In my part of the UK, namely the soft South of England, this winter we avoided most of the snow and heavy rain, while a frosty morning was a thing of rarity, resulting in a burst of the activity, for which rabbits are famous. Many does are now suckling their second brood, and it was time this week to get down to some serious culling.
Parking is always a problem with this permission, it is landlocked, with access limited to the tenant only, which means being dropped off by my wife, while she shops in the nearby town, or as in this case, doing a drive-by of the NHS hospital car park looking for a space, or as is usual, there are no spaces and I give it a miss to shoot elsewhere. Today there was a space and with a two hour parking limit, unloaded the van, climbed the stile and began the half mile trek across the public footpath to the twenty acre field, looking straight ahead, as I passed shaggy longhorn cattle and frisky young bullocks, the latter seeming to delight in thundering up behind a walker, stopping just in time to avoid trampling them to death.
The tenant breeds horses on the land, the footpath an ancient droveway that is now a road to nowhere, while it is bordered by blackthorn riddled with rabbit warrens, which over the years I have kept in check, but could see before I’d negotiated the gate, rabbits in all directions, already sitting up waiting for the metallic clang of the latch, as I closed it behind me. The sound was the equivalent of a starting gun, with rabbits running everywhere back to safety. One made a hundred yard sprint from the open field to stop at the hedge and I got down to the ground, then locked out the rifle bipod, before reaching into my bag for a clip of bullets. Sighting through the telescopic scope, the rabbit was hidden behind long grass, but raising my head he was still there, so in sidewinder snake style, I slid over to the left, until I could just see it’s ears. Another shift to the left would put me in full view, too risky with these spooky rabbits, so I waited, cross hairs on the ears, ready for the next move, which proved fatal for my target, it dropping from vision the instant it raised it’s head and the trigger was squeezed.
At first I couldn’t find this young buck, thinking that I’d missed, although the CZ HMR is deadly accurate, doubts crept in, when drawing a blank a hundred yards out. Shrugging my shoulders, I walked on down the hedge line toward more visible rabbits in the distance, only to discover the buck another forty yards on, the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet entering just under the left ear.
Before moving on, I skinned and cleaned my kill ready for the game bag, having the hunch that this might be a busy session, my rifle and kit being heavy enough without surplus weight. The blackthorn gives good cover, growing out into the field in places and allowing grassy bays to grow in others.
Working my way toward a group of rabbits further down the field, one hopped out just fifty yards away. I pressed back into the hedge, adjusted my scope down and took a chest shot to hand, sending it skyward with a reflex jump.
Picking this one up, I’d disturbed the group further down, watching them white tail it back to rough ground, where a bramble bush grows over the warren and walked to within a bush a hundred yards, from where I could cover all exits. Having carried out my paunching ritual on number two in the cover of the bush, I settled down to wait for number three. Rabbits are like buses, you wait for ages, then several come along at once. One second the area was empty, then four appeared and began feeding. The first was an easy measured shot, the second a snap shot at the first to stop, after the initial crack of the rifle sent them into a dither, the others retreating back to cover.
Two fat does from two head shots seconds apart, are testimony to the accuracy of this rifle, dropped without a twitch.
Time was now at a premium, if I was avoid a parking fine and I cleaned these out in record time, only to look up to see another rabbit on the grass, where I’d shot these from. Pest control is the name of the game and he sat patiently in the sun, while I took aim.
A foregone conclusion, I was back over to sort number five, my bag now weighing me down, working up a sweat as I covered the ground back to the gate. Taking one last look round, there was a grey shape in the shade of the trees on the pathway, another big rabbit was feeding unaware of the danger ninety yards away. I got down prone, the bipod allowing another, what you see is what you get shot, that toppled it over with an expanding bullet through the eye, not a pretty sight on the other side.
I made it back to the car park with ten minutes to spare, feeling like I’d just competed in the London Marathon, downing a warm half bottle of Lemon Barley Water in the time it takes to say it. This session only covered one side of the field and had barely made a dent in the rabbit population I’d viewed from the gate earlier. Pressure, pressure pressure. This was hard work.