Mick Garvey lays out the dos and don’ts of finding new shooting permissions; when you are looking for new ground to shoot on, honesty and courtesy play a big part in your success!

A recent foxing session where I had to stalk a male fox over a few fields saw me skirting around some adjacent fields that I hadn’t got permission for. Luckily, the fox was very obliging and kept himself on my land and we ended up coming face to face as he took the route I knew he would… Game over!

The land in question was three fields bordered on two sides by my land and had been subject to a failed crop growth; the farmer had cut his losses and stripped it off for haylage and sowed grass in its place. After the stalk, I took some time to assess these fields and the infestation of rabbits that were slowly working their way from the hedgerows outwards. The damage was plain to see and in just one hedge I spotted six rabbits with the thermal spotter; if the same could be expected from the other fields there may be in the region of 40 of the furry pests taking advantage of the free food on offer.

I knew of the landowner but didn’t know him. I was also aware that he did have someone supposedly taking care of the pest control, albeit not very successfully by the looks of it. So, I made plans to call in on the farm and offer my services.

Making new introductions

I’m not one to step on another guy’s toes when it comes to gaining permission to shoot and I always make that clear when first introducing myself. In fact, I have a very clear, honest and courteous method of introducing myself. Firstly, I’ll apologise for my unannounced call and ask if he has a minute or two to chat. I also never turn up with my hunting gear on and never ever have the gun on me, although I may have it locked away in the truck or van in case the landowner would like to see it. I’ll introduce myself and explain that I carry out pest control either nearby or on the adjacent farm and that while carrying out these duties I have seen a problem area that they may not be aware of.

At this time, I’ll tell them that if they have someone taking care of the problem I fully understand and appreciate them taking the time to talk but if they would like a hand, I would be more than happy to assist. If there isn’t anyone on the job, then again, I’ll offer my services. Then I’ll go into how I would approach the problem.

Just keep in mind you are asking a possible complete stranger to allow you to roam freely on his land with a firearm and it is of upmost importance to show courtesy and respect for their land and property – you have to instil confidence in them, not the opposite. I always have a printed introduction with my details and references, ideally a nearby farmer that you already shoot for, plus insurance details and methods of clearing and removing pests that have been controlled (leaving shot quarry in the field will do you no favours at all).

Give them details of public rights of way that you are aware of and how you intend to keep disturbance to any neighbours to an absolute minimum – it all helps to show professionalism and builds their confidence in you. Keep it all pleasant and respectful and even if the answer is no this time it may not be next time. I have had this happen in the past where a landowner had a part-time keeper, so didn’t take me up on my offer to help, but around six months later I got a call asking if I was still interested as the keeper had fallen ill and wouldn’t be returning. I was there the same night and never left. One thing I don’t do is use my position with Airgun World, or any other publication, to gain me a permission; it just doesn’t sit right with me and it can always be mentioned at a later time if appropriate.

This was exactly how I approached this farmer. It went like a dream and we got on really well from the start. I was granted full permission to all his land to control all species, apart from hares. I’m finding more and more farmers and landowners are requesting not to shoot hares and that is great in my opinion, since they don’t cause much damage in these areas and they are a magnificent creature in my book so their safety is assured. Honesty, courtesy and respect... adhere to these and you’re on your way to the next permission.

Needless to say, I was out that very same night with a plan to cover as much land as possible, mentally logging distances, backdrops and possible hotspots where I could lay up and pick the rabbits off as they exited their burrows. Mostly, this all went to plan, but a deathly quiet and clear night made getting within a decent distance difficult. But at the end of the day, there was a bigger picture and as always, I’ll spend just as much time studying the lie of the land as shooting it. I ended the night with six nice-sized rabbits, which were definitely well fed. The CZ455 rimfire worked faultlessly and the Pulsar XQ50 Trail thermal scope easily coped with everything between 50 and 95 yards from a prone position, shooting down the edge of the fields where the rabbits were feeding.

As usual, the most important part of the set-up is the smallest – the Eley Hollow Subsonics – 38gr of superb accuracy and reliability.

Feeling I should have done better, I phoned the farmer to let him know how I’d fared; he actually laughed and said the last guy didn’t get that many in a week… I smiled to myself knowing that a good impression had been made.

I knew the numbers would get better as time passed, while being mindful that it is about creating a balance and not destroying everything that moves. I don’t want to be the man that shoots the last rabbit, fox, squirrel, pigeon or even rat.