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WINTER

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ISSUE 175

LONG-RANGE SHOOTING Mark Ripley on how far is too far


WILD BOAR: Germany

Driven Deutsch! Paul Childerley gets the privilege of experiencing driven wild game on a prestigious German estate next to the river Rhine Credit: alainolympus / Getty Images

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RED HIND: Ponies

Ghillies and garrons Amid the hills of Glen Prosen in Angus, a traditional method of red deer extraction is still very much in use

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e are in an age when many countryside traditions are being lost, and to see Highland ponies carrying red deer across the hills is a rarity. What made this occasion particularly special was the combination of an old tradition and the use of a rifle that may be modern in its build, but is true to the traditions of Scottish stalking: the Rigby Highland Stalker. This stalk was the culmination of years of dedication and hard work from all sides: the ghillie, who had trained and cared for the ponies carrying the deer, the stalker, who carefully managed the herds roaming the hills of Glen Prosen, and the Rigby team of gunmakers, who had conceived, designed and built the rifle. This story starts at the moment that ghillie Eric Starke won the Fred Taylor Memorial Trophy for Working Hill Ponies at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair in June 2017. Eric was surprised that five-year old mare Mia beat the 19 other entrants, saying at the time: “I had no idea what the judges were looking for, and the

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standard of ponies was really high. I knew Fred Taylor, so to win was a huge honour.” The competition, named after the late head stalker at Invermark estate, sees working Highland ponies presented by the ghillies who use them, and is sponsored by John Rigby & Co, the London gunmaker. The prize: a Highland Stalker rifle worth £12,000. After receiving the prize, in .275 Rigby, an outing was arranged to see the rifle in action. Eric, who has been a ghillie on and off for 30 years, is a keen stalker himself, but decided that he’d rather be with his ponies, Mia and Cally, than out stalking, so he demurred and handed that honour to Bruce Cooper, estate manager, head keeper and head stalker. Bruce, who has worked at Glen Prosen since 2004, remaining in situ when the estate changed hands in 2010, knows the place like the back of his hand – and he had done his homework, planning the morning’s stalk to perfection. With a scattering of snow on the ground, this winter had been mild compared with

the previous year’s, and as we set out in darkness, he told us a little about how the cull had been progressing. “It’s a large area of ground we have to cover – we manage 21,000 acres between myself, three beat keepers, two trainee keepers and a handful of seasonal ghillies. And the estate isn’t just about stalking – we’re very well rounded here. Our main focus is driven grouse, but we also run grouse shooting days over pointers, and we have a herd of blackface sheep that roam the hills, so while we do have a fulltime shepherd, we all have to pitch in with that from time to time. “This year, we’re working hard on the cull – Scottish Natural Heritage has asked that we take at least 250 hinds, plus calves, where previously our cull numbers were around 100. We let 50 stags a year, and the people that come love the use of


RED HIND: Ponies

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GREENLAND: Musk ox

Before it’s too late Hunting contributes millions to local communities around the world, but in parts of Greenland, this doesn’t seem to be fully understood – neither by authorities nor by commercial meat hunters. Thomas Nissen investigates…

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t could easily have been colder, but the minus 24 degrees we’re experiencing this ‘spring day’ feels cold enough. We are more than 80km from the nearest settlement and about 40 kilometres from our sheltered cabin at the ice-covered fjord. In front of us, a reindeer has just stood up; this is perhaps the first time this particular reindeer has seen a human, as it stays quite calm while studying us curiously. Then, a musk ox stands up behind the reindeer, its body forming a silhouette against a gray sky about 50 metres further out. It has not seen us, and we know from our previous observations of musk ox in this area that he will not be not alone. The final stage of this hunt can begin.

