concerned with which footballer is going clubbing with whose wife this week, and what shoes she's wearing.

And yes, they'll happily sign a fluffy little letter to say how much they'd like to save the polar bears, but just try asking them to pay another tenner on the weekly shopping so their chicken nuggets can stretch their wings.

You can tell it's been a long week, can't you. Right-o, I'm off to have a weekend before I dissolve into a little steaming heap of cynicism. I might even go and sit in the woods and see if I can get some film of the fox cubs. That or fishing. Best therapy I know!

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Hen harrier nest raided, perpetrator caught on CCTV

...no, not a gamekeeper, an eagle owl. Now there's a conundrum for the RSPB!

Mind you, that nice Mark Avery has still managed to make it sound like it's our fault:
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: "Hen harrier numbers in England are perilously low due to years of illegal shooting and poisoning."

Any minute now, I expect Raptor Politics to claim it's all the fault of the local Wildlife Crime Officer, aided and abetted by the evil & bloodthirsty landowning toffs.

Still, at least the media are keeping a sense of proportion about urban foxes...

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Is the BBC biased against shooting?

Shooting Sports Trust spokesman Mike Yardley is complaining to the BBC about their treatment of shooting on BBC One's The Big Questions, broadcast at 10am on Sunday.

The programme featured anti-gun campaigner Lucy Cope and Graham Showell of Britain Needs Guns, alongside Mike, in a studio discussion type programme hosted by Nicky Campbell, headlined "Should Britain ban guns?".

The show rapidly degenerated into a shouting match, with Lucy Cope making all kinds of inaccurate assertions about guns and gun crime, culminating in a ridiculous suggestion that if rabbits needed to be controlled then armed police should be brought in to do the job.

The nature of the programme, and the failure of Nicky Campbell to keep order, has led shooters to suggest that the programme was inherently biased against shooting - but that's not all.

The broadcast was beset with technical breakdowns - picture and sound were lost several times during the show, and an announcer's voice cut in to apologise, before the show reappeared on viewers' screens. Eventually the programme was cut short.

Conspiracy theorists are even suggesting that someone with an anti-shooting agenda might have been pulling the plug deliberately to prevent pro-shooting contributors getting their points across.

I've dealt with the question of alleged BBC bias against shooting on this blog before.

Did you see the show? What do you think? For the purposes of this debate, I hope to embed a low-res version of the programme here, complete with the breaks in the broadcast.

Copyright issues notwithstanding, I believe that this is justified on the grounds of news reporting in the public interest. After all, this is an important subject affecting shooters and others who pay the TV licence fee, and the impartiality of our public service broadcaster. However there's every chance that the hosting service may be required to take it down on the grounds of alleged copyright infringement, so if the video shows up, watch it while you can.

The Big Questions, Series 3 Episode 20 from James Marchington on Vimeo.

Sunday 6 June 2010

1066, arrows, gunpowder & scurry

It's not often you get the chance to link those four things in a headline, but today I drove to Battle in Sussex for a gundog scurry at the lovely Powdermills Hotel, practically on the site of the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066. The hotel was originally a gunpowder factory (they made cannons and cannonballs just up the road) - but it came too late to help Harold fend of the invading Normans.

Anyway, turns out the hotel management are keen country sports folk, and eager to encourage visiting parties of guns, stalkers etc - in fact they can even arrange stalking, pigeon shooting, etc locally, and there are plenty of local attractions for those who don't fancy a day in a pigeon hide (there's no accounting for taste).

And the arrows? No that wasn't a reference to Harold and the apocryphal arrow-in-the-eye.

Adrian Caddy was running a field archery course open to all comers - with a walk in the woods to shoot at some life-sized targets representing white-tail deer (not often you'll shoot one of those in Sussex), wild boar, and even a pheasant (is that sporting? With a bow, probably).

Sporting Shooter's vet Vicky Payne (above) was on the organising committee, who had done a fine job. That's her dog (Rebus, or Quincy? I can never get it right. Sorry Vicky!). Helpers had come from near and far - the first person I bumped into when I arrived was Stuart Ogden from NOBS - he seems to get everywhere.

