Conservation

British hunting and conservation

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Hunting does not only lead to nature conservation in Africa. Selena Barr lists four very real and very current examples from Great Britain….

By Selena Barr – Photography credit: Tweed Media

Trophy hunting is currently the subject of intense debate worldwide. It may be a bitter pill for some to swallow but commercial sport hunting is most certainly a bedfellow with conservation. Now, we all know this to be true – but if you found yourself sitting next to an anti at a dinner party could you rattle off several hard-hitting examples that would silence naysayers and even change opinions? I am proud that conscientious hunters around the world are the caretakers of certain species and it is our job to educate the masses and give them the necessary information about what we do. Here’s four examples to get you going:

Green Shoots

BASC’s programme to allow mapping and counts of species on shoots was launched in 2000 and now covers an extraordinary 4,500 square kilometres. The programme is simple but extremely accurate, and can show trends in species numbers and habitats over time. It gives BASC vital information to put before Government, as well as showing just how important game shooting in the UK is for conservation, not only of quarry species but of all the native wildlife. For more information, visit: www.basc.org.uk.

Red grouse in Scotland

Unique to the British Isles, the red grouse inhabits areas of blanket bog and upland heath, with an estimated 1.3million hectares of upland Britain being influenced by the management of the bird. The UK has 75 per cent of the global expanse of this unique habitat, which is rarer than rainforest. The benefits of land managed for grouse are not restricted to the promotion of a healthy population of this sporting and delicious bird. Annually, tens of millions of pounds are spent on these landscapes, providing employment and revenue in areas where there would be none. Most importantly, however, the conservation benefits are multiple. With many of the upland bird species on the wane, habitat management and predator control are of vital importance to species such as curlew, golden plover, lapwing and dunlin, to name but a few. Other iconic species that benefit from this management are the red grouse’s cousins, the blackgrouse and the capercaillie.

For grouse shooting opportunities, contact The Royal Berkshire Sporting Agency via www.rbss.co.uk

Grey partridge in England

The grey partridge was once the sporting bird for the lowlands, but declined by 80% in the 40 years after World War II. The intensification of agriculture and introduction of herbicides has been one of the most significant factors in the drop in numbers of this species. While the shooting of grey partridge is now infrequent unless a shootable surplus allows for it, the management of pheasant and redleg partridge shoots is of enormous benefit to the bird, and increasing numbers of shoots and farms are making a serious effort to provide good habitat. Predator control is another major factor in conserving grey partridge. There are limited possibilities to shoot grey partridge, many of which are walked-up or over pointers. The conservation of grey partridge also provides benefits to other birds such as lapwings, and it is a classic example of how shooting can, in fact, benefit a species.

Chinese water deer in England

Credit_Tweed Media-61In its native East Asia, Chinese water deer numbers are declining. They are currently classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as ‘vulnerable’. In China and Korea it is not possible to recreationally hunt CWD. In fact, all sport hunting is banned. Therefore the species has little economic value to locals. Despite being endangered, they are treated as an agricultural pest in some areas. They also have to deal with poaching, habitat destruction plus they are illegally hunted for the semi-digested milk found in the stomach of unweaned fawns, which is used in traditional medicine. No proper care is taken to manage the population, it is just a free for all. Eventually, the inevitable will happen: they will become extinct in Asia. Here in the UK, where it is legal to hunt CWD recreationally, landowners have an incentive to keep populations healthy. CWD are thriving in England. The total population is around 2,100 animals, which is 10 per cent of the entire global population.

Hunting a representative male Chinese water deer on Euston Estate costs £800. For more information, email: eustondeerhunting@yahoo.co.uk.

From the history of hunting

A bloody battle with Russian wolves

A bloody battle with Russian wolves

In 2011 a so-called “super pack” of allegedly 400 wolves besieged the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk killing dozens of horses and thousands of reindeer. Many a self-pronounced “wolf expert” have since questioned the very existence of “super packs”, dismissing the phenomenon as a myth, but there is many written historical accounts describing the exact same behavior. We found one of the more dramatic ones written for the New York Clipper by Melville Hoskin and published in January 1870.

By Melville Hoskin – edited by Jens Ulrik Høgh

We arrived at Toola, the Birmingham of Russia, on the morning of the 3rd of January, 1868. Our party composed, including myself, some fifteen jolly sporting young bachelors, who had all clubbed together the better to enjoy the winter’s sports. Being all very desirous of engaging in a stirring wolf hunt, having heard that, the winter being very severe, they had congregated in large numbers in the neighborhood of Toola, we had accordingly a few days before set out from St. Petersburg, and arrived as above-mentioned safe in Toola. Immediately upon our arrival we proceeded to the meat market and bought op a large quantity of refuse matter, rotted carcasses of sheep, pigs, etc., which we obtained for a mere trifle. Loading a sledge with it, we ordered the driver to take and empty it out near the roadside, about twelve miles from the town, in an opening between two fir woods. The fact of our intended excursion becoming known, we were the whole day besieged with applications, begging for permission to accompany us, from many or the wealthy citizens and neighboring gentry. Answering most of them with a courteous invitation to bring their ladies and come and sup with us, we soon had our rooms so crowded that we were obliged to engage the large dining hall of the hotel to accommodate our guests. Many and lasting were the friendships made on this occasion between individuals who would otherwise, most likely, never have crossed each other’s path. Brilliant and vivid were the flashes of wit, and lively the repartees, as the champagne went round and round again, enlivening the hearts and loosening the tongues of both men and women. Repeated toasts were drank to the health of Queen Victoria, the President of the United States, the Emperor of Russia, and to us, the jolly young Englishmen, as they styled us, who had come down and made them all so merry.

After supper we commenced dancing, and were about half through a set of quadrilles when we were interrupted by the entrance of the young man we had placed to watch our bait. He informed us that the wolves were gathering together and had already commenced their supper. So, kissing the girls, and promising them nice, warm wolf skins to make rugs for their feet, we hastily mounted our horses, our party now numbering over forty stout, active men and two daring girls, who, notwithstanding all our persuasions, could not be induced to remain behind, so we rode forth to do or die, each singing as we went

“We won’t go home till morning,
We won’t go home till morning,
We won’t go home till morning,
Till daylight does appear,” etc.

