Festive pheasant pasties with sweet potato

December 23, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Gifted three brace of pheasants by a shooting friend, I occupied one end of the kitchen, while my wife was busy at the other end. The birds appeared to have run the gauntlet of several guns before hitting the deck and with several entry wounds in each, they were unsuitable for roasting, but ideal candidates for some pheasant pasties, alongside more of my popular pheasant burgers with apricots. With only days before Christmas, my wife had her sausage roll and mince pie production line in progress, getting ready for the annual influx of family to our home. This gave me the idea to try pasties with a savoury twist, by adding spicy mincemeat with a dash of whisky. Instead of traditional swede, I also substituted sweet potato, giving a touch of the exotic to a humble pastie.

The end result, a sweet tasting pasty more suited to accompany the after dinner nibbles and mince pies, than the main course. Offered up warm and sliced, they were the perfect match for late evening mulled wine. Hope there are some left for the New Year Bash.

Ingredients

600 g Minced Pheasant pieces (Coarse Blade)

200 g Sausage meat

400 g Potato, diced into 10 mm cubes

400 g Sweet Potato, diced into 10 mm cubes

200 g Red Onion, coarsely chopped

1 Rosemary sprig, stripped and chopped

3 tbs Mincemeat

3 tbs Whisky (Blended)

250 g Butter

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

2 packs Short Crust Pastry

1 Egg, beaten

Method

Cut the sausage meat into rough 20 mm cubes and add to the pheasant strips as they are minced to allow an even blend in a large bowl. Stir the vegetables into the bowl and sprinkle over the rosemary, followed by the seasoning. Scoop out the mincemeat from the jar into the mix, trying to get an even spread of the fruit throughout. Last but not least, add the three tablespoons of whisky, making sure to stir up from the bottom to avoid waste! Cover the bowl with cling film to infuse for at least an hour in the fridge. If making up your own pastry, this is good time to do so, also allowing time for the pastry to chill in the fridge.

Roll out the pastry into 3 mm thick squares and place a dessert plate over as a guide, cutting out a 170 mm diameter disc. Using a brush, paint round the upper outer face with the egg approximately 25 mm wide. Scoop out about two tablespoons of the meat / veg mix into the centre of the disc, piling up into a heap, adding a knob of butter to the top. Take two opposing sides of the disc and bring them up to meet above the centre, pinching them together between fingers and thumbs, working back down to the ends, creating a long oval. Pinching the thumb between two fingers of the same hand, go back over the join to form the traditional pasty zig zag pattern over the top. Place on a baking tray ready to cook at 180C for 50 minutes, or freeze, painting over the outside with the egg wash to give a gloss to the finished pasty.

An afternoon’s work in the kitchen made the most of what is now considered an often unwanted by product of organised game shooting.

 

 

 

Pheasant burgers with apricots

December 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Its good to have friends who shoot and even better when they have some surplus pheasants going spare. This week a nice fat, maize fed brace came my way and I decided to make some burgers, adding ready to eat apricots to complement the richness of the pheasant meat.

Building on the experience of my tasty rabbit and chorizo burgers (also on this blog) and substituting sausage meat for pork lardons, the recipe below produced a stunning burger that gets the mouth watering every time.

Ingredients

1kg Pheasant meat minced (coarse)

250 g Sausage meat, cut into 25 mm cubes

150 g Ready to eat apricots, rough cut to 5 mm cubes

1 Red onion finely chopped

1 Clove garlic finely chopped

1 Sprig rosemary

1 tbs Mixed herbs

1 tbs Worcester sauce

1 tbs Cooking oil

1 Thick slice wholemeal bread, reduced to bread crumbs

1 Egg (beaten)

Season to taste

Method

On a low heat, soften the onion and garlic in the oil and allow to cool.

Strip the rosemary leaves from the sprig and reduce with the bread in a liquidiser. This will allow the herb to be evenly spread.

