Rabbit hunting with shooting sticks and the Magtech 7022

March 31, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Storm Katie swept across the country this week, bringing yet another wave of high winds, hail and thunderstorms, which has kept me away from shooting duties, but a window of sunshine was forecast and I set out for the equestrian centre a dozen miles to the north. Guessing that the ground would be waterlogged, I took my home made shooting sticks with me to give stability for distance shots, as getting down prone would not be pleasant.

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Pulling the van into the stable block, I walked over to the owner and asked where the rabbits were. A man of very few words, he said “Everywhere!” As if to rub our noses in it, a rabbit hopped out of the hedge next to us, took one look and bolted back.

Walking away from the buildings, I could see a rabbit out on it’s own in the middle of a near flooded paddock and managed to get within 50 yards in the cover of a fence, before I set up my sticks to form a bi-pod for the rifle. With no holdover needed at this range and the stick legs firmly set in the soft mud, the side on chest shot hit target with a thud.

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As I waded out to get this rabbit, I was reminded of a folk law that says that rabbits don’t like water; well this one did, it’s lower body was soaked.

rabbits 043The warren here is in the brambles, the ditch to it’s side flooded close to the path, forcing the rabbits above ground. With my hands full, I cleaned out the rabbit at the pathside and popped it into my bag, before moving on.

As I crossed the bridge over the ditch, there was movement ahead, rabbits on the path running in all directions, but not offering a target, although one ran ahead along the next ride and I quickened my stride to follow. The paddock was a mass of mud and the rabbit had stopped, possibly considering how it could double back across it, when my second shot off the sticks claimed number two.

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Cleaning out this second rabbit, the pitter patter of heavy raindrops warned of a fast approaching storm, looking up to see the sky black and streaked with hail. Number two bagged, I hurried back into the wood and made my way down to the shelter of a big flat branched cedar, scattering another group of rabbits feeding in a clearing, but this time was more concerned by the advancing hail, than filling my bag.

Pressed against the trunk, the worst of the storm was dissipated by the overhead canopy and I watched a full tailed red fox run into the protection of the trees from the exposed paddock. During my wait, I topped up my ten shot magazine with more RWS hollow point subsonic .22 bullets in the hope that the sun would soon replace clouds.

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While cleaning water droplets from the scope lens, a movement made me look up to see a rabbit fifteen yards away and in slow motion I raised the rifle, only to see it disappear beneath the ground into one of many burrows. A few minutes later a set of ears popped up, then down in another spot. This is an old badger set and I think the flooded out rabbits have found a new dry home, until the badgers return.

The sun was back out again and I retreated further into the undergrowth, where I had a good view over the clearing from a fallen tree, splaying out my sticks to cope with a comfortable sitting position. Like a horror movie, I kept seeing movement in my peripheral vision, only to turn my head in time to see a furry back, or white tail disappear again. It was like they were playing with me, a potentially lethal game of hide and seek. Twenty yards away the top half of a rabbit emerged, I swung the rifle and fired. It dropped back. Missed it. Rabbits have the ability to suddenly appear in the open and ten minutes further on, the silhouette of one sat in the shade beneath a holly bush, a minute after I had been looking at the empty spot. The rifle was already on the bi-pod and the rabbit fell over like a fairground target. Suddenly the downed rabbit was bounding forward. Missed again? I swung and fired as it’s body filled the cross hairs. The rabbit was still kicking and I made sure with a studied head shot. The rapid fire of the semi auto scoring again.

I waited another ten minutes to pick up my rabbit, only to find the hind legs of the first rabbit that I missed, protruding from the hole that it had fallen back into. Picking it up, I saw an entry wound in the back of it’s head. A perfect shot. Going over to the final rabbit, I saw the white underbelly of another beneath the holly bush. In the shade I’d obviously only seen the one, which I shot, the other bolting forward into my sights.

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It was already clouding over again and by the time these were bagged up, rain was falling again and I made my way back to the van, the bag heavy on my shoulder, ignoring more rabbits as I walked. Unloading my gear, the owner was chainsawing logs and looked up. I held up my open hand and mimed “Five.” He put up his thumb in acknowledgement. As I said a man of few words.