It was a beautiful moonlight night when we started, the wind blowing hard, with a keen, sharp frost. Just a night to enjoy a rapid, ringing gallop. We accordingly set spurs to our horses and rattled along as fast as the slippery nature of the road warranted.

Getting clear of the suburbs we for the first time noticed a heavy bank of black looking clouds resting on the horizon at the same point of the compass as the wind blew from, prognosticating a violent storm before morning. Taking no special heed, however, we rode gaily along the narrow, frozen track, which, there being a great quantity of snow on the ground, was nearly level with the lower branches of the trees.

Many and numerous were the laughable scrapes and predicaments some of our party got into on the road. One young girl named Matilda persisted in riding on the extreme verge of the track, and as may be supposed, the snow on either side being, with the exception of a slight upper crust, extremely soft, her horse slipping, they both rolled over and were literally burled, though not hurt. With a good deal of difficulty we dragged her and her horse out, and scolded her well, at which she only laughed, declaring she had enjoyed it much. Seeing she was incorrigible we left off arguing with her and rode slowly and carefully along until within hair a mile of the plain, when, the howling or our victims being plainly heard, we drew rein and held a council of war, the more prudent advising, on account of the coming storm, to postpone our attack until the next evening; they being, however, greatly in the minority, and the ladies dead against them, their objections were over-ruled and we pushed ahead.

On arriving at the edge of the forest, a spectacle met our gaze, which caused the bravest heart amongst us to tremble. Instead of the fifty or sixty wolves we had expected to meet, the plain, as far as we could see in every direction, was covered with moving, fighting masses of dark forms, snarling and howling over pieces of the bait which they were tearing one from the other. Coming to the conclusion that prudence was the better part of valor, we were just about rearing to the nearest village when mad brained Matilda fired her pistol at the nearest group, wounding one severely, and whose howling brought the rest upon us in a body . Falling back about a hundred yards to the place where some decayed trunks of trees had fallen across the road; we halted and formed in square, behind them, awaiting the onslaught.

We had not long to wait. We had hardly formed into line and loosened our revolvers when we were attacked by about five hundred, open mouthed, howling devils, that rushed at our horses’ throats.

Volley after volley we poured in amongst them, every shot tolling in such a mass and covering the ground with writhing, struggling corpses. But as one fell a fresh one occupied its place, and, although the front rank shrunk back in terror as their companions fell shrieking around them, they were forced on again to renew the charge by those in the rear.

Our horses were trembling in every limb as howl upon howl announced the number and ferocity of our foes. Some of those behind at last thinning away, two Russians seized their flasks and, advancing to our breastwork of trunks, laid a heavy train of powder along it.

Just as the front rank again rushed upon us and placed their paws on the train, one of the men snapped a pistol at it.

There immediately arose a bright flash, illuminating the scene of carnage vividly. None or our number had as yet got hurt. The wolves shrank back, conquered by this novel phenomenon, several of their number severely burnt, which they testified by their groans and howls, until their pains were summarily put an end to by their comrades, who invariably worry to death any of their number who may be disabled , and afterwards make a good meal of them, such is their fierce and cruel nature when hungry.

The trick of the train of powder having driven them off for e while, we slowly decamped, and when, as we thought, well out of their hearing, we spurred ahead and made straight for the village of Carachava , where we had intended to spend the night. We had, however, no sooner left our walking gait, and set off at full speed , than we were instantly pursued by large numbers of the persistent devils. We kept on, however, until we reached the village with only one casualty, that of a German gentleman, whose horse slipped and was pulled down and killed before we could interfere to save his life.

The implacable demons followed us right into the center of the village, where we turned and stood at bay, determined to end the business one way or another. The peasants, awakened by our cries and rapid volleys, as well as by the howling and roaring of the cursed wolves, came out in numbers to our assistance. Organizing our body as well as possible, we all dismounted and prepared for the encounter, armed with pistols, scythes, guns, axes, etc.

On rushed the gaunt, hungry looking imps of darkness, open mouthed, with their bloodstained tongues hanging from between their teeth, yelling like the very deuce. Nobly and bravely did the girls then exert themselves, reloading our guns as fast as we fired them, and the peasants dashed manfully into the middle or the pack, murderously wielding their long scythes, mowing off legs and cutting the wretches in two.

Soon it became evident that the wolves were fleeing in every direction , rending the air with their lamentations, and leaving over two hundred of their number on the field of battle, whereas on our side no one was hurt, with the exception of the German before mentioned, whose skull was found a few days afterwards on the road side completely polished.

Thus ended one of the most exciting wolf hunts it was ever my luck to be engaged in. The peasants declared it was seldom they were bold enough to enter so large a village, but they were doubtless mad from hunger.

We all returned home the next day, bearing our promised wolf skins, for which we extorted many kisses from the cherry lips or our pretty mistresses.

Editors note

All hunting stories – old as new – should always be taken with a grain of salt. There is simply no way to accurately fact check a story like this almost 150 years after the incident allegedly took place. It may be 100% true, it may be a blatant lie and it may be anything in between. It is however remarkable how similar the many old stories about starving Russian wolves in winter “super packs” are in describing the behavior of the desperate predators. It is also worth noting that the “super pack phenomenon” has also been reported in our time although much more rarely than in the 19th century and earlier – possibly due to a smaller wolf population that is weary of modern firearms? The latest “super pack” incident was reported in January 2011 around the city of Verkhoyansk in Siberia. There is plenty of other historical examples – here is a few:

From an article in the “True Republican” February 10th 1877:

“THE immense forests of Russia are the home of vast numbers of wolves , which are the terror of small traveling parties , especially in winter , when hunger intensifies the ferocity of the savage beasts. Cowardly when alone or in very small packs, they appear to be aware of the advantages of combination, and congregate in great numbers for the pursuit of their prey. Hundreds sometimes swoop down at once upon a sledge party, and it may happen, when a long distance must be traveled before a place of security is reached, that they will succeed in tearing down the horses and overpowering the traveler by sheer force of numbers. Half the pack may be slain and torn in pieces, and devoured by their comrades, and still the survivors will keep up the dreadful chase. They mind killing as little as mosquitoes, and as long as there are enough left to inspire each other with courage they will pursue and attack. The falling of a horse, the breaking of a trace or runner, any accident that causes a moments delay, is fatal to the travelers. No courage , no strength , no weapons , can avail if the horrible beasts get the chance to spring upon their prey and fasten their dreadful fangs in the throat , which part they always aim to attack . Men may sell their lives dearly, and many a wolfish foe may fall a victim to the bullet or the knife, but this only furnishes more food for the survivors, who feast upon their human prey and the bodies of their comrades alike.”