Over a large mixing bowl begin to mince the pheasant, adding the cubes of sausage meat at regular intervals, which will result in an even mix of the two meats. Being low in natural fat, pheasant needs extra fat such as pork lardons, or sausage meat to aid cooking.

Add the onion and apricot then stir in, sprinkling on the bread, herbs, egg and Worcester sauce, turning the whole until an even blend is achieved.

Either roll into balls and flatten into patties, or place in a burger press between grease proof sheets and press out perfect burgers every time ready for the freezer.

That is just about it, either grill, or BBQ. Serve in a bun, or without. They are delicious!

 

 

 

CZ 452 .17 HMR long shot after haymaking

September 21, 2017 at 11:41 am

A wet, then hot spring had resulted in rapid grass growth on most of my shooting permissions this year, giving plenty of cover for the rabbits, but not a lot of use for my CZ HMR. A call to one of my farmers confirmed that he had completed haymaking and that there were rabbits “everywhere”. I took his description with a pinch of salt, as any numbers over a couple count as everywhere in his book, but it was worth the trip to find out, the freezer looking a bit bare, due to a burger making session.

Arriving in the late afternoon, I had a good view down the field and could count five rabbits along the edge, but once through the gate, the nearest three were sitting up ready to melt back into the hedge row.

There were two still feeding out in the open about 200 yards away and I made my way across to the far edge, keeping in cover as much as possible, hoping to close the range down before I was spotted. One sat up. I stood still. It went back down to feed. They were about 150 yards away now, in range for the HMR, but with a slight breeze in my face, not a sure shot. I got down and belly crawled another ten yards. Over the curve of the field, one was just visible, the other only a set of ears. Another five yards and the prone shot was on. Lining up on the right shoulder, I eased the trigger and the rabbit toppled over. Working the bolt, the second rabbit was flat to the ground and heading for safety. I have harvested this field too often.

After waiting for 15 minutes, nothing else showed, so got up and began walking to collect the first rabbit, only to see another appear in the field 50 yards beyond it. Back down again, through the scope it was facing me. Shooting for the table, its side on head, or shoulder shots with the HMR. Even at 100 yards the bullet can pass right through from head to tail, the percussion ruining the meat. Another wait and it turned broadside on. Crack! It jumped, running in thin air and dropped. Another unseen rabbit was up and running, slowing down only to negotiate the brambles, before vanishing. On new permissions, I have shot three, or four from one spot, but not here recently.

I waited 20 minutes this time. Further round, well out of range, a small group were now feeding and I made my way to pick up both rabbits, keeping my eye on the group. Maybe another shot would be on, but one by one they slipped away. Another wait would have seen them out again, but behind me toward the gate, the others were feeding again. I had paced the distance to the second rabbit, being pleased with 146. Zeroed at 120 yards on a still day, the Honady .17 Magnum Round gives an almost flat trajectory out to 150 yards, needing only a one inch hold over.

These were big rabbits, making a change from the young ones of late, obviously out making the most of the fresh grass shoots to put on fat before winter. The field curves round and I knew that I would be spotted before making cover and sure enough white tails were bobbing back to safety, before I reached a small bush with long grass at its base. Patience is a virtue required for this daylight shooting and I settled down behind the rifle, scanning through the scope for movement along the far end bramble bushes.

This time like magic, a rabbit popped into view in minutes a hundred yards away, falling to a quick head shot. These three heavy rabbits were just right for my planned bunny pasties and I made my way back to the van just in time to meet the rash hour traffic home.

 

Weihrauch HW100 Sport .22 PCP review

August 31, 2017 at 9:58 am

My neighbour is moving and asked if I was interested in buying an air rifle that had been cluttering up his office for the last couple of years. Taken as part payment for work he had done, it had been used by his son for plinking in the garden a few times, then put away. Already well served by my .177 Relum springer, Webley Venom Viper .22 PCP and the FAC rated Career 707 .22 PCP, I was not seeking another air rifle, but said I would take a look at it. Unzipping the gun bag, I could see that it was an iconic Weihrauch HW 100 with a thumbhole walnut stock in perfect condition.

