Written by our guest blogger, Russ Douglas.
So you’ve shot the occasional rabbit and would like your own Permission? Here’s my advice in eight steps…
Do your research: No good asking for permission to shoot if there are no pests, or someone else already has the shooting rights to a particular property. Keep your eyes peeled when out and about, plus spread the word you’re available to help any landowners with vermin problems. Once you find private land with an existing vermin problem, contact the landowner and ask if they already have somebody controlling the pest numbers. If they do – you thank them and move on, naturally after leaving your contact details in case that situation should change.
Practice: To humanely head-shoot vermin you must be able to group all your shots within a pound coin, from whatever position and to whatever range you shoot. It’s no good practicing bench rest then shooting off Trigger Sticks, or practicing prone then forgetting your bipod.
Be responsible: Don’t approach a landowner in your best camo, you’ll look the odd one out when they answer the door in a shirt and tie. There’s a time and a place for blending in with the trees and this isn’t it. First off you may need to knock on a lot of doors, especially in parts of the country where there’s abundant competition for Permissions. If not and they are looking for some help, agree on an appointment time that suits them. Have your photo ID handy together with evidence of your insurance. Few landowners will allow a stranger to roam their property with an Airgun without appropriate insurance. Be aware most amateur pest control insurance (e.g. BASC, BASA) will not cover you for Professional work. You must insure appropriately if hoping to get paid for your efforts.
Be prepared: Once you’re insured prepare your own ‘right to shoot’ permission letter, including the specific vermin species you’d be targeting. You’re not just blasting away at anything that hops or flies and our General Licences are quite clear about this. Complete your Permission letter with your own details, especially contact information and the vehicle you’ll use to access the property. I scan my signed Permissions and forward them to my local Police Firearms authority, then keep a copy with me when out hunting. I also carry copies of my Scottish Airgun license and Firearms license in case I’m challenged by a member of the public. I can politely explain I’m there at the request of the landowner; I’ll more than likely have more right to be there than the person challenging me.
Know the law: I explained to one of my farmers the law regarding using an Airgun to carry out pest control. This included the species I was legally allowed to target with an air rifle, under the UK general licenses. I carry quarry ID cards, should I need to demonstrate this, or refresh my memory. I explain I have two chronographs, so I am quite certain my non-FAC Air Rifle is below 12ft/lbs. I also have my phone with me fully charged in case they needed to contact me, plus I had their number and would contact them if I saw any suspicious behaviour within their property. I explain I prefer to only take headshots, both to ensure humane kills and to ensure rabbits are lead-free once gutted; you don’t get that with a shot-gunned bunny. I also explained I’d only take shots where I’m confident a miss or a though-shot would not result in any harm being done, or damage caused.
Know the boundaries: The farmer showed me around his farm, explaining any hazards I should be aware of such as busy thoroughfares, slurry pits, fragile roofs, etc. I took along some Google Maps printouts of the immediate area, so he could point-out anywhere he wanted me to pay particular attention to, or to avoid altogether. I explained I would take great care to ensure my shot did not cross the boundary, he wasn’t aware that’s classed as armed trespass.
On another Permission I was once asked to target the rabbits thought to be targeting a local Oilseed Rape field, so set up two trail cameras. For a week they covertly watched 24/7 and actually saved me a lot of trouble. Upon recovery, I discovered there were only a handful of rabbits, perhaps due to the fox that passed nightly. What I did see was a large flock of pigeons, disturbed each time I visited the field. I was able to report back I couldn’t easily help as the rabbits seemingly weren’t causing significant damage. Also, their burrows were within the side of a busy dual carriageway embankment, so not safe to target directly.
Disposal: Give the landowner the first choice of any rabbits or pigeons shot and ask where best to dispose of any unwanted vermin (e.g. rats). I prefer to upcycle prey wherever possible, be that for our or a friend’s kitchen, or a colleague’s pet Python (I kid you not). One farmer assured me I needn’t worry if any shot pigeons don’t fall from barn rooftops, as local raptors (e.g. buzzards) would soon have them cleared-away.
Leave no traces: Unless you’re setting up a long-term hide to target a pest trouble-spot, you should leave behind only footprints. I often have a small bag of litter in my car boot, containing items found in fields during my patrols.
Regarding Police authorisation, if using Firearms such as rimfires you must check that the land you plan to shoot is rated for them. One of my Permissions’ paddocks is technically rated for 22LR rimfire, but you must ensure a substantial backstop (such as a sizeable embankment) for every shot. This is due to that calibre’s alarming potential for ricochet. That area however is not rated for 17HMR, so the more powerful calibre is reserved for other larger fields. There’s no alternative to non-FAC air rifles for pest control in the proximity of farm buildings, making them an essential tool for the job. For intermediate ranges, FAC Air rifles are often a safer choice for many Pest control jobs.
It’s your responsibility to have a safe backstop for every single shot you take before your reach towards the trigger; the buck stops with you.
I hope this has been useful and that you enjoy your shooting.
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