Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

Field Sports Scotland

Hunting and Field Sports in Scotland

Pest Control Time Again

Pest Control   Yes Pest Control is arguably and all year round job, but, there is no more important time for pest control for me than before the “lambing” Most of what I do can be classed as pest control, whether it is deer management in Forests or protected woodlands or constant protection of crop from rabbits and deer I am at it all year round. Over the winter period a lot of my attention is on deer management, but, most of my spare time out the wood is covering and monitoring over 1000 acres of lowland farmland and crofts for individual farmers and crofters. It can take a lot out of you but not as much as late winter early spring before the lambs. Over the last few years the farms I do pest control for have had very little loss due to pests but  it has not been easy. Hard Times Three to four nights a week lamping and patrolling the farms, each around 10 to 15 miles a part, takes its toll. Your day times are spent watching the grounds and baiting up bait stations and checking trail cameras all to make sure your on top of the foxes before the first lambs come. I am not alone in this ritual not by any means as there are hundreds of us up and down the country at this time of year doing the exact same not including the Keepers making sure that their broods are protected from now all the way through the summer, then watching over pheasant pens to protect their poults, so it is all go. To Catch “Charlie” But to catch a fox the ritual is tiring and hard work and although new technology tends to help with the process it is no way completely easy, but, the feeling when you get that “charlie” is amazing as you know you have truly worked for it. Even though you have got one you have to keep going as there is always another to take its place. It truly is relentless.   Why We do It Pest control is usually done for free by most of us in return for the right to shoot land for free and maybe some deer stalking. For others it is their job either as a keeper or a paid controller and although it is paid work it does not mean that you wouldn’t rather be doing something else. Most full time pest controllers like myself love it and love the feeling when your work pays off. The Equipment and the Cost Although pest control is usually done for free it is probably the most expensive thing we do and for the retail market it is big business. The equipment we use is extensive and sometimes very costly. Traditionally it is done by lamp but over the years lamps have come a long way and now for the top of the range ones can be as much as £500 . To the addition of your lamp there is now more up to date equipment that can cost a lot of money. Military style Night Vision equipment has become popular over the years from rifle scopes to spotters and these come in all shapes and styles and the level of technology is likewise varied. Prices start for this equipment  from £150 homemade camera add on kits to 4 and 5000 pound Thermal imaging units, the choice is almost endless and the price just so. I have been lucky to have had the chance to test a lot of this different equipment and truly they all have their place. With some of the Night Vision equipment there is further equipment needed such as IR torches etc it can be a bit of a money pit. Other equipment used in Pest control include electronic and manual decoy callers simulating anything from distressed rodents to Fox barking to help get that pest closer to you for that perfect and safe shot. These callers range from again a few pounds to hundreds of pounds depending on the brand and the technology used but arguably the best is still a broken piece of polystyrene against the windscreen or the kissing the back of your hand loudly.   Calibres and Ammo Unlike with Deer Management with foxing your less restricted with your calibre and ammo choice. Some pest controllers have had a lot of success with smaller rimfire calibres for foxing and definitely rabbiting such as the .22lr and the .17hmr but with these, like any calibre, knowing their range capabilities is the key. Some other popular calibre choices  are the .204, .222, .223, .22-250 and the .243 with a low grain head such as the 55gr Amax bullet. I have to be honest even my big rifle, .270, is also used as a foxing rifle on occasions as when I am doing night time deer management that is the only rifle I use and we also have to take out any “Charlie” we see in the wood as they do kill you deer.   The Dangers Pest control is not just tiring and costly but there is dangerous, Well why wouldn’t it be? common sense tells you this! Pest control is genuinely usually done after dark. The predator, your prey, usually hunts at night, not always the case but mostly the case, and because of this you have to be at the top of your game. It is no joke discharging a high powered rifle during the daytime when you can see all around you it is even less of a joke when your shooting at night and you may find that some people will just not do night work because of that. You have to take a lot of extra care, prep work helps you with this. To make your nights safer daytime patrols of your grounds are essential and knowing your grounds and back stops as well as your distances are a must, you also need to know the locations of all the livestock that are present on your grounds and where they are likely to be. Visibility is poor at night and your fields of view are limited even in the lamp. Even the best Nightvision technology has its limits and you have to learn to work with that equipment very well so you can trust every decision you make, but, one rule must be always in your head – IF IN DOUBT DON’T SHOOT.   Conclusion For me Pest control is fun and can be really challenging, which is probably the reason why it is a huge passion for me. Foxes especially can cause a lot of damage, it is not uncommon to be told by farmers that they have lost 20 to 30 lambs per field per year fro a flock, thankfully though none of my farms have experienced these losses while I have been working on them. I put a great sense of pride in what I do and I do get some benefits from it but mostly the pleasure of doing something important. Spring is an amazing time of the year to be out at night and well worth the challenge and living in the Highlands it is not unusual to be doing what we do in the snow. But it is a pleasure and a privilege in my opinion.