Bracken did her best to look appealing (hasn't she grown!) and Skye did a respectable job of a water retrieve of a rubber duck dummy; in the heat, I was tempted to jump in too! And then they both sank gallons of water ready for the journey home. All in all a great day - thanks to the hotel, Vicky and all the organisers. More photos on Flickr if you're interested.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Roe deer on camera

I went back to check the trail camera today. Here's the best roe deer sequence it had caught. Having set off the camera, the deer then obligingly walks back across the frame before moving off.

Trail camera: roe deer from James Marchington on Vimeo.

I also got some nice video of the roe with a normal camera - here are some clips I put on youtube:

Thursday 3 June 2010


In common with all shooters, I am stunned by the awful killings by Derrick Bird in Cumbria yesterday. As people who use guns for sport and competition, we feel particularly horrified by these terrible events. It's an appalling tragedy, and my thoughts are with the victims, families and many others affected.

In due time, answers will emerge to the questions of why and how. For now, I feel proud to be a member of BASC, seeing them do an excellent job of handling a flood of media enquiries with professionalism and sensitivity, helping to ensure balanced reporting and resist any clamour for a kneejerk response.

UPDATE: BASC have issued the following statement:

BASC welcomes Government response to Cumbria murders

3 June 2010 - The Home Secretary’s announcement that the full facts behind the Cumbria murders must be established before any move is made to review firearms law has been welcomed by the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. (BASC).
 BASC spokesman Simon Clarke said “Every legitimate firearms owner, along with the rest of the country, is still in shock after the appalling events in Cumbria, and our thoughts are with the community and the affected families.
“Inevitably questions are being raised about the UK’s firearms licensing laws. Those controls are amongst the toughest in the world. It is essential that the police and other agencies are given all the time they need to complete their investigations and enquiries. That will doubtless include an examination of the licensing circumstances in this case.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to take a cautious approach to any review of firearms laws, and BASC will contribute its expertise to any such review. BASC staff work day-in, day-out dealing with lawful shotgun and firearms owners and police forces over licensing issues. Incidents of this nature are extremely rare in this country and the UK needs a working firearms licensing system which balances use with public safety. “
“Shotguns and rifles are essential tools of the countryside, used in agricultural pest control, game shooting and target shooting."

4/6/10: There is a very sensible opinion piece in the Guardian, of all places, explaining why knee-jerk 'tighter regulations' are not a good idea:

"We cannot stop people having rows at home or work, taking leave of their senses, finding a gun and going berserk. Such things rarely happen. But even the most authoritarian state must allow some personal liberty, and everyone accepts the resulting risk. No free community can be wholly safe without losing its freedom."

4/6/10: The blogger Bill O'Rites makes a similar point in typically forthright terms:

"How about we ban motor vehicles, as they kill & maim more than 30 people every day."

As an observation, the blogosphere does seem to be taking a strongly anti-banning line over this. Examples include Old Holborn, Devil's Kitchen and The Magistrate's Blog,  while others, including Mud in the Blood and Angry Teen are arguing the case for deregulation of guns altogether - a step too far for me, but it's hard to argue with the logic.

Meanwhile the League Against Cruel Sports, finger on the pulse as always, has launched a major political lobbying initiative... it has sent each MP a rather tasteless blood-spattered coffee mug with an anti-hunting slogan. If you want one, rather than paying their exorbitant £10, I suggest you rummage through the bins in Westminster.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Blast from the past

Sitting in the CPSA's boardroom the other day, waiting for a meeting to start, I was idly gazing at the rows of massive silver trophies when I spotted some bound copies of Shooting Magazine, "The Official Magazine of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association", which in those days it was.

The book fell open at this cover for the May 1982 issue - and the memories came flooding back. I took that photo! I remember the excitement of borrowing a Saab Turbo for the week, and the sheer terror of taking it into the multi-storey car park in Windsor. And the trepidation of phoning up a certain Sara Pinhorn (now Marchington) and asking if she'd like to come for a spin in it!

Mike Rose wasn't at all sure about posing on the bonnet, but he went along with my plan, and it made a good cover shot to highlight the 50th anniversary British Open Sporting, held that year at West London Shooting School with sponsorship from Saab and Beretta.