From an article in “Chicago Examiner” April 9th 1911:

The story was a sensation in 1911 and was published all over the world. Here is the illustration from the French "Le Petite Journal".“VIENNA, April 8.—A terrible story of the fate of a wedding party attacked by wolves in Asiatic Russia is narrated by Die Zeit. The exceptionally severe weather has been the cause of many minor tragedies in which the wolves have played a part, but perhaps none has ever been known so terrible as that now reported, since in this instance no fewer than 118 persons are said to have perished. A wedding- party numbering 120 persons set out in thirty sledges to drive twenty miles from the village of Obstipoff to Tashkent. The ground was thickly covered with snow, and the progress was necessarily delayed, but the greater part of the journey was accomplished in safety. At a distance of a few miles from Tashkent, the horses suddenly became restive, and the speculation of the travelers changed to horror when they discerned a black cloud moving rapidly toward them across the snowfield. Its nearer approach showed it to be composed of hundreds of wolves, yelping furiously, and evidently frantic with hunger, and within a few seconds the hindmost sledges were surrounded. Panic seized the party, and those in the van whipped, up their horses and made desperate attempts to escape, regardless of their companions, but the terrified horses seemed almost incapable of movement. A scene frightful beyond description was now enacted. Men, women and children, shrieking with fear, defended themselves with whatever weapons they could, but to no avail, and one after another fell amidst the snarling blasts. The wolves, roused still further by the taste of blood, rushed toward the leading sledges, and though the first dozen conveyances managed to stave them off for a time, it was only at a terrible cost, since it is asserted that the women occupants were thrown out to be devoured by the animals. The pursuit, however, never slackened, and the sickening carnage went on until the foremost sledge —that containing the bride and bridegroom -—remained beyond the wolves’ reach. A nightmare race, was kept up for a few hundred yards, and it seemed as though the danger was being evaded, when suddenly a fresh pack of wolves appeared. The two men accompanying the bridal couple demanded that the bride should be sacrificed, but the bridegroom indignantly rejected the cowardly proposition, whereupon the men seized and overpowered the pair and threw them out to meet a horrible fate. Then they succeeded in rousing their horses to a last effort, and though attacked in turn, beat off the wolves, and eventually reached Tashkent, the only two survivors of the happy party which had set out from Obstipoff. Both men were in a semi-demented state from their experience.”

An article in New York Times July 27th 1916:

170729NYT

Field test

Norma ECOSTRIKEECOSTRIKE02

Norma’s lead-free copper bullet has been on the market for more than a year. I have had plenty of opportunity to test it in real life…. Here is my conclusion.

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

There is plenty of expanding monolithic copper bullet designs to go around. The ECOSTRIKE from Norma is one of the latest from major manufacturers. As many others it is based on a single slug of copper in its purest – and thus softest – obtainable form. It is CNC-machined in shape with extremely tight tolerances. Plated and mounted with a plastic tip.

What separates different copper bullets from each other is mainly the outer of the bullet which determines it’s external ballistic properties and the inner contours of the nose cavity which are crucial to the terminal ballistic performance. In ECOSTRIKE’s case Norma has opted for a very sleek and ballistically efficient shape with a long and slender tip, a boat tail and a waist design that minimized the bearing surface in order to reduce friction and increase velocity. With a ballistic coefficient of 0.42 this bullet is a good flyer and wind-buster! In my experience, the nose cavity makes the bullet expand reliably upon impact at velocities as low as 650 m/s (2,130 fps) and as high as 950 m/s (3,110 fps). Within this velocity range the bullet will typically stay together in one piece with very close to 100% weight retention (it loses the plastic tip of course so it’s 99.X %)

ECOSTRIKE field test

I have had the opportunity to test the ECOSTRIKE intensively on big game hunts in Europe and Africa as well as on the shooting range. I have been shooting the .30-caliber 150 gr. Version in factory loaded ammunition in .300 Winchester Magnum and .308 Winchester. All in all I have killed approximately 50 animals with the bullet ranging in size from African springbok and European roebuck to blue wildebeest, mountain zebra and large European wild boars. Most of the animals I have killed are in the upper weight range of the animals described. With the .300 my average number of shots per animal is 1.05. The average is based on 42 game animals shot from distances from zero to 400 m+ (440 y). I have not experienced any malfunctions in any respect. Usually the bullet exits. I have only recovered one. That was from a blue wildebeest bull shot from the front. The perfectly expanded bullet was lodged under the skin on one of his hind quarters. This bullet leaves no metal fragments around the wound channel and it is therefore perfectly safe to feed the blood-shot pieces and entrails to the dogs or leave it to the eagles.

In my Mauser 03 hunting rifle in .300 Winchester Magnum the accuracy of the ECOSTRIKE factory load is phenomenal. If I do my part the rifle will consistently print 5-shot groups well below 20 mm (0.8”) at 100 m (110 y). I have won several accuracy competitions with the combination. Best competition result so far was a three shot group at 100 m (110 y) measuring only about 4 mm (0.16″) center to center. It is without doubt the most accurate bullet I have shot in that rifle.

