Monday, 9 February 2009

Getting a 'Permission' to Shoot

What's a permission? Well, I have an idea that in these health-and-safety-obsessed times a permission is, more formally, a written document signed by you and a local landowner saying that you - the air rifle owner and would-be rabbit-shooter - can indeed exercise their wish to shoot the rabbits on the land of the above mentioned landowner, and that this shall - henceforth - take place fully in agreement with both the wishes of the said landowner and, indeed, the law of the realm wherein the landowner, the shooter and the rabbits all reside.

In short, a permission is a contract which says it's O.K for you to shoot on the farmer's land. It's probably better if it's written. (Oh, but life's a funny thing, isn't it? Everything is better written down so we all believe - and I believe it just like the next man; unless there's something on paper, we think, then, near as damn it, there's nothing there at all. Which is fine if you, yourself, are words on a page. For the rest of us walking, talking bipeds strutting around on the stage here - full of sound and fury, signifying...well, who knows? - - for us poor saps who are not wholly written down, not wholly reduced (just yet, just yet) to a name carved on a slab of granite somewhere - this is bad news. Because, essentially, it's a crime to be alive.)

But I digress.

I got my permission, in retrospect, ludicrously easily - although that's not the way it felt at the time. Way back in Spring last year I was out for a jog; absolutely knackered, I took a short cut home via a public right of way over the fields next to where I live. I saw a bloke in a tractor and an idea formed in my mind. I approached the tractor chap and we had a chat about this and that. "Would it be O.K," I asked (and he stiffened at once, sensing the nub of my conversation approaching), "would it be all right if I came with me air rifle sometime (I had no air rifle at the time) and shot the odd rabbit on your land?".

He was nice about it. But the answer was no. "We get a lot of people asking, mind...". He said that his son took care of the rabbits; he'd go out lamping every now and then and get them with his shotgun, he told me. He even offered me some rabbits that his son had shot last night. He was extremely pleasant about it and the answer was, firmly, pleasantly, no.

So that was it. But I still had a hankering. I still wanted to shoot rabbits for the pot. So how was I going to do it? For months I pondered.

And in this pondering (Skywalker) I turned - to the dark side.

I began to consider the possibility - in speculation only I stress - of discretely shooting rabbits in places other than where permission had, in the strictest sense of the word, been strictly given.

Which is to say, illegally.

Now the laws about carrying - let alone using - air rifles or pistols in areas understood to be accessible to the general public are utterly unequivocal: it's highly dangerous, thoroughly illegal and you can go to prison for five years. Bang, simple as that. Huge tracts of empty woodland just round the corner from me, teeming with rabbits - and it simply cannot be done. End - as they say - of.

So I didn't. But I did think about it. And, since this thinking was thinking about something illegal, it carried the charge of excitation that such thinking always does carry and, in the end, makes shouldering the burden of these thoughts such an exhausting business. So I bore these tiresome thoughts for months and months, firmly - every time I span them around - encountering the vision of a pot of rabbit stew on the one hand and, on the other hand, five years of stewing, myself, in an overcrowded prison cell with the company of my fellow line over-steppers. Fairly clear, even to me, but still those thoughts kept spinning me around.

Eventually, fed up with all this neurotic nonsense, I asked another local farmer and he said, "Yeah, sure, no problem, go ahead".


  1. Nice to know others get that 'urge'. Come the spring I get an urge to rabbit - come the autumn its rugby. I've been pleased to play rugby the past couple of years, but haven't yet managed to hunt. Permissions first.

    What are your thoughts on insurance. Other forums have suggested this helps?

  2. Hi,

    Well, yes, maybe those other forums know a thing or two.

    But I have to say that my feeling, when I've approached farmers in the past, was that the ones who say 'yes', just say 'yes' and the one's who say 'no' just say 'no'. This yes or no didn't seem to be something that was based on a big pile of facts and/or paperwork 'supporting an application' or anything - it was just 'yes' or 'no' and that was it.

    I guess I'm saying that, based up on the initial impression you make or the way in which you contact them or raise the matter, then the matter is sort of decided prior to any kind of discussion, let alone after passing over insurance documents!

    Raising the issue of 'insurance', to my mind, with a farmer or landowner would risk, I think, raising in their mind the spectre of lawsuits or liability etc, etc - essentially a whole world of possible reasons, in our chronically risk-averse world, why they ought to say 'hell no, not a chance, get orrf my laand!'.

    Just show up sober and ask them politely is my advice. Some will say 'no' - just accept this - but eventually someone will say yes.

    Best of luck,