Tips & Hints for May 2013

Set for Summer

Set for Summer

15 May 2013

Summer hunting and vermin control needs as much thought and planning as winter hunting when it comes to selecting clothing and kit. I thought it might be worth sharing with you some of the adjustments I make to the wardrobe and the kit bag when the mercury starts to climb. Some of these tips and tricks can be found in my two books, The Airgun Hunters Year and Airgun Fieldcraft.

Heat, just like cold, can make the shooter very uncomfortable if it isn't managed well. Though I will shed the outer layer upper clothing in warm weather, I don't change my choice of trousers, socks or boots. Full trousers, high socks and high ankle boots offer protection from some of the wildlife that I don't particularly enjoy encountering in summer. Much of the land I hunt is heathland and water-meadow so besides the normal threat of midge and mosquito, adder bites are high on the risk assessment. Most of all, though, the little critter I most fear is the deer tick. For this reason, a summer outing will see me coated in DEET (using products like Care Plus or Jungle Formula) and I will usually opt for long-sleeved T-shirts… even in the hottest weather. Few air-gun hunters seem to appreciate that the very nature of our sport causes us to kneel, squat or even lie down in the ticks operating area, which is between ground level and waist height. They cling to foliage waiting for a passing mammalian host to latch on to and...last time I checked...we are mammals! As someone who has had more than his fair share of tick bites and has lived with the fear of a Lyme disease diagnosis, trust me. Take precautions against ticks.

Hats are highly important in summer. Not just because of bugs but to protect the head and to avoid sunstroke. I prefer baseball caps as I wear glasses but a Digger Hat or anything with a wide brim will shade the eyes and keep off light summer rain. My rifle scopes all wear sunshade extensions all year round, to protect lenses against fouling and weather. In summer they are important in concealing the glint of glass from quarry. Nets, shirts, caps and anything in camouflage will vary in summer too depending on where I am shooting. That’s why I love the diversity of the Jack Pyke range. The English Oak patterns so effective in autumn can be changed to English Woodland in the verdant backdrop of a summer copse and then to Wild Trees Grassland in the stubble decoying or rabbit shooting of the harvest season. One of my favourite items across summer is my Mesh Vest. A practical gilet which is cool to wear and holds pockets for vermin calls, mobile phone, knife, pellets etc.

The dominance of foliage in summer often means great cover for ambushing quarry but I usually need to trim out a clear view through a bush or hedgerow to allow a pellet uninterrupted flight. Tools like the Poachers Knife or the Hide Tool are great additions to the game bag. But summer isn't all 'sun' as we well know. A Lightweight Fleece top in the bag can take the chill off when the sun drops. I'd love to see Jack Pyke introduce a range of these in the camo patterns? The other 'must-have' in my bag on a hot day will be the drink bottle full of Adams Ale. I pop in a couple of ice cubes and top up with cold water so that it stays chilled for a few hours.

Quarry handling in hot weather needs consideration. It's ironic that at a time when the meat harvest can be highest, the possibility of contamination is highest too. A sharp knife to gut out quickly and a cool game bag are important. Game carriers can be useful to hang shot quarry in the shade, off the ground, while you continue hunting. Get your quarry prepped, washed and into the fridge or freezer as soon as practically possible.

This is the time for evening rabbits, stormy day pigeon roost shooting, hedgerow rats, squirrels on the maize margins. Kit yourself out, get out there and enjoy yourself. Shoot straight and shoot safe!


Ian Barnett