Clumsy Oaf

I went out this afternoon for an amble around the countryside, though my heart wasn’t in it, if the truth be told.

There were very few birds around today – one of the nearby farms, to which I don’t have access, has recently been drilled and I occasionally saw in the distance a large flock of perhaps 300 birds ascend and descend in response to some perceived hazard. Nonetheless, I had a few chances on my own patch.

The first and best chance was at a bird passing overhead. I saw it a long way off and, knowing that the appearance of a bird where I spotted it usually means that it’ll follow a line over roughly the position I was in, I watched and waited. Sure enough, it flew to within 20-25 yards as I hid behind a hawthorn tree, waiting to take a shot.

I remember, every time I go out, the words of one of the early “influences” on my shooting career, who told me sagely: “whenever you think a bird comes into range, look at the floor, count to three and look up again – then it’ll be in range”. He knew my bad habits better than I did at that point!

So there I was, waiting. In all honesty, I could (and should) have taken it earlier and in a more relaxed fashion. 40 yards, as regular readers may be aware, tends, to me, to look closer than it really is, but I do make a good proportion of those shots. In this case, however, I waited too long and emerged too hurriedly from the hedgerow.

As I raised the gun, turned with the bird and stepped forward to shoot, I managed to gouge myself in the leg with an old piece of steel fence post, hidden in the long grass, which somehow slipped through the gap between the top of my boots and my shorts, leaving me with a small, but nasty gash from which an improbable quantity of the red stuff started to appear.

Needless to say, it put me off the shot enough that I didn’t even manage to pull the trigger and instead of retrieving my first bird of the day, I spent the next ten minutes trying to stop the bleeding with a combination of my T-shirt and a packet of wet wipes I keep in my shooting bag.

For the rest of the days shooting – perhaps another six shots in total – I can only say that, if I had any enthusiasm for shooting before I cut my leg, it had evaporated by the time I fired the next few shots at a small group of birds passing high overhead and missed them all. Although I completed my usual walk, I felt more as if I was going through the motions than that I wanted to be there.

Sometimes I think I shoot because I have the opportunity (rare enough with the constraints of family life), rather than because I want to.

Having paused on my way back to the car to stare for a while at a large expanse of open sky and yet somehow failed to see an approaching bird before it had flown within 10 yards of me (which I also missed), I unloaded the gun and went home, too despondent to carry on. Tiredness may have played a part, but in the end, it just wasn’t my day.