In the .300 the factory load leaves the muzzle at 1.000 m/s (3,280 fps). I find it to have the best-balanced effect on game from about 50 m (55 y) from the muzzle to about 370 m (405 y). Within this window, the effect on the game is comparable with that of premium bonded lead-core bullets. In the .308 Winchester the window is narrower due to the lover muzzle velocity. It works just fine from the muzzle and out to about 200 m (220 y).

To read more about ECOSTRIKE visit the website of the manufacturer (click here!)

ECOSTRIKE01

The ECOSTRIKE numbers…

This is what I think of ECOSTRIKE as an all-round hunting bullet.

Functionality

P09

Why not 10? Because some of the bonded lead-core bullets are still more suited as all-rounders with good effect at lower impact velocities. But this is definitely one of the best lead-free designs and more than good enough for the majority of my hunting.

Quality

P10

The quality of this product is superb. Anything but a maximum score would be unfair.

Value for money

P07

ECOSTRIKE is quite an expensive all-round load. Not compared to the cost of hunting in total but in relation to cheaper ammunition alternatives. However, value for money is not super relevant when it comes to hunting ammunition. I am certainly willing to pay a high price for premium functionality.

Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L

Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L

A new technological milestone

Swarovski dS 5-25x52 P L

Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L

Swarovski’s new rifle scope with laser range finding, ballistic computer and automatic adjustment of the aiming point is by far the most advanced sight for long range hunting the world have ever seen…

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

This is the scope that turned all the heads at the IWA show in Nuremberg. March 3rd 2017 will henceforth be known as a day the world of optics took a great leap into a high-tech future that used to belong in science fiction.

Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L is without comparison the most advanced riflescope in serial production ever. It is also an extremely specialized hunting tool created for a relatively small target group of long-range hunters. In its present configuration, it is far from an all-round solution – but that is a role it was never intended to fill.

The scope is “big news” in more than one sense of the word. At 16 inches long and weighing almost two and a half pounds the scope definitely leaves an impression on top of any rifle. Never the less the design is harmonic, powerful and pretty sleek. Like an Italian super car on top of a rifle!

Technological bonanza

The maker describes the new Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L as the ultimate tool for ”long range hunting”. It could be stalking in mountains or on open plains where the game population must be managed in spite of the fact that it is almost impossible to stalk within normal shooting distance.

The adaption to this particular niche is obvious. 5-25x zoom brings the shooter close to even the farthest targets that he can hope to be able to hit under the given circumstances. A powerful and accurate laser range finder in combination with on-board sensors measuring shooting angle, temperature and air pressure feeds the ballistic computer with high-quality data. Through a Bluetooth connection with the shooters smartphone the unit is calibrated for the load used. The exact aiming point is calculated and physically moved to the correct position in the reticle as the distance to the target is measured. The shooter is set to go in 0.7 seconds after pressing the button.

In comparison to using a separate range finder and work the turrets of the scope, this solution is much faster, more accurate and much more dependable. The room for human error is dramatically reduced and the accuracy of the measurement is improved – especially on the very long ranges – as it is far simpler to hold this unit steady than a regular handheld device.

If the Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L is fed the right data on the load used the shooter will not have to do anything else than measure and shoot. Imagine a Scottish stalker who is supposed to fill a quota of hinds and calves during the cull hunts of the winter. He finds a good spot on a hilltop, points at the first target, measures, shoots and observes. If he sees a good hit, he moves on to the next target and is ready to shoot at a completely different distance in less than a second. Boom, boom, boom, boom…..

The benefits of this sight is however far from limited to the professional hunter. The growing interest for challenging mountain hunts with relatively few but long range shooting opportunities will surely boost the sales of this product. Not because of its ability to fire many fast shots at different distances but because it is able to set the hunter up for what might be the only chance he gets to place an accurate first shot at a great distance. What is it worth not to miss the Marco Polo in Kyrgyzstan? Definitely more than the price tag on this scope!

Challenges

Although many might think that technology this advanced takes the challenge out of the hunt the shooter still needs to be a very good shot to actually hit the target at very long range. This scope will show the hunter exactly where to aim, but it cannot shoot and hit for him as well. A trip to the nearest 500-yard range will quickly get the hunter who imagines that a handsome investment in equipment is the only obstacle between him and infinite range back to reality….

Nobody dodges the wind and its devastating effect on the hunter’s accuracy on long ranges. No present technology can measure the wind along the flightpath of the bullet. The shooter himself can make an educated guess and based on that input the new scope can show him how much he needs to hold into the wind at the shooting distance, which is a great help never offered by a sight before. Few hunters tend to now the wind deflection charts of their loads by heart. I know I don’t….

Battery life and light transmission are two other points to consider. The latter is at 83% far behind the transmission of conventional all round scopes of the same magnitude. That is the inevitable consequence of loads of extra electronic and mechanical components within the tube. It is not however a problem since the scope is specifically developed for types of hunting that practically always takes place in good daylight. The life span of the battery is according to the manufacturer 500 measurements. That should cover a few hunting trips, but as the function of the unit is completely dependent on power it is probably advisable to bring extras as a matter of routine. One thing worth noting is the minimum operating temperature at  -10 °C / +14 °F. It is not THAT cold, so winter hunts might be limited a bit.

We can’t wait to play around with this marvel of technology in real life and get back to you with a field test. It hits the stores of Europe in July. The price tag will be around 3,800 €. That is about 4,000 $ but you do not have to worry about that in North America since the Swarovski dS 5-25×52 P L is not going to be available in the US and Canada any time soon (if ever)…. Probably due to legal reasons.

