[caption id="attachment_1870" align="aligncenter" width="400"] (Photo: Manch / Getty Images)[/caption]
It’s a happy annual ritual that we performed a few weeks ago, that one of putting one’s guns to bed. Broken down, carefully cleaned, lightly oiled before being reassembled and given a quick rub down with a soft cloth, they now lie dormant until called upon once more come August. We closed the gun cupboard door, popped the key in its hiding place, and put the cherished ironmongery from our mind.
And it was just then, as we reached to turn out the light, that our eye alighted on the old air rifle propped up in the corner. The flat, hefty tin of pellets next to it, slightly rusted now. A fond memory rising unbidden of summer evenings spent knocking down beer cans from forty yards, a young marksman peering out at the world over open sights. The pneumatic whine of the cocking action; the reassuring, oily click that followed.
Odd, isn’t it, how one is inclined in later years to view the weapon merely as a toy fit for fairgrounds, a training tool at best and juvenile precursor to .22 rifles and four-tens, themselves succeeded by the heavy rifle and 12 bore? Because if one remembers correctly, many a woodpigeon and not a few rabbits fell to the near-silent ‘phut’ of the airgun.
Of course, it took skill and patience, cunning and guile. One’s successes were fairly few and far between - at least to begin with. One had to remain unseen and unheard, to use cover, to move slowly but smoothly, to make every shot count, placing that tiny lead pellet precisely where it needed to be placed to bring the animal down.
But then one put away childish things. Moved on. Onwards, so they say, and upwards.
But given that it’s open season on pigeons and bunny rabbits and given how delicious they are, perhaps it’s time to dust off these ever-so-slightly rusty skills. For what could be more satisfying on a wintry Saturday morning than a warm pigeon-breast salad?
What could be more hale and hearty that a rabbit pie?
What could be better for morale than the knowledge that, come what may, a handful of .177 pellets will put food on the table so long as one has an ounce of cunning, a clear eye and a steady hand?