Why we need to talk about shooting
I know it seems so strange and unusual in the city. I’m used to strange looks and an uneasy reaction to saying a hobby of mine is to shoot guns. Big ones, small ones and loud ones. Most brits have never seen or at least fired a firearm before. In Scotland, because we are more rural, they are more common and don’t relate to class so much. None the less it’s not exactly the norm.
Clay pigeon shooting is great. People generally see that one as a fun activity round the weekend or a ‘good shout’ sometime near a stag doo. You can always tell when one is happening. The club house is packed out with unfamiliar faces bustling with excitement. For many, this is there first time handling a gun and it shows. It’s great to see the club demonstrate for the first time and watching the awe as the first clay crumbles in the sky. Then there’s the resounding applause for the first person of the group to smash the first clay. But there’s always one who knows exactly what they’re doing. My guess is it was there idea to come here in the first place.
It makes for a great trip out amongst friends. Usually it’s someone’s first bash and everyone can walk away saying they tried something different that day. But clay pigeon shooting is generally well accepted. There are no animals harmed and it’s quite easy to pick up.
What I want to talk about is what’s usually looked down on by the public. Let’s get into rifle shooting.
On its own it’s not much different from the clays. You can set up a few cans down range and plink away. All you have to do is point the gun at where the sights tell you too. It makes fun noises and you can compete to see who can get the most or the fastest.
A rifle however seems much more intimidating in my opinion. Usually they’re longer than a shotgun; they have spooky additions like silencers and scopes, which you wouldn’t see on a shotgun. This is where they begin to appear more vulgar. They sound and act different from a shotgun. At a play range you’ll always have ear defenders on, when that rifle goes it it’s an entirely alien sound. And of course, a rifle is surprisingly light, and it’s easier to underestimate their power; which is unsettling.
Why would anyone be interested in something so ghoulish in the first place? Most people are quite happy to live the rest of their lives with no interaction with guns of any kind. For me it’s the simplicity of a firearm is the number one draw. On each pull of the trigger there is nothing subjective about it. Either you hit your target or not. It either did or did not happen. No matter the firearm this principle applies. If it’s a shotgun on with a clay or a rifle and a target.
The peak interest between me and firearms is in rabbit shooting. It sounds ridiculous really. A big bad man running around after defenceless little animals. Little cute ones at that.
This is the hardest part of explain owning a gun to people. My enjoyment doesn’t all come from the shooting itself. It’s when you’re out on a cool night with a whisper of a breeze skating through the tall grass, sat in some tall overbearing car that’s way more capable at climbing the hills than myself. Driving through endless fields with a solid sense of purpose.
Rarely am I outside with a job in mind. I might be out walking but less so with a job in mind with blanket access to the countryside. There’s something especially rewarding about this feeling even if you don’t get that many or any that night. It’s also very social too, friends of mine don’t have to have a gun on them to be there. People out driving whilst you’re on the lookout for any sign of movement to their left.
Although this all amalgamates to the shot itself. When it comes to shooting rabbits, you must be performing at your very best and only you’re best. If you cannot bring a high standard of shooting that night, you best not be shooting at all. It’s incredibly important that every shot can be accounted for as being humane. That rabbit is also a life also and it demands a respect of nature. It’s relatively easy to shoot a rabbit just anywhere it takes serious skill to shoot a rabbit behind the ears at distance with precision. No one out shooting, at least who I have been with, wants to see an animal suffer.
But why shoot the rabbit in the first place? That sounds like inflicting at least some degree of suffering on it and the environment.
Sadly rabbits are a problem in Scotland, and certainly where I live. It is true that they will dig into arable land but this isn’t so much of an issue compared to their impact on livestock. Because rabbits live in burrows they have to dig holes to get underground. When they do, this leaves blind sores on the ground. It’s bad enough for foot walkers but even more for cows who are oblivious to them and fall victim.
It then gets distressed, hoof down into the deep unknown of a burrow trying to pull back out again.
Think of cow tipping as an example. If a drunken can claim to tip a cow over under the cover of darkness and people were to believe them, they’ve not built up a reputation for their agility.
Sadly there is some truth to the stereotype. With all the weight of a cow caught in the leverage of a small hole they will often tip just by themselves and break that leg. Cows are very vulnerable and when this happens, they can die. Even if the farmer were to step in, it is too costly to fix up a whole cow over a broken leg so they’re left with no option but to put it down. It’s sad to have to see a cow lose it’s life over a quick moment of time and they can be worth around one thousand pounds to the farmer.
All this over one small doorway to a wee burrow.
I understand that it appears barbaric to people not used to guns. But at the end of the day bringing back the rabbit population in Scotland saves so many cows every year. Ultimately the rabbit will die someday and between the day of its birth and death it will make the lives of other animals around it just harder. Cutting back on them keeps Scotland’s cows safer and healthier.
And whilst it’s not fault of the rabbit, but they are prey to feral cats too. If it weren’t for them, we’d see less cats have the option of going feral and choosing to comeback indoors.
Hopefully it seems less dramatic by now and I can talk about why it’s so fun to be outside and shooting.
When it comes to the actual shooting, it’s the relaxation which gets me. It’s easy to get worked up about a shot. Hit a target when there are peers watching. But all the best shots are taken when you are relaxed. Every centimetre multiplies the difficulty. This forces you to concentrate your hardest so that you don’t feel the pressure and can consider the wind, the distance, your breath and even the beat of your heart in some cases. When all this comes together the rifle almost becomes symbiotic.
When you’re ready to take your shot there is an overwhelming sense of certainty when you know you’ve done it all right. And when you’re at that point, you have no other option but to be relaxed. Then when the report comes in and you can see the impact you’ve made.
(Sent to the Editing Team by an Anonymous colleague)