ONE-TWO-THREE We soon make out the shapes of six musk ox bulls ahead. There are three hunters in our group, and the plan is for each hunter to take one bull, if opportunity allows. We have enough sledge capacity to bring the animals home on one trip, and by shooting three animals in the same group, we will minimise the disruption to other animals in the area. We put ourselves in position, with Jacob at the far right as the first shooter. To the left of him lies Anthony, then Michael. When Jacob has shot, Anthony has to follow up, after which Michael can seize the chance if the remaining animals have not run off by then. The frozen snow in front of the barrel is stirred up into a white cloud as Jacob releases his bullet. The rugged 9.3x62 round hits the selected musk ox clean on the shoulder; the animal does not take as much as a single step before it falls. Anthony then puts a perfect shot from his .30-06 into the shoulder of the next bull, which also falls after a few seconds. Michael gets his chance at the third bull. He puts a well-placed shot in, then, with the bull still standing, a follow-up. The bull runs 30 metres before falling into the snow. Few hunters get to shoot a musk ox in their lifetimes, and to do it on such a beautiful day in this remote wilderness – as these three friends did – is a truly enviable experience. Hunting musk ox in this part of Greenland has not always been possible.

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GREENLAND: Musk ox

Due to the shape of the ice cap, musk ox never had the opportunity to spread naturally from the tough north and east Greenland wilderness to the more forgiving south-west of Greenland. To give the locals in this part of Greenland better hunting opportunities, forward-thinking people in the early 1960s moved musk ox from east Greenland to south-west Greenland. This region’s (comparatively) favorable climate and larger food resource meant the animals established themselves rapidly and managed a solid growth in numbers. Then, at the end of the last millennium, authorities opened up hunting for musk ox in the Kangerlussuaq area. As a result, there has been an economic boost not just for local commercial hunters and Greenlandic hobby hunters, but also visiting hunting tourists and trophy hunting organisers. Without the movement of the musk ox more than 50 years earlier, this would have not been possible and the three hunters would never have had a day like today.

SNAKE ON THE ICE In the following days, we hunt arctic foxes on bait near our hut and snow hares or grouse in the mountains. Ice fishing is also an option, and although the cod that we can get here is not particularly suited for the table, we can still get a use out of it. The 50 or so fish we get will later be used for the 14 sled dogs that outfitter Erik Lomholt Bek keeps on the edge of the town near the Kangerlussuaq harbour. At this time of year it is possible to hunt five different game species: the four previously mentioned and reindeer. We won’t be taking any reindeer, as at this time of year it’s only the young bulls who carry antlers. The older bulls cast theirs several months ago and are now preparing to grow them again. Every morning and evening we see several arctic foxes, of both white and black variation, at the bait station about 80 metres from the hut. Of these we shoot three; all are of the white variation. Every day we eat game meat for dinner – mostly musk ox, but at times grouse and snow hares find their way to the table. All in all, this hunt has been fantastic. But I have to admit that, as a musk ox hunter with 10 years’ experience, I take

Jacob takes the first shot and puts a musk ox bull on the ground with a 9.3x62 bullet

On this trip we have not seen a single female musk ox despite the fact that we have travelled more than 200 kilometres through the wilderness on snowmobiles some fresh worries with me when I leave the hunting area. This is really a hunting paradise, but like in every other paradise, there is a snake here, slithering on the ice. The problem is this. Just 10 years ago, it was possible to see family groups of musk ox in wilderness areas going in quite close to the city. On this trip, however, we have not seen a single female musk ox and this despite the fact that we have traveled more than 200 kilometres through the wilderness on snowmobiles.

IGNORING THE RULES To find out why this is, we must look at the commercial meat hunt for musk

ox, which takes place before trophy hunting every year, which begins in March. Commercial hunting for musk ox is typically done on a snowmobile or ATV, and many hundreds of animals are shot while it is in progress. According to the outfitter, authorities have now introduced more detailed rules for which animals can be shot during the commercial meat hunt. The rules now speecify that all animals in a family group should not be eliminated – so cows with calves are not legal to shoot. The authorities also introduced a ‘preservation of old trophy bulls’ rule so these could be saved for the upcoming trophy hunt and

