Magtech 7002 rabbit season opener through the woods

February 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Over the New Year, extreme cold and wet conditions saw me preparing for a new season by stripping and cleaning my rifles. The Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rimfire benifitted from the full strip treatment, removing all those sticky carbon deposits, that can slow the return of the hammer and hamper the automatic feeding of the next bullet, while also oiling the trigger and hammer mechanisms. The barrel I left alone, as the rifle is as accurate as ever, a recent bullet comparison test giving very agreeable results for a .22 semi auto at 50 yards. A .22 barrel needs time to lead up after cleaning, and should only require cleaning if accuracy falls off.

A period of freak warm weather for February, saw me visiting the equestrian centre for the first time in months to check out the current rabbit stock, which had appeared to be struggling in November. First impressions can be misleading, but after parking the van, I walked twenty yards to look through the gate of a small paddock, which although empty of horses, had two rabbits on view 80 yards away. Before I could do a holdover shot at them, they trotted into the undergrowth at the far end. Turning to leave, a rustle through the brambles to my right revealed another rabbit, only feet away, that bounded over the bank and along the ditch out of sight. This was a good sign.

urbanfieldsportsman 1141

Sunshine and little breeze had fooled the rabbits into thinking that it was spring, but it had also attracted the young female horse owners, who were out enjoying their half term school holidays exercising their mounts, by cantering round the various rides at the 80 acre centre. With every chance of being disturbed, while patrolling these open areas for rabbits, the only option was try the wood.

urbanfieldsportsman 1138

The floor of the wood in February is usually carpeted in snow drops, but the cold weather had them behind, just pushing through the leaf litter, while now they were really confused in the warm sunshine and trying to set flowers. My attention was drawn by dry leaves being displaced at a trot and expected to see a pair of muntjack deer disturbed by my presence, but just caught sight of three big rabbits running from cover, full tilt across the open ground of the wood to bushes at the other end. Two collided and went tumbling in their haste to get to safety. With horse riders in the vicinity, a wild shot at them would have been irresponsible and dangerous, but a studied look to see where they had stopped was more valuable.

Walking into the brush to my side, I found two new holes, the scrapes fresh earth. The rabbits had been caught feeding in the open away from their holes and would probably return soon across the open ground, and found cover against a tree trunk, with a clear view to where the rabbits had taken refuge. Lying prone, with the Magtech rested on my gun bag, I waited for movement at the far end 50 yards away. A rabbit appeared, sitting up to test the air and I took aim, a clear view in the scope, illuminated by the sunlight. A gentle squeeze of the trigger and it toppled over. Another unseen rabbit bolted forward into the cover of another bush. After ten more minutes, I walked over to the bush to see several holes among the roots, then down to collect my prize.

rabbits 099

This large buck won’t get the chance to father any more offspring, but walking further into wood, a group of four kits shuffled away into the undergrowth, as fast as their little legs would take them, so maybe he has done his work already. On my November visit, I bemoaned the fact that I had been too successful in my shooting efforts, but now could see that they have been busy, while I have been away. Passing out of the side of the wood, I had a clear view along two of the rides, where at the far end of one, another rabbit was clearly visible sitting up on it’s haunches. At 150 yards it was well beyond the range of the Magtech, but there were two options, one to work my way toward it using the sparse cover offered by the bushes at the ride edge, or cut back into the wood to cut down the distance and hope that the rabbit was still there, when I emerged at the edge of the ride. Choosing option two, I made fast progress through the wood and crossed a ditch to slide up to the edge of the ride, pushing my gun bag out first, then positioning the rifle on it, before moving round to sight through the scope, while prone. The rabbit was still there, head down feeding about fifty yards away. Confident with a head shot, there was no arguing with a 40 grain bullet and the rabbit had enjoyed it’s last meal.