 

 

Technical Data
Magnification 5-25
Effective objective lens diameter (mm) 48-52
Exit pupil diameter (mm) 9.6-2.1
Exit pupil distance (mm) (Eye relief) 95
Field of view (ft/100 yds / m/100 m) 21.9-4.5 / 7.3-1.5
Field of view (degrees) 4.2-0.84
Field of view, apparent (degrees) 21.5
Dioptric compensation (dpt) -3 to +2
Light transmission (%) 83
Twilight factor acc. to ISO 14132-1 16.1-36.0
Impact point corr. per click (in/100 yds / mm/100 m) 0.25 / 7
Max. elevation / windage adjustment range (in/100 yds / m/100 m) 43/25 / 1.2/0.7
Parallax correction (yds / m) 55-∞ / 50-∞
Objective filter thread M 63×0.75

 

Length (in / mm) 15.87 / 403
Weight (oz / g) 38.4 / 1090
Central tube diameter (mm) 40
Functional temperature +14 °F to +131 °F (-10 °C / +55 °C)
Storage temperature -22 °F to +158 °F (-30 °C / +70 °C)
Submersion tightness 13 ft / 4 m water depth (inert gas filling)

 

Illumination unit
Brightness levels 64
Operating time 500x
Display LCoS monochrome
Measurement range (yds/m) 33-1500/30-1375
Measurement precision (yds/m) +/- 1/1
Angle measurement (degrees) +/- 60
Max. aiming point correction (yds/m) 1120/1024
Add-on program (App) dS Configurator
Operating system iOS from Version 8.1, Android from Version 4.4 KitKat

Breaking news: Zeiss Conquest V6

Breaking news  – Zeiss Conquest V6

Premium scopes at medium prices?!

Zeiss Conquest V6

On the IWA show in Nuremberg starting the 3rd of March 2017 Zeiss will launch its brand new series of rifle scopes. The Zeiss Conquest V6 scope family consists of three scopes to begin with. All of them with a 6x zoom-range.

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

With a 1.1-6×24, a 2-12×50 and a 2.5-15×56 the V6 series cover all essential needs. A driven hunt scope, an all-rounder and a low light performer. Nothing special in the line-up – the interesting part is the features and the prices.

High-end features

According to the brief presentation I saw a little more than a week before IWA and again today on the media day, the new Zeiss Conquest V6 line features some very impressive characteristics and technical solutions.

The scopes are made in Germany. They all feature optional integrated Zeiss rail mounts for super easy, strong and accurate installation on the rifle. They all come with T* coating as well as Zeiss proprietary hydrophobic LotuTec coating on the outer lens surfaces. The bigger scopes even features premium fluoride glass in the objective lens to enhance image quality.

As their bigger brothers in the HT line, they all have optional illuminated reticles and they all use the superfine fiber optic red center dot known from the high-end scopes. The motion sensors known from the HT line are also integrated in these scopes, which makes the light burn longer by automatically turning it off, when the hunter is simply waiting for the chance.

The V6 scopes claim a 92% light transmission, which is the same as the V8 series but a little less than the HT series. It should be more than enough for any nighttime hunting application. It is even possible to choose ASV bullet drop compensator turrets as an option on the two larger models. It is frankly hard to see how this new line of scopes is different from the V8 line on any points other than the zoom range. The features are indeed very impressive – at least on paper. Please remember that all data presented in this text comes from Zeiss. I have only had a chance to handle the scopes shortly on the shooting range today but I would be very surprised if the quality eventually turns out to be disappointing.

This brings me to the most surprising part of this story. The prices of these supposedly high-end scopes seems extremely attractive. The driven hunt scope has a suggested retail price of only 1,395 € while the price tags on the bigger scopes are 1,595 € and 1,695 € respectively. That is a little more than half the prices of their V8 counterparts. If the new Conquest V6 performs as good in real life as they do on paper they will probably sell like hotcakes!

We hope to get back to you soon with a field test of the new Zeiss Conquest V6 scopes!

Consequences of modern hunting. Example #002: American bison

The American bison was saved by hunters

American bison

American bison

It was solely due to the tireless efforts of dedicated recreational hunters that the American bison was saved from going extinct….

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

In just a few decades the endless herds of American bison was reduced to almost nothing by relentless commercial hunting. Between 1840 and 1870, the population went from an estimated 40 million animals to 5-6 million. At the turn of the century there were less than 300 left in total.

The only reason that there were any left at all was that small herds had been secured on private lands at the end of the 1880’s. In the spring of 1886 the well-known bison hunter Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones became worried about the future of the American bison disappearing at an alarming rate. He set out to catch enough animals alive to start a herd of his own.

It was a very close call. “Buffalo” Jones managed to catch 8 calves in a matter of days or maybe even hours before it was to late in that particular location. In a letter to the American Bison Society dated 1912 he recalls the dramatic events of the rescue mission:

I will tell the story of how the great American bison was saved. I roped 8 calves and saved them, although the wolves and coyotes were there by hundreds. As soon as I caught one, I tied my hat to it, as I knew the brutes never touched anything tainted with the fresh scent of man. The next, my coat, then my vest, then my boots, and last, my socks, thus protecting 7. The 8th I picked up in my arms and rode back to the 7th as it was surrounded by wolves and coyotes. When I arrived where it was bound down, I saw the vicious brutes snapping at the sixth one, so reached down and drew up the seventh one and galloped back to the sixth to protect it. I let the two calves down, one with legs tied and the lasso around the eight calf’s neck, the other end of the rope around my horses’ neck. The strain was so great, I fainted, but revived when my boys came up and gave me some whiskey we had for snake bites.

“Buffalo” Jones’ efforts inspired others and the species was saved for the time being. The total population did however continue to decline due to lack of public interest and in the beginning of the twentieth century the buffalo was almost history.

Salvation came in form of enthusiastic hunters and conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinell, “Buffalo” Jones and William T. Hornaday. In 1887 Roosevelt and a number of other “sportsmen” (recreational hunters) founded the Boone & Crockett Club strongly inspired by the fate of the American bison. The members of the club worked hard to put an end to over-exploitation and to save the natural resources for future generations to use in a sustainable manner – these men are widely acknowledged as the fathers of modern American nature conservation.

In relation to the bison George Bird Grinell wrote several articles in favor of saving the buffalo and President Roosevelt hired his friend “Buffalo” Jones as the first game warden of the new Yellowstone National Park where he started to rebuild a buffalo herd in 1902. With the strong support of the president, William T. Hornaday formed the American Bison Society in 1905 with the single purpose of saving the animal from extinction. The Society stocked the new national parks with small breeding herds of buffalo – the first reintroductions of wild animals in American history.

