A Moment Of Madness

Today was a slow-but-steady start to shooting in 2018.

I’d been lacking the motivation to do much in the way of anything this year, with tiredness and a light malaise from 2017 hanging over well into the new year. All that changed yesterday, when – for reasons that continue to elude me – I woke up, if not refreshed, then generally willing to conquer the ever-growing mountain of outstanding “jobs”.

Largely, my activities have been confined to the house, where tidying up loose ends and fixing – well – it feels like everything, have kept me busy for most of the weekend. I’ve discovered talents as a builder and plumber that I didn’t know I had, put it that way.

I managed, this afternoon, to get out to the fields for the first of my Sunday afternoon walks for the year. The first of the two farms I visited was devoid of avian life, probably not helped by a dog walker with Alsatian who seemed to have been using the track ways to exercise her mutt just before I arrived. It is, I suppose, nominally, a free country.

At the second farm, there seemed to be some movement, so I went for a longer walk but didn’t take my usual route. A few crows passed some distance away and likewise a few wood pigeons, but there wasn’t a lot going on.

That changed, very briefly, for about 30 seconds, just as I reached the halfway point of my walk. A large mixed flock, including wood pigeons, gulls and crows seemed to explode into being overhead and I managed to wound a crow (subsequently dispatched) and blow to bits a wood pigeon with the Browning 12 gauge I was carrying. Between jams (the semi-automatic does not like my reloads) and madly searching for some other cartridges, I managed to down a couple of birds, though there were probably opportunities and time for three or four if I’d had a pocket full of factory shells or a different gun.

Back to Basics

I’ve decided, since I get so little practice at shooting, to go back to basics in 2018. When I’m hunting, rather than patterning, I’ll make life as easy as I can to start with, using open chokes and small shot / close-range cartridges, then work back up to longer-range combinations when I’ve built up some (much-needed) confidence. That’s not to say I’m going to stop shooting the small bores or researching them, of course, but when I go out for the sake of hunting, I probably won’t be carrying the .410 – at least until later in the year.

I’m yet to get to the shop to buy a couple of boxes of something sensible (Goodness! Really!? – Ed.) so I used up some more odds and ends today, all shot through a ¼ choke. None of them were really “pigeon” cartridges, but the pigeon I took was a high-speed, 20-25 yard crosser and I was pleased with the shot – even if it felt a bit easy.

Then again, that was the point.


The crow, on the other hand, was probably a bit far out for a quarter choke and an under-performing cartridge (one of my “failed” 34g/#5 reloads initially intended for the Baikal), but I really can’t escape the feeling that all crows, whether 10, 30 or 50 yards away, are all just “a bit far out” and too much like hard work to shoot.

It’s not that I doubt my kit, but the number of times I hit but fail to cleanly kill crows is a lot greater than all of the other kinds of birds I shoot combined. I’ve never understood why this is.

Wood pigeons, I most often hit or miss. Yes, I’ve recorded some explosions of feathers, misses behind and other variations on the theme of wounding a bird on this blog over the last year or so, but the number of birds is never so high in the overall scheme of things that I’m concerned about it.

Jackdaws, to take another example, seem to be my “success” bird. My biggest bags have always included large numbers of jackdaws and I’ve always seemed to have a knack for decoying and shooting them – even when I haven’t been able to hit anything else. My first ever left-and-right was a pair of jackdaws and there have been times when I’ve had them raining out of the sky fast enough that you’d have to look twice to be sure that some kind of biblical plague wasn’t occurring.

Crows on the other hand. Irrespective of gun, cartridge or current form, I always seem to struggle with crows, to a degree which I can’t at this point explain.

I’ll keep working on it.


Well it always is, isn’t it? Christmas comes and goes and one spends weeks looking forward to it (or at least being vaguely aware of its impending arrival) and then it happens and one wonders after – or even during the event – “was that it?”.

Of course, the children enjoyed it, but with the multi-day festival of food and (alcoholic) drink of my younger days now very much left behind, it’s difficult to find much enthusiasm for it if I’m honest. By the evening of the 24th, a celebratory tot of whiskey and an early night seemed infinitely preferable to a noisy party. It was much the same for New Year’s Eve, I’m afraid.

Holding the Fort

It was my turn to work the three days between Christmas and the new year this year, so I didn’t really achieve “holiday mode” until the afternoon of the 29th December.

Although I did manage – briefly – to pick up a gun on the 26th, it wasn’t for any kind of glamorous Boxing Day event, but rather a (successful) pot shot at the pigeons that continue to plague my relatives’ winter crops. That day, it was the .410; when I returned last weekend to have another go, I ended up taking a lightly-choked 12 gauge which afforded similar success.

Apparently, neither my relatives, nor their neighbours could tell the difference between the subsonic cartridges I employed on both recent occasions and the previous use of the garden gun. I suspect that this response was more to do with their wish that I continue to deal with the local “flying boobies” (as one of them rather quaintly put it) than because there is no appreciable difference, but provided I’m within the conditions of the General Licence and not offending anybody, I’m happy to continue.

Either way, that and the efforts of an aquaintance to turn three single-barrel guns he owns into a battery of moderated shotguns inspires a new reloading project (a subsonic cartridge or two) and suggests a use for the 20-gauge I have sitting in the cupboard. We will have to see what 2018 brings.

Turning the Handle

I managed to have about four weeks off working on my various projects over Christmas. I didn’t finish the computer game I’d had planned for my “holiday”, but I did buy and complete another, so I feel I’ve had a rest.

This post, of course, is a means of gently getting things going for 2018. There will be cartridges to test and analysis to be written for this website, as well as plenty of software development, music making and chilli growing / gardening to pursue.

Quite where the balance between all of those things will end up, I’m not sure yet, but I’ll continue my search for .410 cartridges and – in the continuing absence of anyone else to test them – might make a start on some of the 28 gauge cartridges available in the UK too.

I’ll try to make some time for some actual shooting between that lot, but if I have a resolution for 2018, it’s to take it a bit easier and spend more time thinking about what I’d like to do in my limited spare time, rather than persuading myself always that I ought to be “working”.

“Sow Thinly”

One of the first things I learnt about gardening, having decided to take it up relatively seriously, is that the interpretation of garden “jargon” is something of an art form.

One of the most impenetrable areas of what must be the quintessential English sport (other than a) being miserable and b) discussing the prevailing conditions) is seed sowing.

I find that interpreting the directions on a packet of seeds is fraught with difficulty. For example, the differences between “sow”, “sow thinly”, “sow sparingly” and “place seeds…” are not only quite opaque in themselves, but seem to bear some kind of variable relationship to the number of seeds in a given packet.

The theory is quite clear to me: if the seeds only have a 50% germination rate, then the supplier should supply more of them than if, for example, they have a 95% germination rate. One then sows (“sow”) approximately twice as many of the former than the latter (which have been “sow[n] thinly”) and eventually ends up with roughly the same number of plants.

At least once per year however, this interpretive art eludes me. Last year, I followed instructions to “sow thinly” a quantity of very tiny, apparently unreliable Coleus seeds and ended up with 36 plants when I had expected about four.

This year’s failure – expected, but still irritating – has exceeded all previous failures. I’m currently typing this post, sitting next to a propagator containing approximately 200 Rudbeckia seedlings, having sown “sparingly” the contents of a packet apparently containing half that number of seeds! 

I suspect most of them will have to go. At a 12″-18″ spacing, I could fill my garden and most of the rest of the street too…