rabbits 097

Turning back into the wood toward a large warren, I was disappointed to see that the whole area had been taken over by badgers, with fresh digging extending out into the path, where a large hole was just waiting to trip a horse, or human. Gathering up some dead branches, I filled the hole as best I could, stuffing them deep into the passage, leaving a few protruding above the surface as a visual marker. Intending a few visits at dusk later in the season, snapping an ankle in one of these holes would not be welcome.

rabbits 101

Following round the path, a small group of rabbits were feeding on an open patch of ground and I stepped back into cover, moving as close as possible, before getting down on the ground to peep round the base of a bush. Two were still visible about forty yards away and pushed the bag forward as a rest, while inching out into the path. One sat up, presenting the perfect target, the shot flipping it over on it’s back. Swinging round for the second, I had a view of a white tail flashing away into the tangled undergrowth.

rabbits 100

These were all big old bucks, that will go toward my next batch of bunny burgers  http://www.urbanfieldsportsman.com/index.php/bunny-burgers-with-chorizo/ although I will save the loins for a tastier dish.

No doubt the equestrian centre owner will soon be complaining about the rabbits again and I will do my best to keep them down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pike among the red fins, spoil a red letter day at Braybrooke fishing lake

February 21, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Good reports from friends of catches of roach, rudd and crucian carp, drew me back for a second visit to Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club’s Jeans pond. Almost hidden by trees, this quiet little haven sits within a recreation ground, surrounded by a crowded housing estate north of my local town, where the recently formed community club, have been successfully working to regenerate a once neglected area, for the benefit of all.

braybrooke 034

Warming winds from the Caribbean brought spring time temperatures on this February afternoon, although it also meant swirling gusts that rippled the surface in all directions. Four slices of liquidised white bread and a slice for the bread punch, were all I needed for a few hours fishing, setting up my pole to fish 8 metres out at peg 13. Lucky for some?

braybrooke 038

Dropping a couple of small balls of bread either side of my float, I expected the usual instant response of the float sinking out of sight, but it needed a couple more balls and regular casts to allow the 5 mm pellet to slowly fall through the baited area, before a very welcome dip of the float brought the first of many roach to my net.

braybrooke

It may have been a slow start, but I was soon in machine mode, cast, allow float to sink, strike, feed the pole back and break down to the last two metres to net, or swing in a fish. It was all roach, some five inches, some up to ten inches, but the rhythm was the same, the pole elastic taking the strain of better fish like the one below.

braybrooke 030

Then it happened. Feeding back the pole, I’d just released the top two joints, when a pike grabbed the roach I was bringing in. The elastic stretched out into the pond, as I tried against the strain to reconnect the extra lengths of pole to be able to control the pike. Too late, the float pinged back, the line cut by razor sharp teeth. The hook link had been 2.6 lb line to a size 16. I now tied on a size 14 barbless to 4 lb line. If the pike took again, there was now more of a chance to land it. Feeding a couple more small balls of bread, the swim gradually built up to speed again, then a small roach was snatched off the hook, as it was being brought across the surface. The pike was back. The swim went dead.

I’d invested an hour of fishing time, plus bait to the swim already, so fed again, only for a nice roach to be seized. This time the pole was at full length and the pike dived away against the weight of the pole, before letting go of the roach.

braybrooke 032

A lucky survivor, the roach had been grabbed across it’s lower back, causing minor damage to each side around the dorsal and anal fins, although the hook had ripped the mouth. It went into the keepnet for safe keeping, showing no signs of the trauma.

It was time for a cup of tea and a sandwich, while I considered the pros and cons of  continuing in this swim, but the thought of landing this unseen leviathan kept me going. Once upon a time, in the long distant past of my youth, I would have set up a heavy float, with a treble hook rig and cast out a roach as a live bait, until the pike took on my terms, but with live baiting banned at Jeans pond and a different enlightened mindset, I decided to soldier on.

