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As we cautiously consider the possibility of travelling, Jamie Chandler explores air rifle hunting holidays in the UK and abroad
As always, unlike our man-bun sporting, ironic Walkman using, whatever food or lifestyle ‘ism’ is in this hour cousins over in the bloggersfear (I know it’s blogosphere, but with the ever present danger of being cancelled for not agreeing with the mob, bloggersfear seems a better spelling), I’m writing this in February, to be published in April for the May edition of Air Gunner. I only mention it because as I write, the whole country seems poised on tenterhooks to see if we’re going to be allowed to ditch the kids at school finally on March 8th, and meet up with one other person to drink a coffee in a park.
The whole country seems to have taken on the characteristic of a 10-year-old child, waiting to find out if their school is about to add a late addition inset day to the beginning of the Christmas holidays. Even without fingers, I’ve developed a callous where I’ve been nervously chewing my hand, hoping for this small, but in fact massive sign that with vaccinations and hope, a way out of lockdown might be in distant view.
I bring this up because there is a potential that holidays in some guise or other, either UK-based, or to certain countries, could well be making an appearance before long this year.
Couple that fact with the Bank of England stating that one in five of the least comfortably off, rising to one in two of the better off, have managed to save the equivalent of a month’s salary or more during the three lockdowns, which they intend to spend on travel, cars or similar, and you have the makings of a mass party exodus on your hands. It looks like fun times, at least for now, are back on the horizon!
Air rifle hunting holidays in america (usa)
Taking into consideration that the average salary in the UK is £30,800 according to the ONS, that means potential average extra savings of a whopping £2,500, which started a conversation about where we’d go and what we could hunt around the world, specifically within that budget and, of course, with airguns of some description. This led to frantic Googling and this is what I found...
Let’s start with the obvious; a place as synonymous with hunting as it is with baseball, not rounders, or incorrectly played football, and of course, home of our very own Jim Chapman, the good old United States of America.
The USA offers a wealth of hunting opportunities for the airgunner. There are 22 states that will let you hunt big game, although the definition of that depends on individual states. Some states classify wolves and even alligators as big game – some include wild turkeys.
Price-wise, a day’s hunting including air rifle hire for a hog in Florida, for example, starts at about $350+ and deer from $500+. Iguana shooting – apparently they’re delicious – is a high shot-count day and a worthy pest control mission for the ecologically minded.
This might sound pricey, but if you’re already booked in to Disneyworld, the Epcot Centre, or similar, then frankly, it’s not much for a ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure, and from a £2500 budget you’ll have enough change for a week’s Disney passes to keep the non-shooting family entertained.
I found JP Outfitters (www.jpoutfittersinc.com) then checked them out on Trip Advisor and finally called Capt. JP himself. For Florida-based airgun iguana adventures from an air boat, these guys come highly recommended. You can also throw in a day’s bow fishing, airgun Egyptian goose shooting, rod fishing and so much more – simply ask Capt. JP what you’d like, and he’ll try to make it happen.
There are plenty of other outfitters US wide who offer different packages for different sized wallets; from helicopter hog hunts in Texas, to squirrel hunting. Throw in an RV road trip and you have a holiday of many people’s dreams.
OK, the USA is clearly an airgunners Mecca, but there’s that kind of Americanism about it. For starters, you have to ensure here that your hunt is ‘fair chase’. Some places in some states will literally offer a guaranteed hunt, which should set alarm bells ringing for most of us because it’s canned hunting; i.e the poor animals are practically placed where you can shoot them, and in my view, that’s just awful, along with others who will trap a boar at bay with dogs, until such time as you rock up to shoot it. That’s not hunting for me, but as always the minority can ruin it for the majority who offer ethical, fair-chase hunting, but will go the extra mile to give you the best chance of success.
Air rifle hunting holidays in hungary (europe)
Closer to home, and certainly far more steeped in history and hunting etiquette, is that often neglected hunting nirvana, Hungary. Whilst years of communist rule blighted some of the ancient city landscapes, it is perfectly legal, although less common than a powder burner, to hunt in Hungary with an airgun or bow.
There’s also plenty to see and marvel at for none-hunting companions. This is true, European-style hunting with the doffing of caps, giving of leaves, a tableau of the harvest and amazing hospitality. I contacted a European hunting agent, Jagd Stiedl (www.jagdstiedl.us), based in Vienna, Austria, who were only too happy to advise me on what was on offer. Unlike some American outfitters, Jagd Stiedl explained they don’t provide big-bore airguns, so you’d need to buy or arrange hire of your own, but hunting starts through them at a daily rate of about £425, plus about £775 per good representative roe buck, or £685 for a European wild boar tusker. Jagd Stiedl are to hunting what Aston Martin are to cars, so there are plenty of options at various price points, but for your saved £2500 you can have two days hunting, two wild boar grassed, four nights accommodation and enough left for air fares.
That’s a trip of a lifetime, right there, or Diana Hunting Tours (www.diana-hunting.com) do a ‘beach and hunt’ break including three days hunting and seven nights beachside summer house accommodation for two, from £600 per person, plus game fees.
air rifle hunting holidays in the UK
Finally, if like me you have a natural caution toward sitting in a 277,000kg flying fart tube stamped with an A380 badge, or like me again, haven’t been one of the saving superstars, then you might want to explore more pocket-friendly UK options. There are certainly a few places that offer potential for an excellent escape with dreamy days full of airgun hunting, in both winter and summer.
Cotswold Country Pursuits (www.cotswoldcountrypursuits.co.uk) offer, along with all other forms of hunting and fishing trips, guided airgun hunting days out, and can include lunch, gun hire and accommodation from local camp sites to five-star hotels. It’s not mentioned on their website at present, but proprietor, Charles Densham, has assured me that’s due to change soon and encourages enquires through their website at any time.
If you fancy wild camping and plinking to your heart’s content, then the famous Pete’s Airgun Farm in Essex can offer a true wild camping, wilderness experience over its 500 acres and almost 24-hour use of all its ranges.
Whether you actually have £2500 sleeping in your account that you are thinking of splurging, or less than £100, there are airgunning opportunities out there, both international and UK-based ready to be explored as we emerge, bleary-eyed into a non-lockdown world. Certainly, a UK-wide Internet search brought up loads of opportunities for farm stays with rough shooting, but none responded in time for me to include them – our American and European cousins were ready to go!
In short, we’ve been tucked up in our caves for far too long, and perhaps now is the best opportunity for us to celebrate life, get out there and explore what the world has to offer the true air head!
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