Shooting Times – May 2015

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May 2015

The hugely popular Sporting Dog Pavilion is set to return to the 2015 CLA Game Fair, to be held at Harewood House in Yorkshire from Friday 31st July to Sunday 2nd August.

The marquee will feature up to thirty different breeds of working dogs recognised by the Kennel Club, including favourites such as the golden retriever and cocker spaniel plus more unusual breeds such as the Italian bracciano, German longhaired pointer and the barbet, a French water dog.

Jonty Lightowler, gundog chairman at the CLA Game Fair, commented: “Neil Rice of Cigors Gundogs, who has a strong association with Irish Water Spaniels, has come on board with a brief to organise the Sporting Dog Pavilion with a diverse range of sporting dogs. By having a fewer number of breeds displayed, there will be more space for the dogs, owners and visitors.”

Tony Wall, director of the CLA Game Fair, added: “We are delighted to welcome back this popular feature. It has always been a big hit with families – especially those considering buying their first dog. There are few other places where you can see so many different breeds under one roof and discuss their characteristics with experts.”

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The 1954 Protection of Birds Act was a pivotal moment in our history. For the first time it afforded a legal framework and a system giving blanket protection to the majority of both resident and migratory birds. Prior to the act it was not an offence to kill or take any bird, interfere with its nest or take the eggs.

In these more enlightened times you might ask why anyone would want to do any of these things, but wildlife to a certain extent was viewed differently then – and I do not in any way try to justify the actions of those who engaged in what we see today as wildlife crimes.

All manner of birds were taken for so many different reasons – for their feathers, to be stuffed as exhibits, for use as pets or just to be eaten. And the old rhyme of ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’ was based on fact, not fiction.

The act also made it an offence to take the eggs of most but not all wild birds. Many wild bird eggs were collected for food, notably those of sea birds and gulls as well as wild duck and game. As a small boy in the 1950s, collecting eggs was a popular pastime with many hours spent roaming the hedgerows and climbing trees looking for the nests of ever rarer birds in order to add another specimen to your collection.

At the time it was not frowned upon or restricted in any way and boys would take their latest finds to school to show their friends or to use as swaps. Throughout the summer months, morning playtimes at our village school would see groups of boys pulling cotton wool lined matchboxes from their pockets to show off their latest finds. But times change and practices that were considered quite normal back then are now wildlife crimes and rigorously enforced with heavy penalties for anyone caught engaging in them. In 1954 the act stated a maximum fine of £25 or a month in prison for a conviction. These days fines will be in the thousands of pounds and any prison term substantial.

I mention all this because the month of May is when all our wild birds go into overdrive in the rush to reproduce. It is a spectacle that most of us can witness first-hand; you do not have to live in the open country to see it all happening. Many birds choose to nest in and around our houses and gardens, from swifts, swallows and sparrows to blackbirds, robins and wrens.

Without even going outside, from my kitchen I watch a pair of blue tits busily pulling up moss from my lawn and carrying it into a nest box not five feet away from the window, before lining it with feathers courtesy of the woodpigeons I bring home for the freezer.

The results of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s great UK farmland bird count is complete. Thirty-five farmers from Lincolnshire took part, encompassing over 82,000 acres of land. In our county seventy-eight different birds were counted, including eleven on the endangered red list. The most spotted was the blackbird (89%) followed by the robin (83%) and the pheasant (77%). It was interesting to note that the buzzard came in at 62% ahead of the magpie and the crow. The woodpigeon was tenth on the list in terms of birds seen but was the most abundant in terms of sheer numbers. Great news for pigeon shooters like me but not for the farmers whose crops come under attack from the grey hoards every day.

I finish my report on a sad note, as last month we said goodbye to one of our county’s best known farming and shooting characters, Derek Olivant. Derek farmed at Stainfield for many years before opening the MGR gun shop at Woodhall Spa. I knew Derek for forty years through our love of shooting. He was a supreme shot, having shot for the county and England for so many years. His fluent shooting style and easy charm endeared him to everyone he met. The shooting community has lost a giant and we will all miss him.

The high profile and hard-fought City Shots Challenge corporate clay shooting competition is set to return to the 2015 CLA Game Fair, to be held at Harewood House in Yorkshire from Friday 31st July until Sunday 2nd August.

Taking place on the Saturday morning, the City Shots Challenge gives British companies the opportunity to participate in one of the most renowned shooting events in the country sports calendar. Won last year by London Shooting Club, the highly enjoyable challenge is once again being run in conjunction with sponsor Charles Stanley, one of the UK’s leading stockbroking and investment management companies, who will donate the coveted City Shots Trophy and a £2,000 voucher to the winning team. To enter please contact Robert Sears via or 0845 612 2052. For more details, visit

Auctioneers of fine modern and antique guns are now the largest Sporting Auction House in Europe, specialising in sporting items and militaria.

This month I have unearthed two items relating to a lifestyle that has long since passed us by from Lincolnshire. James Purdey never really made any Rook Rifles because he was a London Maker (therefore expensive). In the past, most ordered theirs from lesser makers. Even Holland and Holland had theirs made more cheaply in Birmingham, but with their name and London proof marks on it.

Rook Rifles were just that: for crows and rooks at up to 150 yards. They came in various guises .250, .300, .320 This one is a Jeffrey .277 (another maker famous for big game rifles), copied by others.

Mr Purdy made just six Rook Rifles, making this a rare item. It comes with all original colour, no damage, relatively unfired in its original Purdey leather case with all accessories. Value £4,000-6,000 – surely an investment.

The other item from Lincoln is cased percussion pistols i.e. muzzle loader, by John Blissett of 322 High Holborn, London. This amazing revolver of 1853 was in direct competition with Samuel Colt (all those Westerns) who had really taken the world by storm, mostly we had been using pepper box pistols with five or six revolving barrels desperately crude and inaccurate. Blissett’s piece in its flame coloured mahogany case with every accessory imaginable is a joy. It includes a box of lubricating pellets, termed Trantors Patent which of course the pistol was, made under license from Wm. Trantor.

The pistol in its box was soon outdated yet typifies a superb quality firearm made in the home of firearms by a leading maker. Centre fire and rim fire were but ten years away. Intriguingly pistols did not develop any more stopping power until the 1940s, with the advent of later nitro. This is a wonderful investment at £3,000–5,000. It was last fired in 1946 at a target, having been loaded by the vendor’s father in 1939 to repel insurgents.

I am pleased to give free valuations or consign – Simon Grantham 07860 300055.

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