Used for target shooting and pest control alike, this rifle has gained a reputation in the precharged pneumatic  air rifle world on par with the BSA Airsporter of many years ago.

The asking price was well below what I would have expected for a rifle of this quality and took up the offer of a trial before I made any decisions. The rifle also came with a 7 litre diver’s bottle and I filled the rifle to 200 bar before setting up a target at 25 yards to shoot prone off the bipod. Also supplied was a near full tin of JSB Match pellets, which filled the two 14 shot magazines.

The scope, which was an optional extra, is a Hawke Panarama EV 4-12 mag x 50 AO IR with parallax adjustment from zero to infinity. The illuminated mil dot scale has a choice of red, or blue illumination with a brightness scale from 1 to 5.

The magazine loaded easily from the right hand side with the cocking lever pulled back, a thumb switch pushing forward to then positively locate the magazine. With the cocking lever pushed forward, a centre spindle for the magazine comes forward for more location, as the pellet feed probe pushes the pellet into the barrel ensuring no damage to the pellet. The trigger is very light and smooth, the pellet sent on its way silently with no vibration back through the rifle. Reloading can be done with little effort on the bipod without unsighting the scope and the minimum of mechanical noise. In fact the click of the pellet hitting the wooden target back stop was the loudest, if any noise. A lot of thought and engineering knowledge has gone into this rifle.

With the target at 25 yards, the first shot was an inch high and a half inch to the right, although I was glad to see that the following few shots were equally off target. The thumb wheels for windage and elevation were smooth in operation with fine, but positive clicks and I was soon clover leafing the targets, taking out the 10 mm centre bull. Moving back 5 yards to 30, I was please to see very little drop of the pellets, a 14 shot magazine opening up a touching hole group on the same zero.

I am not a target shooter and and could have adjusted for the right to left breeze, while a higher magnification would also have shown the drift. At 20 yards the group was tighter and half an inch higher on the same zero.

At 160 bar on the the end of cylinder gauge, the pellets were still falling into place, a sign of a well regulated air charging valve system.

The HW100 Sport is not a lightweight, with a scope and bipod it weighs over 9 lbs, a bit heavy for me firing to hand, although the thumbhole stock gives a good firm hold on the rifle, when bringing the rifle up to the eye for a snap shot. This rifle was new in 2013 and in 2014 a shorter by 4 inches carbine was brought out, no doubt to address the weight issue, while also allowing more flexibility when hunting, especially if shooting from a vehicle.

Overall I was very impressed with the Weihrauch HW100 Sport and took over ownership of the rifle, taking it out a few days later for a test in the field using the heavier 19 grain H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme pellets, which I have used in my Carrer 707 to good effect at longer ranges, than I expected from this 12 ft lb weapon.

This was the first of three rabbits taken during a brief after dusk session at my sports ground permission. With the blue graticule illumination on the scope, the rifle had clinical accuracy on prone head shots out to 30 yards.

42 grain Winchester .22 subsonic, long range field test

August 14, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Having carried out a series of comparison tests between RWS subsonics and the new 42 grain Winchester subs on paper targets, I was keen to try them out on rabbits, but had been unable to find the time, when conditions were right. Today that opportunity arrived, when a dull humid afternoon with a few spots of rain, eased into a mellow, dry windless evening.

Driving along the lane toward the farm, rabbits were visible in the pasture, while another hopped across the entrance as I passed through the gates. Despite these heartening signs, it was all change once I’d unloaded the Magtech semi auto from the van, the sight of a rabbit squeezing under a fence to disappear into the brambles beyond, being the only indication of my furry quarry.

Like all my current permissions, regular visits have kept the bunny populations in check, while as one of my landowners suggested the other day, they have figured out that my van parked in the lane means trouble. Whatever the cause, there seemed to be nothing about as I passed along the lane and decided that it was going to be a waiting game, climbing the motorway embankment to where I would have a view over a wide area covering two known warrens.

This is a favourite vantage point for the HMR, giving safe shots out to 150 yards with an 180 degree panoramic view. Having set the zero for 50 yards on the .22 Magtech, I was expecting targets to appear up to 70 yards out, giving the fast moving 42 grain Winchesters the chance to prove their worth.

I had settled down with the Magtech rested on my gun bag, when a rabbit appeared from beneath a hedge to my left. It was about 50 yards away and was confident of a kill, lining up the cross hairs on it’s upper chest. Squeezing the trigger, nothing happened. I’d forgotten to cock the action. Reaching forward, I pulled back the lever, letting it spring forward to feed the first bullet into the breach. Sighting on the rabbit, I was in time to watch it pass through the rear hedge 60 yards away. The ground below the embankment is rough from winter cattle and I hadn’t chambered the round for safety reasons.

Five minutes later the rabbit was back, working its way along the hedge beneath an apple tree. It paused and I shot it, dropping forward with out a kick, but I remained sighted on the head just in case it had only been stunned. It did not move. The Magtech was only a cheap rifle, when I bought it over ten years ago, but it settled into being extremely accurate with the right ammo. The 42 grain Winchester had proved its accuracy and knock down power, while being almost silent against the background noise of the motorway behind me.

Firing from the embankment top, it had been point and shoot at this range due to the drop cancelling out the looping trajectory. Looking back I was impressed by the distance.

I had remained at my post, waiting for more movement, while scanning the area. A hundred yards to my left, several rabbits had come out on the top of the embankment and considered the thirty yard crawl to get in range, but twenty minutes after the first, another rabbit broke cover. It stopped to dig into wood chippings long enough for me to swing round for a shot between the shoulders. A leap in the air and it was still.

Another clean shot beyond 50 yards. The Winchesters have a larger diameter hollow point, than the equally accurate RWS subs, of which I have questioned their knock down power, probably due to the small hollow point. No need for a second safety shot with these Winchesters. A few minutes later and another rabbit emerged from brambles into a small hollow at least seventy yards away. Allowing for drop, I aimed high on its chest and squeezed the trigger, watching it jump forward then stop.

The top of the embankment was still a hive of activity, with white tails flicking among the nettles and I decided to pick up my bounty, then return to the van for a closer shot. Walking down the incline, I disturbed a feeding rabbit, which ran across the path in front of me, then stopped short of the fence. At thirty yards the image was blurred in my scope, but the white of its front was a big target as I raised the rifle and squeezed off the shot, flipping it over in a back somersault.

 Four rabbits with four shots from the 42 grain Winchester subsonics, three at long range for a .22, will see my RWS subs pushed to the back of the gun cabinet for the time being, to be used for zeroing, while these young rabbits will make good eating, being kept in the freezer for a rainy pie making day.

 

 

 

CZ 452 .17 HMR Varmint evening rabbit cull

July 19, 2017 at 10:02 am

A call from one of my landowners saying that his paddock was once again full of rabbits, saw me set off after rush hour on a balmy July evening, being met at the gate by Ray, who walked me through to the paddock, apologising for the fact that there were now only a few young kits visible. This is typical of many such calls, but undeterred I unsheathed the rifle and promptly dispatched the largest in view. The crack from the HMR brought panic from the until now unseen bunnie population, that suddenly appeared from nowhere, scattering in all directions without presenting a target.

Picking up the rabbit, I walked to the far corner and settled down, amazed to see fully ripe blackberries hanging out of the fence. These must be at least a month early, usually ripening in late August and going through to the first frosts. After bagging up the rabbit, I set about collecting blackberries, while I waited for some movement from the warren sixty yards away. With about a pound picked, a young rabbit appeared at the entrance to a burrow and in slow motion, I returned to the rifle and sighted through the scope. It was still sitting and with the bipod giving perfect support, lined up the cross hairs for a head shot. Number two was down without a kick.

Glancing behind as I picked, the bag had about 3 lb of fruit in it before another small rabbit popped out of the hedge at the other end of the paddock. An eighty yard shot with the scope at maximum 12 magnification, this is point and shoot with the HMR in the prone position and another head shot did it’s work.

The first time I’d shot this paddock it was used for fattening Dexter cattle. Then it was used to house Ray’s grand daughter’s pony and now with his extended family occupying the farmhouse and an adjacent bungalow, it had become a playground sporting goal posts and a trampoline. Not a good score for me this evening, but three less to dig up the pitch.

The remaining rabbits were still lying low and decided to move on to a field the other side of the yard before the light went. In cover of a tree, I peered over the fence to see several large rabbits feeding in a clear patch and eased the rifle up to rest on a post, downing two in quick succession.

This field is only used for hay and with it yet to be cut, it provided perfect cover for other rabbits to slink back to the far edge, brief glimpses of brown bodies not enough for a shot.

Climbing the fence I retrieved this pair, bagged them up, then returned to my vantage point, but a twenty minute wait brought nothing but a spectacular sunset.

Shin Sung Career 707 shooting gallery in the park

June 3, 2017 at 10:02 am

Regular pest control visits to clear rabbits from beneath a cricket pavilion are beginning to show results, with fewer signs of fresh digging on the cricket pitch. Impressed, the park’s area manager asked me to check out two more pavilions this week. Arriving in daylight, the first pavilion sits on a concrete base, but air gaps in the wooden structure showed little evidence of rabbit droppings and I moved onto the second pavilion, which is supported on pillars above the ground. Like the original, this is infested with rabbits, runs and scrapes showing on both sides, while the area around it has that rabbit hutch aroma.

Surrounded by trees looking out over the pitch, I settled down to wait for the sun to go down and the rabbits to come out. The Walther scope on the Career gathers light better than my eyes and a sudden movement from the back of the building showed two small rabbits had emerged, the crosshairs standing out against the grey fur. The first shot tumbled the rabbit, which kicked it’s way back under the building, the other diving for cover. Five minutes later a large rabbit come out. Tracking the crosshairs along its body for a head shot, it moved, then stopped. Crosshairs on again, I squeezed the trigger just as it moved again. Missed. As the light faded it became more difficult to see, some rabbits came out and faded away like ghosts. I’d left my lamp at home, but I’d knocked down enough for a refill of the magazine, which takes eight Bisley Magnum .22 pellets.

Looking to my right I could now see activity on the cricket pitch and circled back to lie out under a tree only feet away from the front of the building. This was enough movement to scatter the rabbits back under the pavilion. I waited. First out was a young kit, the pellet passing straight through and hitting the wood work. An adult came out and froze. Sighting for a head shot, it dived back. At this range of ten yards, a chest shot would have done the trick, but old habits die hard. After a further twenty minutes it was too dark to see again and by the light of my phone, gathered up those rabbits that I could find.

At times it had been fast and furious work, much like a shooting gallery, many of the bunnies too small even for a burger, but pest control is pest control. I refilled the magazine and walked down toward the other pavilion, which is back lit by the nearby car park. As I approached a head popped up and I fired. Rabbits scattered from unseen places. I’d hit my target.

There was no close cover and I settled down alongside a tree with a view of the front and one end. These would be longer shots up to 35 yards, but illuminated by the sodium lights of the car park. It was the shadow of the first rabbit that I saw, almost invisible to the eye. A good size, it was sitting up, a perfect target for a rested shot at 30 yards. It went down kicking and I put in another head shot to make sure. Ten minutes later another movement 25 yards away potted another small one.

A bus pulled into the car park and sat with the engine running. Time to go home after a busy evening. This park was hit hard last year by myxomatosis, but it has soon recovered with a baby boom.

Shin Sung Career 707 .22 PCP rabbit control

April 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm

With the English cricket season and the clocks going forward for later sunsets, it was time to get down to the large recreational park to make another dent in the rabbit population. The council controlled cricket pitches and lawn tennis courts suffered damage last year from rabbits digging for roots among the manicured lawns and I was given permission to shoot the pests.

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Restricted to air rifles between sunset and dawn to avoid any danger to the general public, I had been able to cull about twenty before the worst of the winter set in.  Wooden pavilions provide perfect cover for the rabbits, and the rabbit hutch aroma is unmistakable once the warmer weather arrives.

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This site has been the most challenging, being used to private properties, paddocks and farms, while this park has floodlit activities and an adjacent car park used for railway and public car parking. Runners and dog walkers abound. Even at midnight there are people about, sometimes with lamps and dogs. This permission has given me the opportunity to bring my neglected Career 707 .22 carbine out of retirement, which is one small step down from a .22 rimfire rifle. Firing .22 Bisley Magnum 21 grain pellets, it is more accurate than the 40 grain subsonic bullet of the rimfire at 40 yards and just as effective with head and chest shots.

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The main advantage of the Career in this situation is the safety factor, the pellet losing velocity quickly and unlikely to ricochet and travel many yards beyond the target, while with four times the power and twice the weight, the rimfire bullet could cause serious injury in such a public place.

I arrived shortly after sunset to see the tennis court floodlit with players still on the courts, while in the shadow of the pavilion, rabbits large and small were grazing undisturbed. Even when I pulled the van into a parking bay within yards of them, they they continued feeding. This all changed the second that I stepped into view. Pow! They scattered, climbing over each other to disappear down several of the openings beneath the wooden building.

I drove the van down to the far end of the car park, where there were no cars, or members of the public, to decide on my plan of attack. A circular route along the railway embankment, swinging right across an open archery range, then on to a copse, which housed the cricket pavilion, before returning across the park to the tennis pavilion, by which time it would be dark, but illuminated by the orange sodium lights of the car park.

It was still light enough to see as I set off along the embankment, spotting a pair of rabbits in the undergrowth, which melted back into the gloom before I could get in range. Passing through the copse to the cricket pitch, a pair of rabbits were busy munching their way through the green sward about 50 yards away and I ducked back into the cover of the trees, trying not to rustle through the dead horse chestnut leaves, getting down to belly crawl the last few yards. They were still unaware of me and rested the Career on my bag for a steady shot at the biggest now 35 yards away. The cross hairs settled behind the ear and I squeezed the trigger. The silencer barked and the rabbit toppled forward.

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Getting up to retrieve the rabbit, white tails flashed back into the safety offered beneath the pavilion and I crossed to the other side, where I had a view of the rear of the wooden building, while lying beneath low hanging branches.

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I only had to wait ten minutes before a smudge of grey appeared at the far end of the building. Through the scope, two rabbits had emerged from the gap looking out 25 yards away, a snap shot knocking the closest down. I stayed in cover and waited until my eyes picked up movement, again the scope proving better at receiving light than my eyes to reveal another rabbit beside the building. I fired and saw the rabbit leap with the impact of the pellet, but watched it scrabble back down the burrow. Getting up I saw no sign of the second rabbit and was surprised to see that the first shot had been a young kit. In the low light it had been hard to judge it’s size. I would have shot it regardless.

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It was now too dark to see and I have found that due to frequent lamping with dogs over this parkland, a light causes instant panic from this rabbit population, so that dawn and dusk are the most productive times to catch out my quarry.

Continuing my circle back to the tennis pavilion, rugby players were out noisily practicing under their floodlit pitch, as I reached the cover of the trees that line the car park, keeping in line with a tree 40 yards from the pavilion. From either side of the trunk I had a good view, aided by the sodium lights and watched as a pair of ears popped out of one of the holes. Using the tree for support, I was pleased to see the rabbit fall back into the opening. All that plinking at targets in my garden paying off. With the hole now blocked, I moved forward to find another young kit.

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Back to the tree, I edged forward keeping the tree trunk as a backdrop to my prone body and waited. Another pair of ears appeared out of the first hole, but retreated back inside and I focused my sights on it for a second chance. A movement to the left of it got my attention and I swung the rifle round to see a large buck hop out into view in the gloom. My latest target stopped for it’s last meal as I zeroed in for the shot, flipping it over.

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Drizzly rain had begun to fall and decided to call it a night, this haul would help toward a batch of bunny burgers now that BBQ season was on the horizon.

 

 

 

CZ 452 .17 HMR and Magtech 7022 answer the call

March 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Last week I was pleased to get a call from one of my farmers in South Bucks, to tell me that he had moved his horses from a paddock and wanted to know, when I could come over to shoot the rabbits, that were once again increasing in numbers. This small farm is one of three dotted along a rural lane and he grazes Dexter cattle on the other two, which both have elderly owners, who have also given me permission to shoot over their land. Having not visited these farms since the Autumn, he got me up to date, as to how the other owners were, before we agreed to meet this week.

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An overcast, windy morning had given way to a bright afternoon, when I arrived at the farm, which has a mixture of grazing pastures ideal for the CZ HMR, while around the buildings I prefer the quieter .22 Magtech. The farmer was waiting as I drove into the yard and was eager to show me two rabbits feeding near the far fence eighty yards away. Without even putting on my jacket, the HMR was pulled from it’s case, a five shot magazine fed into place and the rifle cocked ready to rest on the fence for a shot. Unaware of the danger, the two rabbits were preoccupied and I sited on the one stretched out in the sun, causing it to leap up, when the bullet struck home. The other one ran in startled circles, before disappearing into the hedge.

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With nothing visible, I walked into the adjoining farm, where from the gate I can see the length of a narrow ten acre field.

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The sun was already low and it was the shadow of a rabbit, standing out almost black, that I saw first. With little cover at this time of year, I decided that it was better to shoot from 130 yards, than to chance spooking it by trying to get closer. Getting down prone for a shot off the bipod, with the magnification set at 12, I centred on the head, knowing that the light breeze would only drift the tiny 17 grain bullet a few inches at most. The rabbit just rolled over without a kick, the bullet passing right through it’s chest cavity and out the other side.

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Continuing along the hedge line I saw no more, but circling back along the other side, a rabbit was sitting up close to the entrance gate a hundred yards on. As I got down on the ground, the sound of the bipod clicking into place, caused the rabbit to sit bolt upright, ready to run and wasted no time in squeezing the trigger once the crosshairs found their mark.

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Back through the gate, a short walk along the path saw me overlooking the paddock again, where another pair of rabbits were busily feeding, moving from spot to spot. Further than the original pair, I followed one of them through the scope, the rifle again resting on the fence, until ready for the shot, that knocked it down.

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I waited around with the farmer for twenty minutes, but there were no more shows, even in the 15 acres abutting the paddock, despite his assurances that it had been alive with rabbits that morning. Loading up the van, it is only a short drive down the lane to the third farm, where I took out the Magtech .22 for a walk around the farm buildings.

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As I stalked the path, rabbits darted across it into the brambles through the fence, too fast to attempt a shot and I continued on to the field beyond, toward another warren in a hedge line. A rabbit was visible at 200 yards, but had melted back into the bushes, before I could get within range. The HMR could have taken it on, but I had made my choice of weapon and waited around in the cover of an old oak, in the hope of the rabbit venturing out again. Looking back, rabbits were out on the hill again and made my way back to the farm in cover, hoping to surprise a few, but sighting on the first, the sun now shining beneath the clouds ahead of me, was whiting out the scope. All I could hope for was to get as close as possible and pick one off, when they saw me and fled back to their holes among the brambles.

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That’s what field craft is all about, learning the habits of your quarry. The rabbits did just that, potting this one as it threaded it’s way through the prickly jungle. Walking back to the van, I heard honking geese, the lady owner giving her flock their evening feed, going over for a chat to inform her, that I was back on the scene for another season.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.