It was a slow start again and the roach seemed to have gone, rudd having moved in, taking on the drop.

braybrooke 033

Shallowing up, I was back in the groove once more, these rudd being clonkers, although there were a few lipless wonders among them, evidence of barbed hooks and poor handling.

braybrooke 037

The best of this bunch was a golden rudd, again without an upper lip, that fought well against the heavy pole elastic.

braybrooke 039

Possibly twelve ounces, this rudd and his friends were  building a respectable weight in my net and was hoping to top ten pounds, before the afternoon was out, but whether it was the sun sinking into the trees, or Mr Toothy the pike, I don’t know. The bites dried up. The other anglers around the pond were packing away their gear, but I was not ready yet and balled in the last of my crumb. With no bites at four feet, where I had been catching the rudd, I slid the float up two feet and went back down for the roach.

It was all systems go again with two, or three ounce roach every cast, then lifting a roach up on the strike, the elastic pulled out again. I lowered the pole to the water to take off the tension and waited for the pike to turn the fish, but it hadn’t read my script and kept going to my left. I put on two more lengths of pole and followed it, the elastic stretching deep into the gloom of the pond, while my carbon pole was taking on a dangerous curve. It was stalemate for a while, before the pike turned back toward the bank, shaking it’s head, before surging across in front of me to stop for a sulk.  Convinced that I had the better of this still unseen fish, I was tempted to lift the pole, but was restricted by the alder over the water. Keeping the pressure on, the float came to the surface, then was gone again with another run. Ping! The hook line had gone again, cut like a knife.

I finished off my tea, then tied on a new hooklink to find the roach still there. I doubted that the pike would back after that and felt that at least I had taught it a lesson, although my heart was not in the session any more and packed up after a few more small roach.

braybrooke 043

As I pulled my net from the water, the sound of many fish splashing, then the weight as I lifted it out, made me think that I had reached my target 10 lbs, but the scales tell the truth and they settled at 8 lb 8 oz. In the circumstances, a really good weight for the cost of a third of the price of a 40p Tescos white loaf.

 

Carp put a bend in the rod at last

February 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Due to my recent reports of pollution on my local river, the Environment Agency are keeping me informed of their actions to improve the conditions on this urban waterway, beginning with the removal of trees to improve access for anglers, while allowing more light to reach the river bed. Meeting the local EA officer for a chat in the car park and a walk along the bank to view their intentions, which also will include work to improve the flow, plus the restocking of chub and roach to replace those lost, filled me with hope, but also a feeling of grief for the fish lost.

Returning home for lunch in the sunshine, produced a growing itch within me, that needed to be scratched; putting a bend in a rod, but time was against me.  I’ve been promising myself a lure fishing session on a pike filled canal 15 miles away, but that will have to wait for another day. With a carp pond only half a mile down and with wifely permission fresh in my ears, half a dozen slices of bread were whizzed up in the liquidiser, before the van was loaded ready for the short drive to the carpark.

carp 042

The pond had it’s usual mix of bird life, mallards, plus the noisy Canada geese, which had been joined by a dozen overwintering mandarin ducks, the drakes showing off their plumage to full effect.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Before tackling up my 12.5 ft Normark float rod, I mixed up a tray of bread crumb and ground bait, wetting it down to soak. The plan is then to set up ready to fish, while keeping an eye out for a member of the duck feeding fraternity to arrive with a bag of bread.The ducks, especially the geese, can spot a feeder from a hundred yards and gather at the water’s edge in anticipation. While the chaos of the feeding process is under way, I lob tennis ball sized clumps of ground bait out into the swim, in this instance six balls in a rectangle 15 to 20 yards out. Being shallow, the balls need to break up on contact, to avoid the geese coming over later for a feast from the bottom.

carp 046

Using a modified pole float, with a fine tip, I cast a double punched 7 mm pellet of thick toasty bread into the baited area and waited. Although flat calm there was a drift on the pond from right to left and after mending the line, the twitch had attracted a fish, the float dipping, almost to the tip, then popping up. On the third dip I struck. Nothing. Bait gone. Rebaited , I cast into the same spot for a repeat performance, this time the float holding under. Missed again. With the float carrying all the weight and the hook link free to swing, the fish were just sucking at the bait with their lips. I added 3 inches to the depth and recast. After initial interest, the float remained static. Maybe the bait was gone? I lifted the rod slowly to see if the bait was on and the surface erupted as a carp was on for a second, watching a V shape zoom across the surface.

Time was getting on. I hadn’t started, until 2:30 pm, it was now 3 o’clock. Single bubbles were beginning to appear on the surface of the baited area, while a dark mud stain was visible. The fish were there rooting through the ground bait, but being very casual with the bread bait. Finally a proper bite, the float slowly sinking away, as I struck, taking up the bow in the line with a sweep, that made soft contact with something. It was carp already swimming toward me, that exploded with power, once it felt the hook. At last a bend in the rod right through to the butt, as the unseen fish swerved away from the bank making for the island, while I backwound at half speed to slow it down. With 6 lb line to a size 14 barbless, there were no fears of a break, but with plenty of snags on the bottom, there are no guarantees. The fish came round in a circle, close to the bank, just beyond my landing net, then rolled. A nice common. Continuing to roll, I pulled it toward my landing net and in. Phew! that was hard work.

carp 043

22 inches of brute power, not pristine with slight tail damage, but just what I needed to break my duck. The hook had been barely holding the top lip, coming out once the pressure was off. Now confident that I had it sussed, I missed the next bite. Sitting with my hands on my knees, I had watched the float dive away with the line following and made a grab for the rod too late. At least the bites were regular and the next strike made firm contact with a much smaller common, that seemed unable to understand that I was in charge, diving all over the place, coming to the net at the third attempt.

alls 010

The baited area was now stained with black mud from fighting and feeding carp, however, casting to a recent bubble usually brought an immediate response of interest, the float dipping a few times, followed by a slow sink. The next fish was another biggy, heading straight for the island at a speed I could not stop, the line singing in protest as it reached the shallows of the island, the carp rolling in a foot of water, before everything went solid. It had snagged me and dumped the hook. Pulling for a break, a line of bubbles indicated the the snag was free, a bundle of twigs dropping it’s contents as I reeled it back

carp 044

How do they do this, transferring the hook to a branch in seconds. Tying this lot together was a tangle of 20 lb line, possibly from a night fisherman overcasting into the trees. Once free, I cut the line up with my scissors, before finding a litter bin. If a duck, or goose were found tangled in this heavy line, the authorities would soon call a halt to fishing on this pond.

I was still missing bites. Leaving them too long often meant no bait, the bread softening up in the water, being sipped in like soup by the carp. It could take ten minutes for a bite to develope, or fail. Next bite will be a fish. Then it was.

alls 084

About two pounds, I thought it was a bigger carp, pulling hard to my left, trying to find sanctuary among the tree roots along my bank, but giving up against pressure of rod and reel. It had been a while since the second carp, the sun had sunk behind the houses, a cool breeze was beginning to blow across the pond toward me and without my winter layers of clothing was beginning to feel the February chill.

With my need to catch a rod bender satisfied with three carp, I was ready to pack up, gathering my bits and pieces together, when looking up I couldn’t see my float. It had been right out in front of me, but I now spotted it close to the bushes on my right. Reeling up the slack, I swept round in a strike and was in again, mud stirred up by the turbulence of another much larger common swirling up to the surface, following the fish as it disappeared round the corner out of sight. Side strain and backwind turned the forward motion out into the open water, where line was regained and the golden flank of another common carp momentarily broached the surface. The fight was still on, but I was winning, each pass bringing it closer to the net, until success, it was in. Needing both hands to grip the net and lift it onto the bank.

carp 022

What a tub. This fat common was in danger of running aground in the shallows at my feet and if I needed a bonus fish, this was it. Just a second with the disgorger and the hook came free from the side of it’s mouth. A minute later, the net was lowered into the water and the broad back submerged like a submarine and the carp was gone.

These carp give you quite a workout and certainly felt in need of a cup of tea, as I pulled the trolley back to the van.

Blankety, blank defeats optimism on poisoned river

February 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Despite a major oil spill on my local river, a flood seemed to have improved the water quality and a couple of anglers reported catching a good net of roach and chub, but before I could get down for a test fishing session, more oil was seen pouring from a drainage outlet of the town. Ever the optimist, I decided to take the short drive to the river anyway, to see for myself, but first impressions were not good.

cut 169

A small boom was covering the outlet from one of the drainage tunnels, while a larger boom stretched the full width of the weir, all very serious stuff, backed up by yet another boom reaching across the gravel shallows, fifty yards down stream, which was visibly catching surface scum.

cut 168

 

Below this the river appeared normal, the local duck population looking in fine health, as they gobbled down bread offered by school children enjoying a half term break.

My target swim was a few hundred yards further down the path, a spot where a recent tree fall had reduced the river by half, creating a deep, smooth flowing run about three feet deep.

cut 167

I had been saving this swim since the summer, then it had produced a steady supply of roach, rudd, perch and chub, plus the odd skimmer bream, all caught off the rod top, where they were queuing up to take the maggot bait. Two winters ago it was almost exclusively quality roach, that had seized my bread punch pellets.

roach 024

Today conditions seemed perfect, a nice green tinge and gentle flow, would have had my anticipation on full alert, but I had already spotted pools of oil reflecting up from shallow depressions, left stranded by the high water at the weekend. Bearing in mind that the fishing may be difficult, I selected a small stick float rig with a size 18 hook and punched a 5 mm pellet out, to start proceedings, following an egg shaped ball of liquidised bread down the swim.

For the next hour I rang the changes, running through shallow, over depth, holding back and laying on. Not a ripple, or a dip of the float to encourage me. The bread remained on the hook, unless tested by myself for softness. I had always assumed that, if I had been able to trot as far as the overhanging tree, a chub would take the bait every time, but had never been able to put it into practice, due to the float being dragged under by a fish long before it got that far. Last resort was to break a small worm in half and put it wriggling on the hook. Surely a small perch, or gudgeon would oblige? Not a touch. Various people stopped to ask if I’d managed to catch a fish, all aware of the recent pollution. One couple, regulars on this stretch had also not seen a bite, when fishing the day before.

The last Ace up my sleeve was to pack up and drive a couple of miles downstream to where water surges over a weir from the town water treatment works. Even on the coldest of days, this swim produces double figure nets of roach and chub, with the likelyhood of a bonus bream, or carp. This could not fail me.

cut 170

Oh, yes it could! Now tackled up with a 14 ft rod and a 4BB stick, I fed balls of bread to my left to drift into the faster water coming over the weir, which back eddies into the flow from the main river. The hot spot has always been at the edge of the foam, holding back bringing a sail away bite every time. After an hour, chub and roach would venture up into the slower water to hoover up the bread crumb draping the bottom. Not today thank you! Again a worm was ignored, even when held back and trotted down the foam. I usually complain to my wife about this swim, the constant leaning out over the high bank to net fish, giving me back ache. This time it was complaining about having blanked twice from two different swims on the same afternoon.

My only hope is that the fish are still there, but put off their feed by the chemicals drifting down to them, although as the water coming over the weir is from a source way above the pollution, those fish would not have been affected, so what is going on? Time will tell.

urbanfieldsportsman 964

Just one example of the variety, that this swim could produce, even a carp putting in a surprise appearance.

Winchester .22 42 gn subsonic versus RWS 40 gn subsonic field test

February 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

rabbits 090

A letter from the Thames Valley Police dropped onto my door mat this week. Before tearing it open open, the fear of a speeding fine filled my mind, had I been caught by a hidden speed trap? No, it was a reminder that my Firearms Certificate was due to run out in six months and that I needed to renew it as soon as possible, to avoid not being covered. When I last renewed, the whole process, including a visit from the local Firearms Officer, had taken under six weeks. Now due to the “current peak renewal period” it was now six months minimum.

Terrorism raises it’s head in all walks of life today and no less with legally held firearms, various government departments processing information back and forth, with more detailed intelligence checks needed by the Information Research Bureau, including contact with an applicant’s GP and deeper checks on referees. My information is the same as my last two applications and hope for a clean run through. I will be putting in a variation on the new .17 WSM (Winchester Super Magnum) bolt action rimfire. Maybe that will slow it down.

One of the requirements, when applying, is that the current certificate has to be sent along with the application form. What’s the problem you say, well without the actual certificate, ammunition cannot be purchased, as all bullets bought have to be written by hand on the back of the certificate, along with the signature and number of the Registered Firearms Dealer at the time of purchase. This means that my stock of ammunition needs to last at least six months, until I receive my new certificate.

rabbits 093

HMR ammunition has been unavailable at my RFD for months with promises of a new batch in the country “any day now” for at least a month. Only able to purchase 200 at a time, I’m already well into the last 100, so do I hang on for a few weeks in the hope of a delivery, or end up running out once the warm weather arrives? With two new permissions to explore this is a possibility.

rabbits 095

.22 subsonsonic ammunition is readily available, but my semi automatic Magtech will only recycle certain brands. Eley subs were the best through this rifle, then they became unavailable in my area. I tried 40 grain Winchester, but these jammed on every other round. Recommended German made RWS, I tried them and they worked well, being accurate and quiet. Having bought 500, I was now down to the last 200 and in need of a top up, but guess what? The RFD has stopped stocking them too.

rabbits 096

Winchester have recently brought out a 42 grain bullet with slightly more power than the RWS, which is supposed to give better recycling in a semi auto, being heavier with a speed difference of 1065 FPS to the slower 990 FPS of the RWS. I bought a box of 50 and set off to my nearest permission to give them a comparison field test.

rabbits 094

It was a cold, damp, but still afternoon and I set up two targets side by at fifty yards, checking the zero on another target using the RWS. The zero had not moved and single shots gave hits in and around the 10 mm bull. Ideal for rabbit head shots. Of these ten shots, one did not recycle. Firing ten of the Winchester, there were no misfires and similar accuracy, although the report through the silencer was deeper in tone, but not loud. Happy so far.

rabbits 092

Moving on to the test targets, I fired five RWS  shots in five seconds, a good test of the semi auto Magtech. The first shot went straight through the bull, two edged the 10 mm bull and the other two hit the main target area with a maximum deviation to the left of 20 mm centres, these two being the last fired. Maybe warming of the barrel, or pilot error, but pretty good for rapid fire and a certain kill on any rabbit.

rabbits 091

Next up was the Winchester 42 grain, again similar results, one in the bull, two others edging and two out to the left, the furthest at 22 mm centres, but an almost identical pattern as the RWS. Most of the RWS were just below the centre of the bull, while the Winchesters were above, possibly due to the extra speed and power of the bullet giving less drop despite the additional weight.

This test was enough to give me the confidence to buy another 300 Winchesters  and with .22 High Velocity Remingtons already in the ammo box, the top up brings me near my 650 limit for .22 rimfire.

Hoping to try out the Winchesters on a rabbit, I went for a walk along the hedgerows, but nothing was on show and with the light drizzle turning to sleet, I headed back to the van.

urbanfieldsportsman 465

A post script to this blog was a phone call saying that my 17 Hornady were now in stock, so it was a quick drive to the RFD to use the FAC to buy enough ammunition to see me through the application period. The assistant in the sports shop said that I would be lucky to get the new certificate in six months, as he has been waiting for nine!