It worked! Today there is more than 500,000 buffalo roaming the North American continent. More than 90% of these animals exist on private land where recreational hunting makes the animals a valuable resource for the landowners. If it had not been for a few passionate hunters these magnificent animals would have been history more than a century ago. This is a fact.

 

A video you must see….

Life returns to Save Valley…Save Valley

In Southern Zimbabwe private landowners in Save Valley have created a fantastic nature reserve in spite of decades of a hostile political climate.

In 2016 they experienced a devastating drought. The situation was extreme and they were forced to feed the game hundreds of tons of hey to save years of hard work building strong populations of large herbivores.  This season they finally got a good rainfall and life is once again returning to the dead bush.

This video was filmed at the beginning of 2017 in the hunting area Humani which is a part of the huge Save Valley Conservancy. The area has been managed wisely for many years by Roger Whittall Safaris to the benefit of the wild African nature. The funding mainly derives from hunting tourism.

Spare a couple of minutes to watch this beautiful video of the rejuvenation of the African bush after one of the worst dry spells for many years. The contrast between the dry and the green bush is breathtaking.

It’s hard not to long for Africa, when you watch this!

Click here to watch the video!

Fieldtesting the Aimpoint Micro S1

Aimpoint Micro S1

We have fieldtested the new Aimpoint Micro S1 shotgun sight on a duck hunt….

Aimpoint Micro S1 in action

Aimpoint Micro S1 in action

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

The new Aimpoint Micro S1 sight will divide the hunters in two camps. Many experienced shotgun shooters and makers will undoubtedly be mildly offended by the mere thought of an optical red dot sight mounted on an over and under shotgun. They will claim that it is completely unnecessary or even a disadvantage for the shooter. They will point out that it is ugly and that it is ruining the aesthetics of classical guns.

I understand the sentiments of the resistance crew. If parallax-free red dot shotgun sights work as they’re supposed to in theory then that will more or less make 150 years of fine tuning the principles of shotgun fitting redundant. The center of the shot pattern will hit the target where you see the red dot regardless of how the gun is fitting or how you have shouldered it. In theory all the shooter have to worry about is the lead and the swing. The question is if it works in real life? I tried it out on clays and mallards to find out!

Aimpoint Micro S1

The sight is a heavily modified version of Aimpoint’s H1 sight for rifles and pistols. The Aimpoint Micro S1 weighs about 100 g (3 oz.) and has an 18 mm (3/4″) window. The dot is 6 MOA – a somewhat larger dot than most shooters prefers for rifle shooting.

You control the light intensity by a knob on the right side of the sight. The battery fuels the dot for about 5 years without ever turning it off. So as long as you change the battery every 3-4 years you never have to turn off the unit or fear to run out of power.

In spite of being mounted very low on the rib of the shotgun the dot is still approximately 10 mm (3/8″) above the conventional bead. This is the greatest disadvantage of the system from a technical point of view. For a perfect fit the comb must be raised accordingly. Alternatively the shooter must lift his head slightly when shooting. On shotguns that are not fitted with an adjustable comb it is recommended to raise it using one of the many aftermarket solutions on the market. Duct tape will also do the trick in a pinch.

The mount is made for steel ribs as they are normally found on over and unders, pumps and semi-automatics. It will not fit a typical side by side. There is no optimum eye relief for an Aimpoint sight. It is therefore entirely up to the shooter to place the sight on the rib. The closer it gets to the eye the greater is the field of view in the window of the sight. On the other hand the housing will also block more of the view the closer you go. During our tests the sight was mounted in the middle of the rib.

Advantages

In theory there are many advantages of this system. Aimpoint sights are completely parallax free. That means that the center of the shot pattern will hit exactly where the red dot is at the moment of firing. This is true regardless of whether you see the dot in the middle of the window or at the edge. Therefore the shooter knows exactly where he is pointing when the shot goes and he only has to focus on lead and swing. Proper fitting and shouldering has less influence on the accuracy of the shooter than with conventional shotgun sights. Shotgun shooting should become simpler and it should be much easier to train a beginner.

It goes without saying that shotgun shooting under low-light conditions is much easier with an Aimpoint than with the conventional non-illuminated sights. Simply because you can’t see the rib and the bead in the dark. Aimpoint also claims that even experienced shotgun shooters shoots better with an Aimpoint on running targets – like rabbits – than without. The bright red dot simply offers the shooter a much clearer reference point against a dark and chaotic background than a dark bead does.

The many cross dominant shooters out there should really find the Aimpoint very helpful as it ensures that the only reference point they get is the right one from the eye at the same side as the shooting shoulder. The dominant eye at the wrong side of the body will not see the dot. No confusing signals for the brain to handle! It could prove to be a “miracle cure” for the millions of shooters suffering from cross dominance problems – studys suggest that we are talking about 25-30% of all people.

The open question when I was introduced to the sight was how well the Aimpoint works when shooting at birds with the bright sky as background. Aimpoint’s own initial trials suggested that very experienced shotgun shooters after a short while of familiarizing themselves with the sight shot as good on flying game with the sight as without the sight. There was no measurable difference.

Tested on clay targets…

I was lucky enough to be included in the small group of gun writers who had the opportunity to try out the prototypes of the new Aimpoint Micro S1 back in October 2016. The purpose of this exercise was of course that Aimpoint wanted experience based feedback to use in the final stages of their product development.

The test event took place in Sweden on a clay shooting range and on a mallard hunt arranged by Mamima Jakt a bit south of Stockholm. We started out with a full day on the range followed by a full day of duck shooting. I am a relatively “rusty” shotgun shooter who has hardly hunted with the shotgun during the last 12 years. I typically only play around with shotguns once or twice a year on the range but when that happens I quickly warm up and shoots fairly well. Whenever I get the opportunity I get very excited and shoot as much as I can. Shotgun shooting is great fun!

