What that Shooting Times article might have said
In the Shooting Times of 10 February there was an article entitled Shooting for a Perfect Ten which purported to be an account of a day’s shooting where the aim was to shoot as many different species as possible in a day. That account is now said to be partly fictional by the article’s author and Wild Justice is waiting for a response from the Shooting Times to our request for a detailed and prominent correction to be published.
We thought we’d give a more detailed critique of the article, purely in terms of factual corrections.
The title: not so much the Perfect Ten as the Far From Perfect Eight.
The caption above: should read ‘The day’s bag comprised fox, rabbit, a crow that I got out of the freezer, red-legged partridge, woodcock, mallard, teal, pheasant, pigeon and a jay that also came out of my freezer, so, only eight species really‘.
The original passage that read ‘I surprised myself with a very high crow that wheeled overhead 50 yards out. It turned away from us, exposing its vulnerable underside, and folded like a fist to the top barrel. It wouldn’t be troubling the yellow wagtails and corn buntings this spring. three species in the bag before breakfast. Spirits were high.’ should now surely read ‘I got a frozen crow out of the freezer where it wasn’t troubling anything, certainly not yellow wagtails which were in Africa, south of the Sahara, at the time. But it’ll make a nice addition to the row of quarry I hope to assemble for a staged photo.‘.
The original passage that read ‘It was already 9am and we already had five species in the bag‘ should now read ‘It was already 9am and although we only had four species in the bag I was going to claim a good shot at the crow to bring the total to five species‘.
The original passage that read ‘I made the naive error of proposing we might be on for 10 before 10‘ may be closer to something like ‘I was trying to remember how many other useful corpses were in the freezer and what I might be able to claim that we shot in the day‘.
The original passage which read ‘Between us we had eight species in the bag. Ordinarily, I too would have hung up the game bag. However, in more than 30 years of shooting I have never been part of a day which ended with 10 species. These chances don’t come that often and I wanted to see if it could be done.‘ might more accurately be rendered as ‘Between us we had seven species in the bag and a frozen crow. Ordinarily, I too would have hung up the game bag. However, in more than 30 years of shooting I have never been part of a day which ended with 10 species. These chances don’t come that often and I wanted to see if it could be done with maybe one more shot bird and that jay that I think is in the freezer.‘
The original passage which read ‘But surely I could manage another two species before the weather proved too much‘ might be closer to the truth if it read ‘But surely I could manage one more species and add in the frozen crow and I’m pretty sure there is a jay in the freezer‘.
The long triumphant finale to the article reads ‘Darkness was falling without any hint of a sunset. The weather had been unremitting from dawn until dusk. The jackdaws had disappeared and nothing seemed to be moving. A pigeon settled out of range.
Then from the other side of the wood, a jay screamed out its woodland alarm. I can’t say for certain at what it was aiming its bile but I assumed that it couldn’t be me. A stalk might be on. If I stayed in the wood, I might have the chance to account for it and therefore help the nightingales and turtle doves when they return in spring. I ignored a second pigeon behind me.
With a stealth I hadn’t mustered since jungle-tracking days I moved as cautiously as frozen limbs would allow, glad that I now had steady Tess instead of headstrong Scout. When we were a little under 100 yards from the edge of the wood, we both stopped and listened intently. The wind had dropped, I could hear the sounds of the estuary in the distance.
Silhouetted as it rose and fell between two huge chestnuts, the jay didn’t look quite right. I hesitated. Might it have been a woodpecker? Or a blackbird? It settled. Darkness continued to fall. Then it turned and flew back. This time I was sure. It needed only the slightest of lead. Ignore the branches. Squeeze, don’t jerk. Keep moving.
The jay slumped and toppled with the lightest of landings into the leaf litter. The glorious turquoise flashes and white rump were still visible in the gloom. I had my 10th species. It was just after 3:30pm. Ten species in 10 hours.’
… shouldn’t all that be ‘I jacked it in and went home. Eight species shot for fun and two taken out of the freezer to make an article for the Shooting Times. The Imperfect Eight!’?
Our main point though is that two of the species that the author of this piece claimed to have shot, to see if he could get the ‘perfect 10’, are covered by general licences which set out conditions and circumstances under which the licences can be relied upon. When faced with the prospect of a police interview the author repudiated his own published account and said that he had not shot the crow, a Carrion Crow, and the Jay. The original article gave an account of behaviour which may well attract the attention of the police because, if anything like that were ever to happen (we accept that it didn’t in this case and that the article was a false account) it may be illegal. How much of such behaviour, which we would call casual killing, does happen? And what steps should shooting organisations take to stop it? And what steps should a wide variety of shooting magazines take to educate their readers?