The remaining three bulls flee after the shots

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KIT: Xmas Gifts

The ultimate

GIFT LIST The Sporting Rifle team have put together a list of everything they want for Christmas – and we reckon you’ll want it all too…

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REVIEW: Haenel

18 months with the Jaeger 10 After a long-term test, Stuart Wilson delivers his long-term verdict on the Haenel Jaeger 10 Sporter and Meopta Meostar R2 combo

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fter a long period using the Haenel Jaeger 10 Sporter Varmint, with adjustable cheekpiece topped off with the Meopta R2 2.5-15x56, it seems only appropriate to gather up my findings and give my verdict. I reviewed this rifle last year and enjoyed the features and the overall balance of the whole package during the initial testing phase while on the range zeroing up. Just to recap, the rifle is fitted with a Brugger & Thomet moderator – which does increase the weight but it enhances the package, and performs flawlessly – and topped with a Meopta Meostar R2 scope.

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BALANCE AND HANDLING My rifle spends more time on my shoulder than anywhere else, but perhaps a close second is the resting place on my sticks after I have stalked into a decent ambush position. With that in mind, the balance of a slung rifle – which is key for comfort – is something I really look for. With a good quality sling around an inch wide, the Haenel can sit patiently waiting for its opportunity, quietly and without causing me any discomfort – it is even sometimes easy to forget you have a rifle on your shoulder at all.

Even with the semi-weight profile of the barrel and the added weight of the moderator, I have trudged some reasonable distances, through some tougher ground without ever wishing for a lighter rifle. Once into position, the Haenel has sat waiting atop the sticks. My sticks are homemade (I am a tight Yorkshireman after all) and provide two good solid Vs for the butt and forend. I have stood in place with the rifle balanced, for several hours, with the weight just tipped back into my shoulder – this makes the movement minimal to get onto any deer or fox that presents. The Haenel also shoots well from a bipod, and when the occasion calls for it I am more than happy taking all the accuracy-enhancing help I can get. It is worth pointing out that the Haenel shot consistently regardless of the shooting position I adopted. Perhaps


REVIEW: Haenel

The first of quite a few bucks that would be taken with the Jaeger 10 Sporter

some experience helps here, but the stock dimensions and handling certainly helped me achieve this goal. The butt pad sticks nicely into the shoulder, and when you have adjusted the cheekpiece to your favoured height, the Jaeger 10 Sporter Varmint will hit the mark with solid, consistent accuracy. The cheekpiece is one of my favourite features on this rifle; one very small point to mention is that the bolt can’t be fully withdrawn from the action with the cheekpiece elevated. It’s a ‘finger gauge’ away from a perfect reset regardless.

PERFORMANCE AND ACCURACY The Haenel shot well from the start. The initial zero was simple, and I have barely adjusted the sight across several hundred shots and thousands of miles bouncing around my truck, up and down the country.

I am not overly fussy when it comes to accuracy – to my mind, a solid sub-inch group at 100 yards is fine. The Haenel will certainly shoot much better than this, but across my requirements – high seat,

and the trajectory from 0-300 yards has significantly improved. I am now barely an inch high to hit smack-on at 200 yards, with seven inches of drop at 300 yards and still holding good accuracy. Most of my shooting at deer will be up to 200 yards, particularly for roe, and this round is also more than capable of dealing with foxes that happen to present whilst I am stalking. While I personally have an advantage using a rifle that’s set up for me, and one that I have got more than used to over the months, its capabilities don’t end there. Adding the variable of novice stalkers to the equation on some guided shooting, the Haenel has proved just as suited to anyone who picks it up – seasoned hunters, experienced rifle shots taking

The Haenel shot consistently regardless of the shooting position I adopted out of the truck window, off sticks, bipod from bench or similar – and more often than not with the intention of bagging a deer, consistency is key, particularly when quicker shots are needed. Recently I have been feeding the Haenel a diet of Sako 123gn Gameheads, and this has transformed the experience. The accuracy of the Haenel-Meopta combo and the lighter Sako .308 rounds has improved,

