A warm wet spring, saw rapid growth of the grasses and thistles on most of my shooting permissions this year, good news for the cattle farmers, but not for the shooter required to keep the rabbit population in check. One of my farms has had little attention from me this year, due first to the absent farmer penning his animals close to the yard, creating a living security barrier to keep people off his land, including me, then, when he finally let the beasts onto the land, due to the soft ground, the grass was so long, that the rabbits were hidden. Arriving this week, the grass had been cut and the hay gathered in.
This small farm is on a reclaimed landfill site, where methane is drawn off to power an electricity plant, while on two sides, land fill continues with huge trucks dumping loads of rubbish, to be bulldozed flat and covered with earth. Not your rural ideal, but the farm is a haven of wildlife, returned to beef production, all be it, used to rear and fatten young bullocks and heifers, while a large bull keeps guard over his charges.
With calves in tow, these cattle can be unpredictable and having already been bumped a few times by over enthusiastic bullocks, I stay well clear and with the land divided down the middle, opt for the ruminant free zone every time.
The land slopes down toward the active landfill site and I circled round to approach the top of a tree lined hedge line, that harbours a large warren, several rabbits being visible in the distance. If the land had been flat, I could have set up with the HMR on the bipod and picked off my targets from this position, but the curve of the slope masked the rabbits from view, when prone; a fifty yard crawl being required. Although cloudy, it was a hot sultry day and the sweat was soon dripping from my brow, as I shuffled forward, pushing the rifle and shooting bag ahead of me. Still the rabbits were hidden, just the tips of their twitching ears visible.
My bipod is a Harris, extendable to 27 inches and now within fifty yards of the first group, I couldn’t chance getting closer, so my next tactic was to extend the legs out to 15 inches, about the max for prone shooting. Through the scope, I could just make out the head of a rabbit and fired, only to see a puff of dirt and grass as the bullet slammed into the curve of the slope twenty yards away, the rifle firing low at that point, due to scope height. Untroubled, the rabbits continued feeding and now the bipod legs were extended further to over 20 inches, allowing me to sit up and shoot with the legs resting on my boots. Four, or five rabbits were now in clear sight over the brow and selecting the largest, took head shots on two in quick succession, before the rest scuttled back through the hedge.
Sitting it out for another ten minutes, I waited for more movement ahead of me, until another large rabbit stepped through the wire fence 80 yards away. The Harris legs were lowered to the default setting, my target stopping on a raised hummock long enough for a clear shot behind the eye, that sent it into a back flip. Scanning with my scope further along the hedge line, more rabbits were out, but beyond them, workers were still on the site beyond the field 250 yards away, well within range of the .17 bullet, if a ricochet occurred. With no more safe shots available, I gathered up and cleaned my prizes.
Moving to the other side of the field, I shot another three in the next hour and decided to call it a day, before the dreaded traffic built up for the drive home. Fortunately the farmer arrived as I was climbing the yard gate and was able to show him my spoils for the afternoon. I assured him that with the grass gone, I could get back down to business again.