The first day of testing at the range was great. We had professional help from shooting instructor Giles Culley from Susegården Shooting School to help us polish our style. In my case there is lots of room for improvement. I did however feel that my results on the range were on par with the results I usually obtain without a red dot sight. I noted that all the shooters felt that they achieved better results than normal on the rabbit targets – exactly as Aimpoint had claimed they would.

Tested on animals…

The next day we had four drives of duck shooting. We were placed in hides along the shoreline and on small artificial islands in huge shallow ponds. We got plenty of varied shooting opportunities during the day. I felt very deadly whenever the ducks presented themselves in a way that gave me good time to shoulder the gun and swing in a relaxed manner. It is instinctively easy to focus on the duck the dot and nothing else.

aimpoints12To be honest I would have been surprised if the obvious chances had proven to be a problem. I was far more interested in experiencing how the systems works under stress. The situations where you find yourself spinning around into an awkward position to throw an extra shot after a crippled duck or when a chance takes you completely by surprise and demands lightning fast reaction. Would the Aimpoint Micro S1 be as efficient for instinctive shooting as a shotgun with conventional sights?

During the day I got plenty of opportunities to test the sight in extreme situations. I am a little bit surprised over the results. I expected that it would take considerably longer to get used to an optic sight on a shotgun than it did. My results on the instinctive shots were far better than I had hoped for. Actually the field trial revealed a very important feature of the sight that I hadn’t thought about. The fact that you immediately see how well (or terrible) you have shouldered the gun instantly improves your shooting. A few times I got the gun shouldered so badly that I didn’t even see the dot and thus instinctively knew that I had to correct. Without that feedback I would have trusted my gut feeling and fired and missed the target without knowing exactly why. I am sure that the real time feedback will quickly make most shooters realize many of the small errors they make which quite instantly guides them to better shooting.

My shooting got better and better all day and when the last mallard plummeted from the sky I had shot 38 ducks in 74 shots. I know that is far from world class shooting, but on the other hand it’s not too shabby considering my initial shooting skills. To be frank I am pretty da*n satisfied.

Will I get one of these sights?

I am absolute thrilled about the possibilities that Aimpoint sights on shotguns opens. That goes for myself and for the overall shooting skill level among hunters in general. This sight will improve my shooting. Not only in poor light and on running game but also in relation to flying game. I base my belief in improved results on the self-educating effect that the real time feedback from the sight automatically leads to. I will certainly experiment a lot with these sights when they become available.

In a greater perspective I see this technology reduce the amount of game crippled by hunters in the future. I am also sure that we will be able to make good shooters out of newbies much faster with this tool at our disposal.

aimpoints13

I simply have a gut feeling telling me, that Aimpoint is on to something important. The Aimpoint Micro S1 is a game-changer for shotgun shooting! I really hope that hunters will set aside their prejudice and give this technology a fair chance. History actually tells us that this is a sound approach …. I know for sure, that there were lots of grumpy old hunters grunting in disgust when optical sights for rifles became widely available a century ago but we ended up appreciating rifle scopes anyway…

Aimpoint Micro S1 will be introduced on the European market at the IWA show in the beginning of March 2017. The price is expected to land at the same level as the Micro H1 rifle sight.

For more information check out Aimpoints website!

Opinion

The worthless life of a chicken ….

super

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

A few months ago there was a another big anti-hunting shit storm in Scandinavia. Members of the Royal Danish family appeared on photos paying their respect to game killed on a driven hunt. People found it disgusting that the crown prince is a hunter. They were shocked that the hunters looked happy after the hunt. They found it ridiculous to line up the dead animals and salute them according to our traditions.  Apparently it was especially appalling that the children of the prince were allowed to participate in the ceremony. Hunters were repeatedly told that the ancient European hunting tradition of honoring the game after the hunt is unnecessary, outdated, barbaric and disrespectful.

Yesterday I went to our local supermarket to buy groceries. Dead animals were lined up in rows in the fridges. Hundreds of dead animals. They sold a whole chicken for 2 €. That includes VAT, supermarket profits, the cost of slaughtering, packaging and transporting the chicken and of course the cost of raising the animal from egg to sub-adult ready for human consumption. On an average Scandinavian salary a person has to work less than 10 minutes to earn enough money to pay that.

I do not think you have to be a rocket scientist to imagine the 2 € life of a chicken. You probably don’t want to think about it, but we all know that deep down everybody knows what kind of life that chicken had. Yet there were lots of happy families with kids filling up their shopping carts with cheap meat for their Saturday dinner. 2 € for a chicken. Hooray! Denial is a powerful mechanism. Nobody in the supermarket stopped to reflect for a few seconds over the life they took when they paid for those chickens. Nobody considered buying a more expensive chicken simply because it had a better life. Meat is meat… right?

Hunters will continue to pay our respect to the animals we kill. We will do it in the woods, in the butchering shed, at the dinner table and on our walls as all hunters all over the world have always done it. We will do it in public as we have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to hide. We will never apologize for that…

Hunting is animal friendly

Hunting is animal friendly!

By Jens Ulrik Høgh

Hunting is animal friendly

In October 2011 the German members of Greenpeace could read an eye-opening editorial in their members magazine claiming that hunting is animal friendly with the headline “Fair, free and healthy”.

The editor, Jens Lubbadeh, clearly summed up his standpoint from the start: “Do you want to eat meat from happy animals? Should it be bio-dynamic, locally produced and climate neutral? No problem – eat more game!”

The editorial, which also explained the ethical, environmental and health benefits of sustainable hunters caused an outcry from Greenpeace’s members. Many of them simply could not bring themselves to support hunting and hunters. But despite the storm of protest the organisation’s leadership stood fast in support of this message.

It sounds like an absolute contradiction that hunting – which of course involves killing wild animals – is in reality by far the most ethical way to put meat on our plates.

Actually it is quite simple to explain the ethical implications of sustainable hunting. Imagine, if you will, two islands which both produce enough food to sustain a winter population of 1,000 deer. Both islands have an equal number of residents, all of whom eat meat.

Stag Island

On the first island – Stag Island – hunting is allowed.

The island’s hunters keep the deer population at a slightly lower number of animals than that there is actually enough winter forage for. This ensures there is plenty of food for all deer during the winter, which will therefore never have to starve. On this islands the hunters believe a winter population of 800 animals is about right. On Stag Island the hunters have also decided to also exert their influence on the deer herd’s composition, so that there are always more females than males. This will lead to the birth of more calves, and therefore a higher production of meat, which is what the hunters actually hunt for. The population is therefore kept at 300 males and 500 females. This results in 400 calves a year, so to maintain the population at the level desired, 400 animals have to also die each year. Natural mortality can never be entirely avoided, but hunters will typically be able to shoot 350 animals per year.

Over a 10-year period 4,000 red deer will die on Stag Island. Of these 3,500 will end up as game meat which is enough to supply the resident islanders with all the meat they need.

Hog Island

On the second island – Hog Island – hunting is not allowed.

On Hog Island the deer population in the spring will be the maximum number of animals for which there is enough food during the winter – that is to say 1,000 deer. Every summer around 400 calves will be born and when food starts to get scarce in the autumn there will be 1,400 animals that will have to face up to the harsh winter months. During the winter food gets more and more scarce, the animals lose weight and eventually the weakest individuals begin to succumb to hunger, disease and the cold. It is mainly a high proportion of the the youngest and oldest animals that die during the winter. On average, each spring, 1,000 very hungry deer will be left on the island. The other 400 succumbing to a natural death, which is usually a quite unromantic, painful and protracted affair.

Over a 10-year period 4,000 red deer will also die on Hog Island without any hunting – the meat ends up as food for scavengers. It is all quite natural.

Industrial meat production.

The inhabitants of Hog Island eat just as much meat  as the inhabitants of Stag Island. Their meat is supplied by the island’s typical pig farm. As a Hog Island pig weighs much the same as an average red deer, the pig farmer on Hog Island needs to produce 350 pigs for slaughter annually to meet demand. These pigs are transported by lorry to an industrial abattoir to be slaughtered after a life (if you can bring yourself to call it that) of 6 months, spent in a cramped stall. For every three pigs that end up on the islander’s dinner plates, another pig dies on the farm and is taken away for destruction. This gives an additional 117 dead pigs annually, bringing the total up to 467 pigs.

Over 10 years 8,670 large mammals will die on Hog Island WITHOUT hunting, compared to 4,000 on Stag Island WITH hunting. It is a simple calculation. As far as the deer are concerned both life and death are better on Stag Island. There is sufficient food during the winter and a hunter’s bullet is a far less distressing death than a drawn out “natural” death.

In most of the western world there is none – or very few – natural predators of the large ungulates. So what happens if the Hog Island people decide to throw in a pack of wolves? With predators the future population of deer will fluctuate greatly. As the deer population will never exceed the carrying capacity of the area there will on average be a significantly smaller number of deer on Hog Island with natural predators in the equation. Fewer deer born equals fewer deer dying. But there will still be dying significantly more large mammals on Hog Island WITHOUT hunting than on Stag Island WITH hunting.

If the inhabitants of Hog Island took the step of all becoming vegans “for the sake of the animals”, the number of animals dying on their island would come down to the same level as that on Stag Island – or lower if natural predators are introduced and left unmanaged. The deer of Hog Island will however still experience either starvation every winter or death “by jaws and claws” in contrast to their counterparts on Stag Island, so if deer were able to reflect over their lives, the Stag Island model WITH hunting would always be the most attractive.

Sustainable hunting

The example of these two islands of course only exists on paper. But even though the real world is far more complicated, the principles also hold true on a larger scale as long as the hunting is managed in a sustainable manner. Managing a population of game animals sustainably actually means that hunting has no influence on the population size. Hunting simply replaces a part of the natural mortality rate, which would occur under all circumstances. When it comes down to brass tacks, sustainable hunting is all about taking care of a valuable natural resources. Throughout the western world governments employ wildlife biologists, who are financed from the millions hunters pay for their hunting, to ensure populations of game animals are carefully monitored  so they can be managed sustainably.

Unfortunately there are far too many people on the planet for the demand for meat to be met with meat from game alone. In reality this resource only could supply a fraction of our meat consumption. But for every pheasant, goose or roe deer that ends up on our plates, we have done the environment, animal welfare and ourselves a little service. The more game we can harvest for meat in a sustainable manner, the better it is for animal welfare, the environment and our own health in general.

The flip-side of the coin

It would of course to be dishonest not to include the animals wounded by hunters into the ethical equation. Animals are wounded when they are not killed outright by the hunters shot, which is a situation all true hunters will do everything to avoid (man is the only predator on the planet that aims for a quick, clean pain-free kill). No matter how careful hunters are, wounded game will never be eliminated totally – the animals hunted are wild and the hunters are only human – mistakes happen! On average, when hunting with a rifle, far less than five percent of the animals shot are wounded, and the majority of these animals are found quickly and put out of their misery.

Without in any way trying to brush the wounding problem under the carpet, wounded animals, are to a great extent, acceptable when the total ethics of hunting are taking into consideration. It may sound cynical but there is no reason to believe that a wounded animals suffers more than an animal dying from hunger, cold, disease or injury. Return to our island example ALL the deer on Hog Island will experience a natural – and therefore often lengthy and painful – death, while the vast majority of the deer on Stag Island will die in seconds, never knowing what hit them.

Heroic hunters?

Are hunters the environmental heroes of our time? Do we go hunting primarily to save the world and be kind to animals? No – not really. We hunt because we enjoy the lifestyle and the total experience of the hunt, which can be very different from hunter to hunter. Typically this involves a continuous process with elements of habitat management, dog training, target practice, outdoor life, social activities with other hunters, hunting and the subsequent preparation of meat and possibly trophies.  Of course the fact that hunting is sustainable and makes a positive contribution to animal welfare, the environment and healthy living is a vital component of this lifestyle.

But nobody is trying to hide the fact that we hunt because it is exciting, and it is also no secret that hunters are not overwhelmed by guilt every time he or she shoots and animal. In fact there is absolutely no reason to be – quite the reverse.