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CARIBOU: Quebec

The last reindeer hunt Caribou – or reindeer – are found in several subspecies. Thomas Nissen and Jens Kjaer Knudsen visited Quebec, Canada, as the hunting of one of the subspecies, Quebec-Labrador caribou, was just about to end

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hen the news broke that the hunting of Quebec-Labrador caribou was due to expire, Jens Kjær Knudsen was a fast mover and booked a trip on the last possible date. Caribou hunting has always fascinated him, as the hunting is done like a wilderness expedition. He loves to stalk in the open areas where most

of the subspecies are found. Hunting caribou seems to make him at one with nature, and he dreamed of hunting all the subspecies. After hearing the news, he contacted an outfitter who he had found at Huntingreport.com. His hunt was arranged for the last week in September, the week before hunts for QuebecLabrador caribou stopped – maybe forever.

A LONG JOURNEY Hunting Quebec-Labrador caribou is different than hunting the European subspecies, as the nature of North America forms the basis of one of the world’s largest annual migrations of wildlife. In spring and autumn, thousands of caribou are on the move – a spectacle Jens hoped to witness.

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CONSERVATION: Trophy imports

Trophy troubles Byron Pace considers the merits and mistakes of Zac Goldsmith, the MP trying to introduce a trophy import ban in the UK

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CONSERVATION: Trophy imports

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am conscious of the fact that most of what I have written recently has been focused on Africa. Part of this comes from having spent a lot of time on the continent this year, but more than that, of the most pressing issues in the last few months, the implications to conservation in Africa have made it top of the list. As I sit down to write this month’s contribution, that hasn’t changed. In fact, if anything I would say the stakes have been raised. As most people will be aware, the current British government (from a party that historically has been sympathetic towards hunting) has put forward a motion to ban the “morally indefensible act” of trophy hunting imports. Fronted by member of parliament Zac Goldsmith, and seemingly supported by Boris Johnson, this is focused on the import of animal products from Africa, though the implications of such a move are far-reaching. According to Mr Goldsmith, this action would help save the lives of thousands of endangered species. We should not be surprised by this, as it’s been on his agenda for a long time. In a YouTube clip posted in November 2018, he stated his intentions to support a trophy import ban, expressing the misleading and arguably factually incorrect notion that trophy hunting “devastates communities”. He implied that “these so-called legally hunted species allow illegal hunting”. The statement is a little mixed and confused. There is nothing ‘so-called’ about legally hunted species. In most instances, they are part of a regulated, managed system, contributing to the

economic independence of many of these countries, and indeed helping local communities through employment and government permitting systems. The idea that legally transported animal products are used as cover for the illegal trade is a fair comment, though restricted to only a small number of relevant species. Most trophy exports are for species that have no component of illegal trade. Of course, this nuance doesn’t make it into his argument, and suggesting that local communities are devastated by trophy hunting is either a blatant twisting of the truth or a naive statement made with a lack of knowledge or understanding on the ground. It is hard to know which. Credit where credit is due: Mr Goldsmith has been a champion for tackling the illegal trade of wildlife, and I have to commend and support him for this, as indeed we all should. It is a shame that his stated personal feelings towards hunting abroad have tarnished his ability to make rational decisions based on facts, figures and science for the good of wildlife and local communities. I have no doubt that his intentions are good, but bad outcomes frequently come from good intentions, especially when they are emotionally driven. Indeed, it seems plausible that No 10’s support of the trophy hunting ban has been influenced by Boris Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, who has campaigned against hunting for many years as an animal rights campaigner. Her feelings are very clear: “Trophy hunting is not that. It is the opposite of that. It is cruel, it is sick, it is cowardly and I will We can‘t allow emotional objections to get in the way of science-based conservation

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Sporting Rifle 175 (Sampler)  

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Sporting Rifle 175 (Sampler)  

You can subscribe to this magazine @ www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk